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By Dale Shelabarger, Updated:
Gambling is a harsh, unforgiving business that can have ruinous consequences for the uninitiated. Nevertheless, this paradoxical past-time remains one of society’s favourite acts of masochism. And while most of us are content with the occasional flutter, some just can’t help themselves when it comes to parting with their hard-earned and develop plenty of gambling strategies to try and beat the house.
However, defining gamblers shouldn’t be restricted to binary classifications. No. The uncertain world of speculative chance is not merely inhabited by casual and hard-core gamblers. There is another kind: the professional gambler. The most successful of these rare beasts employ well thought-out gambling strategies to cope with the assorted slings and arrows which come their way. They also share the same mind-set. This is known as a ‘winning mentality’.
To help you reach such a nirvana, we’ll now describe some of the gambling strategies employed by seasoned gamblers. So if you’re an amateur cardsharp, crap shooter or lover of the little wheel, read on. Many of the techniques will show you how to become of professional gambler.
Gambling’s well-trodden landscape is a graveyard for the delusional. Indeed, it’s littered with the remains of unfortunates who thought they were ‘on to a winner’, ‘due some luck’ or ‘getting close to a big win’. In order to foster a winning mentality, it’s essential to let go of these moronic beliefs. Gambling is, after all, about mathematics and is no way connected to such crude notions. As with any corrective process though, recognition is the first step. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that most of us fall prey to at one time or another and which should be completely exorcised.
This skewed line of thinking pervades all areas of gambling and is responsible for the loss of untold amounts of coinage. It relates to the erroneous notion that if an event occurs more often than is considered normal within a particular period, it will happen less frequently in the future and vice versa. Unfortunately, according to age-old principles of probability, this just isn’t the case.
But gambling sensibilities are hopelessly tainted by this myth. The most famous example occurred in 1913 during a game of roulette at Monte Carlo Casino. After the ball fell in black twenty-six times in a row, the gamblers in attendance decided to bet on red. As a result they lost millions of francs. They’re response to this unusual chain of events was certainly understandable. But in actuality, it was hopelessly flawed because, as per the laws of large numbers, the long streak had absolutely no bearing on the roulette wheel’s randomness.
Don’t be fooled by near-miss events. While they occur in all forms of gambling, they are utterly meaningless. And yet, legions of gamblers fall under their spell, assuming that they’re becoming more adept at a particular game or getting closer to winning. Sadly, the only thing they’re getting closer to is bankruptcy.
As with the gambler’s fallacy, this misconception arises from a human inability to properly judge probability and randomness. Our brains tend to prefer shorter sequences and are usually incapable of understanding ‘large numbers’ – not that helpful when it comes to serious gambling. To get around this, professional gamblers use cold hard pragmatism as well as a deep understanding of mathematical probability.
While understanding probability isn’t the be all and end all for ‘Joe Blogs the occasional punter’, when it comes to professionals, it’s of paramount importance. Calculating how likely an event will or will not happen, applies to all casino games, whether slots, roulette, or poker. Then you’ve got to accept that the house always wins. This isn’t achieved by cheating or drugging customers though. Instead, casino operators make a profit by ensuring that the average pay-outs are lower than the income produced by overall wagers. This is known as the house edge and is why most casinos manage to make a tidy profit.
Professional gamblers with proper gambling strategies factor the house edge in to a tried and trusted method for estimating the long-term value of a particular casino game. This is known as Expected Value and gives the pros and accurate picture of the overall profitability of games such as roulette, casino slots, poker, blackjack and many other games. It’s calculated the following way:
(Probability of Winning) x (Amount Won per Bet) – (Probability of Losing) x (Amount Lost per Bet)
To estimate the house edge, the final EV calculation is multiplied by 100 to give a percentage.
If we were to apply EV to a coin toss the result would be zero. This is because a coin flip has the same chance of landing on heads as it does tails. Although it may land on heads more than tails or vice versa over the short term, when it’s flipped thousands of times, the percentages get closer to the true odds. Therefore, a player who bets $1 on every flip, winning $1 on heads and losing $1 on tails, receives a pay-out that matches his odds. But if the player only won 95c for guessing right, the house edge or expected value would be 2.5%. In other words, the house edge is the difference between the true odds and the odds a casino pays when you win.
EV is an essential tool for serious gamblers and allows them to foster realistic expectations.
Managing expectations is crucial in building a winning mentality. Even when you’ve got the right gambling strategy in place, there’s still a temptation to expect a win every session. It’s also very easy to get disheartened by losing streaks. Such thinking can be burdensome and lead to frustration and misery. Therefore, try to build a positive philosophy by keeping the EV firmly in mind. Seasoned gamblers take such disappointments in their stride and learn how to tolerate setbacks. They do this by looking at a far bigger picture and considering results in terms of their pre-match evaluations.
Leave financial frivolity to the casuals and create a sound, consistent staking plan. Also known as a bankroll, this is essentially the money you plan to wager each day, week, month or year and it can prove very useful at preventing things from really getting out of hand. For those of you looking to make a career out of gambling, the creation of a separate account is a no-brainer. Start by depositing a set amount into this account each day and establish deposit/loss limits.
All winnings should be added to a bankroll and any withdrawals restricted until the initial deposit has at least been doubled. Should you lose (and you will), never, ever top your bankroll up with money from external sources. Instead, carefully and methodically play through all of the cash you’ve set aside. Then take a step back and analyse your progress.
Objectivity is crucial in a loss assessment. This is often easier said than done when you’re in the throes of an endless losing streak. But it’s crucial to accept your mistakes – everybody makes them at one point or another and in gambling, they come in all shapes and sizes. There are counting mistakes, gameplay mistakes, betting mistakes, deck estimation mistakes and true-count conversion mistakes – they also occur with pay-outs and cash-outs. Acceptance is therefore essential.
This coupled with a complete analysis of your gambling activities should reassure you that your losses are merely the result of negative variance (error). This is of course provided that you’ve EV strategy is watertight and that your bankroll management is without blemish.
For land-based gambling, bankrolls often leak money through excessive tipping. This often occurs with blackjack players who mistakenly think that slipping the dealer a few bob will result in deck penetration. Unfortunately, tokes seldom result in any kind of advantage for the player and should be avoided, especially if your bankroll is hemorrhaging money.
Once a full appraisal has been conducted, tweak and fine-tune your strategy until you’re ready to go again. Then it’s a case of putting in the hours and letting probability take care of the rest. To reiterate, the key is to be as honest and objective as possible.
Casual gamblers play for the thrill. The adrenalin that comes with either winning or losing can be rather addictive. Unfortunately, that same adrenalin often results in over or under-betting. So, it’s important to remain as emotionally detached as possible from the events which unfold before you. Stay the course and make the same bets that you planned before-hand. Keep in mind the wider picture we mentioned earlier and remember that you’re dancing to a different beat to the guy sitting next to you. Use your head, not your heart.
Tilt is a poker term used to describe how players sometimes deviate from their strategy and become over aggressive. There are numerous triggers for this kind of behavior including in-game frustration, animosity towards another player and/or extended losing streaks. Experienced players learn to recognize this state and prevent it from influencing their tactics. The phrase, ‘steam’ is similar although it implies a more pronounced state of emotional annoyance.
So you’ve said goodbye to those absurd notions relating to lucky streaks and near misses. You’ve also got your head around expected value and mathematical probability. A bullet-proof strategy and a sound financial plan are in place as well. But what happens when you’re actually sitting at a casino table, in front of a computer monitor or a smartphone screen. Well, one of the most important traits of any successful gambler is confidence. Being self-assured and thinking positively are as important as getting to grips with the many skills necessary for winning.
A solid strategy is next to useless if you lack the confidence to see it through and make the most important decisions. With that said, there are plenty of confident gamblers who lack the tools to back it up. As with negative or timid players, these tend to fall by the wayside sooner rather than later. ‘Confident’ doesn’t mean being aggressive though. An assured gambler is meticulous in his decisions and actions while being confident enough in his abilities to take a risk when the situation requires.
Having a few drinks while gambling can be great fun for casuals. But when it comes to serious, professional play, there’s a very fine line. Some think that indulging heavily in alcohol or even illicit substances can be of some help. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Without wanting to sound like a public information advert, alcohol and drugs can be as hazardous to a bankroll as drink-driving is to one’s continued existence. They cloud your judgement, imbuing a false sense of confidence which in turn leads to more substantial bets and bigger losses. If you’re committed to developing a winning mentality, practice moderation when you’re gambling or even better, avoid the grog altogether.
For those of you looking to take your gambling activities to the next level, the above professional gambler tips may prove helpful. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that even with the most robust gambling strategies, there’s no guarantee of continued success. Even so, employing these methods should give you an advantage over many of your opponents. While it’s easy to accept wins, remember that losing streaks are part and parcel of gambling. So coming to grips with the oppressive psychology that can arise from defeat and disappointment is therefore fundamental in learning how to gamble professionally. Remember to look at the bigger picture and stick to your guns.