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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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In and Out of the Casino, a Dollar is a Dollar

30 October 1995

acky ideas take root and flourish on the casino floor. The wackiest involve money.

Cynics assume casino bosses nurture dollar dementia to help ensure, as George Buchanan said, "a fool and his money are soon parted." Boosters believe fiscal frivolity is inherent in the appeal of casino gambling to folks who want to rebut F Scott Fitzgerald's statement that "the very rich... are different from you and me."

Popular poppycock posits that "their" money differs from "yours." As in: "When you're ahead, raise your wagers or make a few longshot sucker bets because you're playing with 'their' money." The truth: If you can carry it from a table or machine, cash it out, and take it home, it's yours. If not, it's theirs.

This doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong to try parlaying your winnings into a big score. Rather, you're risking money from your own pocket. The decision is whether to be satisfied with what you've won, or to chance forfeiting some or all of the profit in return for a shot at a bigger prize.

How will you feel if you come to a casino, say, with $200 and leave with $300? Will you be happy, or regret not having gone for more? Nobody can answer that for you. Here's one I can answer. How will you feel if you start with $200, consider quitting with $300, and leave minus your original $200? You'll feel like a jerk!

There are valid reasons to gamble at high-limit tables or machines. A few folks are wealthy and not motivated by small wins and losses. In some cases, odds for bettors improve as the ante goes up. Often, casinos put their best personnel and lavish the swankiest service in the biggest-buck areas. To an extent, players with whom you interact are more sophisticated in pricier games.

Some casino patrons think that dealers, supervisors, and hosts as well as other players will respect them as big shots if they elbow-in on expensive company. The converse is more likely. Too many clues identify fish out of water. Buy-in with too little for the bets being made. Play like a greenhorn. Show you're frustrated during a cold spell by whining, blaming everyone in sight, madly switching strategies, or chasing losses with big bets.

Comps complementary meals, beverages, hotel rooms, shows, and even transportation are part of the casino experience. They're nice. But it's irrational to play longer than dictated by the cards, dice, or wheels just to get one. Say you win $100 on the first shoe at blackjack on a Sunday morning and want to break for brunch. Does it make more sense to spend cash for the brunch and still have a net gain, or risk giving back the $100 and maybe going into the hole so you can get a "free" meal?

This doesn't mean it's always best to quit at the end of a shoe if you're ahead. And, playing on can be rewarding rather than punishing. Maybe you value the prestige you think that coupon carries. But a comp is worth no more, typically less, than an equivalent amount in your pocket. Often about as much as a single bet.

Money doesn't seem to have the same meaning for solid citizens when they're inside a casino as it does when they're out in the workaday world. A bit of indulgence magnifies the casino fantasy, acts as a vent to relieve the pressures of modern life. But set sensible limits. In pretending to be someone you're not, a fine line divides the ecstasy of a catharsis from the agony of a cathartic.

Sumner A Ingmark, penny-pinching poet to penurious punters, thought of it this way:

If you win think it grand,
And your luck do not push,
'Cause a bird in the hand,
Is worth two in the bush.

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.