Casinos counts on players losing focus

Sep 23, 2008 7:02 PM

Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | If you’ve ever played Texas Hold’em against a table full of computer controlled players, you’ve probably noticed that when they lose on a ‘bad beat,’ smoke will come out of their ears.

Sometimes, the program will even tell you that they’re playing "on Tilt" or "on Full Tilt." What this means is that the Player is so angry at the way he got beat that he’s no longer thinking straight and is likely to take far more chances than he normally would.

Playing against such a player can be dangerous. Being that player is even more dangerous.

Gambling doesn’t have to be completely unemotional. Playing video poker can be rather solitary and stoic, but sitting at a blackjack table can be quite social and there is no reason not to have some fun.

We’ve all heard the roar of a craps table, so no one would call that unemotional. But, the decisions you make, in terms of what to play, how much to wager and how to play are best made with a cool head. So, if you just had a fight with your spouse, you may want to cool off before you head to the casino floor.

There are so many things that can go wrong if you’re not thinking clearly. Generally speaking, you’re going to get more aggressive in terms of your gambling. So, maybe you’ll play a game with higher volatility hoping to hit a big win in a hurry.

Frequently, these games have lower paybacks. Also, while you may get roped in by some jackpot, the reality is that you may have no clue how to play this game correctly. A Caribbean Stud poker meter might look quite alluring.

Ignoring the odds of hitting the jackpot, the simple truth is that you may have never played Caribbean Stud before and have no idea what the correct strategy is. So, you won’t even last long enough to give yourself a decent shot at the big win.

The next possibility is that you know exactly how to play the game chosen to play, but decide to play far more aggressive in hopes of winning more money. So, perhaps you start doubling down in blackjack when you’d be better off not doing so.

Or, maybe you’ll even do the unthinkable and split 10’s hoping to double up on your potential winnings because the dealer has a 6 as an upcard. I’m not talking about making subtle changes because you’re doing some light card counting. Rather, when you’re playing emotionally, you’re even less likely to notice the cards that have been dealt and put this information to good use.

Of course, the obvious danger of playing on tilt is that you decide to increase your wager beyond your means. You sit down at a video poker machine and go thru $100 worth of quarters in what seems like 20 minutes. Then you decide to pull out another $100, head over to $1 machine and play max-coin in order to get your first $100 back.

In fact, you’re not just going to win your $100 back. The intention is to show the casino a thing or two and tonight is the night you’re going to ‘break the bank.’

There are two huge problems with this type of thinking. The first is that $100 is not enough bankroll for a $1 machine. So, you really don’t have enough bankroll to play a $1 machine even if you’re playing it completely under control.

All casino games have a level of volatility. In one respect, this is the way your bankroll moves up and down as you play. Blackjack has relatively low volatility. Video poker has medium to high volatility, depending on the variety you are playing.

Having $100 gives you 20 hands to play and the ups and downs say that there is a good chance you’ll lose your money and not even have a chance to ride a down streak to get to the next up streak.

Last, and but by no means least, is the simple reality that "breaking the bank" isn’t going to happen. If you start with $100 and the casino starts with about $100 million, you’re going to lose yours before they lose theirs.

Even if you’re playing a game with a slight player advantage this is going to happen. And, it will occur even faster if the house has the edge.

Next week, I’ll go into this concept a bit further. In the meantime, hopefully reading this column has allowed you to cool off before you head to the floor.