Resolutions for 2008

December 31, 2007 3:23 AM
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How do you start a new year without New Year’s resolutions? Actually you can’t, so here are a few resolutions that should prove profitable for any casino-goer.

”¡ Keep records: Even if you don’t need the notes to write a weekly column, you’ll learn a lot from your history of gambling. Alistair Flutter, who has made a living from gambling for more than 10 years, says, "If you are serious about gambling and don’t keep records, then you are an idiot.’’

Someone who claims ``I’m breaking even on the year’’ usually means they are somewhere between $3,000 and $20,000 behind on their betting action. Not keeping records allows you to kid yourself that you are doing better than you are. Records let you analyze your strengths and weaknesses and eliminate those situations where you struggle.

If there’s just one thing you do to improve your gambling, start writing down every wager or session.

”¡ Become a specialist: It pays to specialize. Take a lesson from sports bettors who concentrate on a sport they’re skillful at handicapping. Pick a game that you’re adept a playing. It might be "fun" to engage in all the different casino games, but being a novice means you’re at the mercy of the house edge and house rules.

Whether it’s blackjack, craps, baccarat, video poker or video keno, pick something you enjoy. Then learn everything about the game — how to win and, equally important, how not to lose. Most top gamblers realize they can’t be experts on everything, which is why they focus on a narrow area of interest.

”¡ Search for the best odds or greatest return: Would you buy a plasma TV without checking around for the best price? Probably not. The same is true of your bets. You shouldn’t just belly up to the first table or slot machine you see and take the offered odds.

First, find out what’s competitive, whether it’s the video poker or keno pay table, blackjack payoffs or whatever. Then find the best one to play on. You may not always be playing at the best odds, but at least you’re aware of where you stand and can adjust your play accordingly.

”¡ Manage your money better: Keep a separate account for gambling and don’t mix it up with your household cash. Gambling money should be money you can afford to lose. Poker players have an expression for a player who sits down with cash that is meant to be used for a credit-card payment or the rent — "scared money.’’

It is much harder to make sensible gambling decisions when, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking of the dreadful consequences of losing all your cash. I keep a separate bank account purely for gambling money and only withdraw from it when I have reached a pre-ordained limit.

”¡ Stop chasing your losses: It is human nature to double your bets to try to recoup a loss. When the roulette wheel has come up red seven spins in a row, it’s tempting to plunk a huge bet on black because it’s ``due.’’ The ball drops in red and the gambler is left wondering why he risked so much on one spin. Las Vegas casinos know that the gambler’s instinct to chase losses is what will pay the electricity bill for all those neon signs that can be seen from the moon.

If you set yourself a limit at which you walk away from the table or machine, then you will start to have the discipline to become a winning player. Even the top pros chase their losses (it’s known as ``going on tilt’’ in poker) and while it is hard to cure, it is an impulse you have to learn to control if you want to make money from gambling long term.

If you can keep all five of these resolutions, your 2008 casino play should see an impressive improvement. But even sticking to one or two of them should improve your cash flow considerably.