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Playing It Smart: Don't let good fortune delude you6 October 2008
Exit strategies in casino gambling are criteria players use in deciding when to quit. Reality isn't so simple that individuals can reasonably be expected to know exactly what they'll do when they leave home, then actually follow through at the tables or machines. Emotion enters the picture and, as Robert Burns wrote, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
The ultimate downside exit criterion shouldn't be too mystifying. If you exhaust what seemed sensible before you left home, stop.
The upside is often a problem. Most solid citizens won't quit no matter how high their winnings climb. They want to play until the bus leaves. This, whether they think: 1) they're on a roll and will earn even more by continuing, 2) they've got a fat enough profit cushion to still do well if they finish a bit lower trying to reach a bit higher, or 3) they need more time to "earn" a coveted comp to the all-you-can-eat buffet. But the tide can turn rapidly and strongly, leaving depression in place of elation.
Another factor is ignorance of the link between what a player is willing to sacrifice and the chance of reaching any given profit level. To see how this works, say you play blackjack following perfect Basic Strategy, betting a flat $5 every round. The specifics differ in other games, but the trends are similar.
Pretend you have a gambling budget strictly limited to $100. If you'll be happy grabbing a quick $25 and be on your merry way, the probability you'll succeed rather than lose the $100 is high at 78 percent. Setting your sights on earning $50 cuts your prospects to a still favorable 64 percent. The goal of doubling your money a $100 profit - is not unreasonable, with chances at 46 percent. Loftier aspirations, gains of $200 and $500 have probabilities of 28 and 11 percent, respectively.
For lots of folks, nowadays, losing $100 in a casino isn't a disaster. Consider the entertainment value of the experience, and the cost of taking the family to a movie and a meal at Pizza Hut. So you may not be overly upset thinking the 78 percent chance of a $25 profit is almost a sure thing, then biting the dust without getting there. Conversely, you may be comfortable taking the shot at a $500 payday, knowing you're exposing an affordable $100 to a 100 - 11 = 89 percent likelihood of washing out.
But, what happens if you carry this to more of an extreme? Make believe you'd derive great satisfaction from a long string of winning casino visits. Your plan is to fortify yourself with a big stake, and play frequently with the objective of picking up a few bucks in each game then beating a hasty retreat.
To put some ciphers on the situation, stay with the blackjack example. Assume you have a $25 earnings target and a $5,000 fanny pack. You don't buy-in with it all at once, but keep digging out twenties as needed to continue. The likelihood you'll succeed is 96.2 percent. That's a remote 3.8 percent chance you'll fail.
Probability being what it is, these figures shouldn't be falsely interpreted. They don't mean if you play twice a week for a year you'll win 96 and lose four times. Nor do they imply that the chances of losing are negligible so you can forget about them.
On one hand, you could go for years without losing. Alternately, you could drop $5,000 at the get-go or in any given game.
The danger in the first of these instances is that you mistake chance and randomness for some special talent or secrets you don't want the bosses to know about. You're accordingly courting catastrophe because you were being seduced by circumstances you didn't understand. The peril in the second is getting trapped and harmed by an improbable but evidently not unattainable condition you didn't contemplate and for which you were unprepared.
Your 20-20 hindsight makes you wish you'd heeded this astute amphigory from the pen of the punters' poet, Sumner A Ingmark:
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