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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Slowly but Surely Wins at the Tables as in the Fables

26 February 1996

ig casino winners fall into three groups: 1) folks who play and happen to hit longshots -- like slot jackpots or individual roulette numbers -- which pay high multiples of what's bet but rarely materialize; 2) players who raise their bets at what turns out to be early in a winning run; 3) individuals who start high and are astonishingly lucky.

The same strategies are more often inductions into the legion of losers: 1) folks who fight long odds and bust without overcoming them; 2) players who give winnings back to the casino, failing to lock-up profits, when hot streaks fizzle; 3) individuals who blow their whole bankrolls in short blazes of glory.

But casino gambling isn't just boom or bust, riches or rags. Players can wager small fractions of their bankrolls, uniformly, on bets having good chances of winning and paying reasonable returns. Slow but sure play won't create instant millionaires. Or instant paupers, either. Rather, it offers solid citizens a better shot at a day's pay than most people realize is possible.

You can't operate the slots this way. The machines are predicated on longshots -- huge, though admittedly elusive, payoffs. You're only one pull away from a pot of platinum. You can lose for hours then recover, maybe break the bank, on your last coin or credit.

Steady bets on wagers with close to even-money payoffs are, however, an option at the major table games. But, can you earn money using this approach?

Such action is unlikely to get you many bet units ahead at baccarat or roulette. You'd need a sustained series of inspired guesses or an unusually long string of hits on whatever you wager -- say, "banker" at baccarat or "red" at roulette.

Craps and blackjack are another story. Because of the structure of these games, uniform bets offer good profit potential.

Picture a typical situation at craps. A player who puts $10 on the pass line and makes two $10 come bets, all with triple odds, may have up to $120 on the table. A single seven can wipe out everything. A hit, depending on the numbers involved, may pay from $10 to $70. A decent roll -- a shooter who holds the dice for fifteen minutes and hits a dozen numbers on which the player has bets -- can yield a net of $500 or $600; more numbers bring greater returns. Pressing can increase or decrease profits, even turn wins to losses. This, because there's no way to know in advance whether a shooter who hits a few numbers is at the beginning of a hall-of-fame roll or about to seven-out.

At blackjack, the promise of uniform bets is brightest in provisions to split pairs and double down when appropriate. Advantages are especially great when these plays can be combined. Here's an ideal but not exceptional example.

  1. Bet $10 and get a pair of sevens against a dealer's six-up.
  2. Slide out another $10 to split the pair.
  3. Draw a three on the first seven; bet $10 more to double down, and draw a 10 for a total of 20.
  4. Draw an ace on the second seven; bet another $10 to double down, and draw a five for a total of 13.
  5. The dealer turns over a nine and pulls a 10 to bust.

The gain is $40, four bet units. And, it's achieved by risking additional money precisely when the math favors the player.

In these types of situations, upswings -- and profits -- five to 10 times the total at risk aren't uncommon with uniform bets. It doesn't always work. A bankroll can disappear. Or a hot streak can push profits so high you can't resist pressing, knowing you'll quit as soon as a bet goes down yet still bag a bundle. But steady wagers, with respect for what few bet units are worth on the "street," can make you a relatively consistent winner.

As Sumner A Ingmark, persistent poetizer of punting parables, assiduously asserted:

A bettor, patiently, taking care,
Can slowly, steadily, profit snare.

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.