Why gamblers lose money.

2006-12-30 02:41

I found a card in the park. On one side was a detailed (and possibly even correct) chart of when to make which bets in a blackjack game to maximize your chance of winning.

On the other side was a Betting System. You know, a pattern of bets that is supposedly guaranteed to improve your odds. Here’s this one:

A betting system

So, the summary is this: If you win, you increase your bet. If you lose, you reset to your “normal” bet. The idea is that this will maximize the payouts of “winning streaks”, so you get more money when you are winning.

There’s just one tiny problem: It doesn’t have any effect at all, except to make you lose money faster if you win a couple of hands. Doing the math may be instructive, but it’s also a lot of work. The simple way to see it is this:

After each hand, either you have won money, or you have lost money. However, either way, your chances on the next hand are exactly the same as they would have been on any other hand. Betting more right after winning doesn’t do you any more good than betting more right after losing. It has the arguable advantage that, if you’ve just won, you have more money available to lose, but… That doesn’t really help you; you’re just betting that money too, and thus having a real chance of losing the money you just made as well as your regular bet.

They love to invent terms, but in the end, all the systems are bunk. (I’m not talking about, say, card-counting, which does work — which is why many casinos ban it.)

And as long as there are people out there willing to spend money to be told how they can definitely win next time, there will be people making money off them. Selling “systems” to gamblers is about the only way, other than running a casino, to consistently make money off gambling. Lots of people go broke betting that there ought to be a way to take advantage of “winning streaks”. No one ever goes broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. One note...

    The ONLY way to beat Blackjack is to vary your bet size. Card-counting while keeping your bet constant does you almost zero good.

    When the count is in your favour, bet BIG, when it's not, bet the minimum.

    So the card only has any validity when put with a card-counting scheme and a very high +count shoe.

    — Brad · 2006-12-30 14:10 · #

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