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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Players Can Avoid Prolonging Those Cold Streaks

13 March 1995

was redeeming chips at a cashier's cage one day. The cashier, whom I knew, inquired how I'd been faring.

"I was on a cold streak for a while but managed to get off," I replied. "What's the secret of doing that?" she asked. "Any such secret would be news to me," I confessed.

Later, I realized that while I didn't know how to end a cold streak, I did know how to prolong one. This wouldn't lead to a sure-fire list of DOs, but could yield a useful set of DON'Ts.

DON'T #1: Don't start with a bankroll too small for your bets and the swings you should expect in a normal game. Since you've been losing, maybe you'll gamble with $100 rather your usual $250. Wise, if you whittle away your wagers accordingly say $5 instead of $15 blackjack, quarter instead of dollar slots. But, playing your regular game with less cushion heightens the impact of a dip you normally wouldn't sweat.

DON'T #2: Don't abandon a playing strategy that's succeeded before, just because your luck's running bad. Perhaps you play poorly and should change strategies. Or, possibly, switching games or betting differently might raise your spirits. While commendable, these are separate issues. When you're down isn't the time to experiment with a new approach you read about in a book or saw some high roller using.

DON'T #3: Don't chase your losses with a few big bets, thinking a hit is "due" to bring you back. Sure, you remember it happening. Someone's $500 roulette stake fell to $50 after a hour's betting $1 each on ten even numbers and $5 on ODD. The player desperately shoved the last $50 onto double-zero and hit for $1750. What you forget are the legions of solid citizens who tapped out that way.

DON'T #4: Don't get dejected and quit early or table-hop if a game starts poorly. Occasionally, games begin well and get better. More typically, players lose at the outset and await positive fluctuations from statistically-expected results to make a profit. If a table or machine stays cold for too long, cutting and running may at least afford a sense of control over your fate. But leaving in disgust after a few losing bets doesn't give the law of large numbers a chance to smooth things out.

DON'T #5: Don't assume that a glimmer of good luck means you've broken free and can't do anything wrong. Say you ordinarily cash out of a slot machine when you double your money. More's the better if the hit meeting the criterion buys a new Corvette. This may or may not be a good way to play, but it's done the job in the past. On the last four casino trips, though, you never broke even, let alone doubled your money. Now you've had three good spins in a row, the last pumping the winnings on your $50 from $75 to $375. You may be on a roll. The next spin could pay for the car. Unbloodylikely! Take the profit, not the chance that the tide will turn.

DON'T #6: Don't start to play, or even come to the casino, with a negative outlook or "scared money." Paranoid pessimists can parlay a $5 hard six at craps into $5000 as easily as upbeat optimists. But good gambling takes more than luck alone. Profit and loss often hinge on a range of decisions from what to bet to when to quit. Distress and a defeatist disposition can jumble the judgement of otherwise proficient players.

DON'T #7: Don't blame everybody in and out of sight for your losses. Casino gaming is supposed to be for big boys and girls who understand the risks. If you blame other people for your bad luck, especially letting them know it by being rude, you'll respect yourself in the morning even less than simply for losing.

Attitude unifies these seven DON'Ts. True, when you're running cold, a good attitude may not help. But a bad one can hurt. As Sumner A Ingmark, the winners' wordsmith, realistically wrote:

A gambler who wants to change direction
Should practice a little introspection.

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.