Take ‘stock’ of your bets

Oct 26, 2004 3:54 AM

My friend Barbara is a successful stockbroker and an old classmate from New York. She was in Las Vegas for a brokers’ conference at the same time I was in for a craps tournament.

Over lunch, we talked about old times, growing up in Brooklyn and how our lives had taken such different courses. She already knew I made my living as a gambler and writer, but we had never talked about her tremendous success as a stockbroker.

"Well, to tell the truth," began Barbara, "I have a system that always seems to work when I buy stocks. And it’s so simple, I can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it. I just track my stocks and when they’re going up, I buy more. When they’re going down, I just buy less."

I smiled. "That’s all? Do you ever increase your buys exponentially when things are going really good?"

She looked surprised. "I knew it! You buy stocks, too! Yes, I increase my buys progressively. If I make the equivalent of one purchased unit, which is a specific number of shares, I set an upside limit of, say, 20 percent. When I hit that, I buy two units, set another upside limit, then buy three, and so on. If the stock starts going down in value, I start to sell using the same progression, but in reverse. Which stocks do you own?"

"Eh, do you ever play craps?"

"Of course not. You know that. No stocks?"

"Well, maybe a few."

"Is that how you know about progressions?"

"You done with lunch?"

"Yes, but . . . "

"My turn to buy. Come on. Let me show you something."

We went, of course, to the craps tables. I bought in for $100 and turned to Barbara. "Voila! Here is your stock market!"

"Huh?"

"Look, I’ll bet one unit ($5) on the pass line. If I win the decision, I’ll bet two. If I win that, I’ll bet three, and so on. If I lose, I’ll just bet the same bets, but in descending order."

"Hey, you stole my system," she said with a smile.

I placed my pass line bet. "No, it’s been around for a while. But there’s a lot more bets here to make than just the pass line. You can also bet progressively on the field, the come, the don’t pass and don’t come."

I explained what these bets were. She grasped them immediately. The first point was four, so I decided to augment my pass line bet with a progressive field bet. I explained everything to Barbara as I bet $5 on the field, and increased my bets by one unit while winning and decreased by one unit when losing.

After eight rolls, the shooter somehow made his four point, and it looked like I was ahead, having won both the pass line bet and several field bets.

Barbara was impressed, especially when we counted the chips. "Wow, you made $45 in 10 minutes! Can I give it a try? I have an idea."

I shrugged. "Sure. What’s your idea?"

"You’ll see." She bought in for $100, and put her $5 bet on the don’t pass.

"New shooter coming out," said the dealer.

"Why the don’t pass?" I asked her.

"Well, the last fellow just made his point, so I’m betting that he or one of the next four people up will lose their point. If any of them does lose, I’ll make a profit by increasing my bet a little more every time."

The current shooter had an eight point and made it. Barbara had bet $5 and lost.

The guy shot again and Barbara bet $10 this time. He made his second point, so she was down by $15.

Now she bet $20, and he had a nine point, but sevened out. Barbara had made three bets, lost two of them ($5 + $10), but won her third bet ($20), and still emerged with a $5 profit. If her third don’t pass bet lost, she would have bet $40. If she had won, she would still have profited $5.

"I knew it!" she said triumphantly. "And I’m sure I can come up with lots of other winning progressions as well. These are fun!"

That’s the point of both games. Well, that and making money.