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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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How to make a million at the casino starting with a dollar

19 April 2010

Anyone can make a million at a casino starting with a dollar. It takes lots of luck, of course. And, depending on the game and the betting strategy used, will power and time may also be necessary.

Consider three techniques. (1) A single $1 bet on a jackpot that either wins and pays a million, or loses. (2) A parlay in an even-money game, adding winnings to the previous bet and wagering again with the total – essentially a sequence, each bet double the last; a loss at any stage wipes you out because your dollar stake disappears along with whatever profit you earned until that point. (3) A series of $1 bets on an even-money proposition.

If the house has no edge, and for all practical purposes this is the best you can hope to get, the chance of glory utilizing any of these plans is one out of 1,000,001. Make believe the house has 2 percent edge, though. There are games where it's lower, but you're more apt to be playing where it's higher.

On the single-shot jackpot game, your chance of winning drops from one out of 1,000,001 in the no-edge case to one out of 1,020,409 at 2 percent. Time's not a factor. Nor would a solid citizen need will power to toss a buck at a try for a million.

You may be surprised, using the parlay tactic, at how few rounds must be completed to reach the million mark. Assuming you keep winning, after 20 rounds you'd have amassed $1,048,575. You could be rich, or have lost your $1 stake, in under fifteen minutes.

Were edge to be zero, the chance on each round would be 50 percent. Prospects for 20 straight wins would be 50 percent multiplied by itself 20 times, which equals one out of 1,048,576. This is worse than the figure for a single attempt at the jackpot because doubling up on a $1 starting bet gets you to $1,048,575 rather than an even million. With 2 percent edge, chance on each round is 49 percent. The prospect of 20 straight triumphs is 49 percent multiplied by itself 20 times, or one out of 1,570,646.

This approach calls for will power. You start with chump change and are up by, say, $32,767 after a run of 15 successes. The next round calls for $32,768 to be placed at risk. If you were the type they pick as contestants for Deal or No Deal on TV, you'd likely bet it. Most solid citizens would grab the money and run.

Venturing a dollar flat on each round is a more complicated proposition than the previous two. In the others, any loss means the agony of defeat. But, this alternative lets you withstand intermedi-ate setbacks and still reach the goal. All you need to remain in contention at any stage is at least as many hits as misses. Ecstasy comes when wins outnumber losses by a million.

With no edge, the chance of victory would be one out of 1,000,001 as before. This, regardless of whether you needed only a million rounds to mastery by scoring win after win, or if the effort included losses of coups along the way. When the game does have an edge, the probability decreases, the precise value depending on how may rounds you set as your limit before quitting.

With the 2 percent edge, the chance you'll make it in exactly a million rounds is one out of 10 followed by 309,804 zeros. The probability improves if you stay in the game with more wins than losses. The precise value depends on the number of rounds figured – but would be between one out of 10 followed by 309,804 zeros and one out of 1,000,001. While time is an issue, it may not be as huge a problem as you might imagine. Playing 2 million rounds at an admittedly fast 200 per hour requires only 10,000 hours. At four hours per casino visit, this is 2,500 trips. Gamble every day and you could do it in under seven years.

Now you know it's not exactly impossible. So pick a method, find the dollar you were planning to waste on your state lottery, and head for your favorite casino. Fortune and fame await. As you're cogitating over this on the bus ride down, bear in mind the germane mantra of the ingenious muse, Sumner A Ingmark:

A billionaire once said: Oh, shucks!
When young, I made a million bucks.
And you could do the same, my lad,
By getting born to some rich dad.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.