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Best of Alan Krigman
Staying in the Game Helps Get that Shot at a Hot Streak29 August 2000
Solid citizens who are serious about gambling, who assimilate experience and respect arithmetic, will be happy to learn that expertise is indeed a factor. Not in the sense of ability to predict when a machine or table will get hot, deduce combinations of wagers that magically eliminate the house advantage, or vary bet sizes in a way that guarantees a profit. These aren't marks of proficiency, they're signs of fantasy and flawed logic.
Genuine gambling aptitude starts with an understanding of how to size bets relative to a bankroll. It's arguably the most critical talent distinguishing adept gamblers from casino patrons who had a good time anyway, not to mention three desserts at the fabulous all-you-can-eat buffet. Proper bet sizing yields earnings big enough to satisfy players' goals while also improving chances of "being there" by surviving normal downswings.
Playing time is important not simply because participation is inherently exciting. More, it affects the likelihood of encountering profitable situations. In sessions of reasonable duration on slot machines or other jackpot-oriented games, chances of a big score rise roughly in proportion to the number of tries players' bankrolls buy them. That is, 200 bets offer a whisker under twice the chance of 100 bets. At non-jackpot table games, where good earnings usually imply encountering a run of winning rounds, the situation is similar but more complicated.
As an example, say you make Pass and Come or Place bets at craps. Your vision of valhalla is a long roll involving only box numbers -- four, five, six, eight, nine, and 10. The chance that one of these numbers will show on any roll is 24 out of 36 or 66.7 percent. The chance of seeing one or another of these numbers on 10 throws in a row is about 17 out of 1,000 or 1.7 percent. Similarly, the chance of getting a box number on 15 successive throws is about 2 out of 1,000 or 0.2 percent.
If you play craps for six hours with moderately-paced action, you'll
experience roughly 360 throws. What's the chance that within this time
span, you'll encounter at least one streak of 10 or more successive box
numbers? It turns out to be about 49 percent, meaning that you can
expect it to happen in almost half of all six-hour sessions you play. An
unbroken run of 15 or more box numbers has a probability exceeding 8
percent, such that it can be expected in eight or nine out of every
hundred six-hour stretches.
Don't err, however, by thinking that after a marathon cold session, a hot roll is due. Although the chance of encountering a streak of box numbers increases with playing time, you can never assume you're in the middle of a long-awaited hall of fame run.
Whether you've just bellied up to the rail, or are ready to retire after six hours of hooting and hollering, the probability of the dice showing a box number on any try is always 24 out of 36. Regardless of what's recently been rolled. And you should keep this firmly in mind when you bet. The beloved bard, Sumner A Ingmark, captured the quintessence of the quandary like this:
Though gamblers' wishes and denials,
Best of Alan Krigman