Coping: Can “Luck” Be Accumulated?

Since I haven’t taken a day off since our Seattle/California trip in September, Elaine and I will be hitting the road on Thursday morning for a visit with her boys in Arizona.  Panama’s on guard duty here, so no worries on that front. 

We will be up in Payson, Arizona this weekend at a mid-sided casino/hotel where I will be testing out my latest collection of thoughts on gambling.  We’ll get to those in a minute.

Le me begin with today’s BBQ:  Big Burning Question:  Do you have any “secrets of luck” that you’d like me to test and report on while out there?  If so, send them along.

A couple of very good ones that relate to gambling that I have used in the past, with varying degrees of success, are these:

1.  Money Management.  In this approach, you pick a game with decent odds (like blackjack, for example).  You bet a single chip.  If you win, you bet a single chip again.

However, if you lose, you double the bet.  And you do this every time you lose. 

In the short run, this can be a very good system.  However, the shortfall is that there are house limits.  On a $5 table, for example, the limit may be $500.  So you bet $, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320  (if the cards are running really cold) and now you’ve arrived at the point where you can’t bet the $640 it would take to win.  Screwed by the house limit./

Another feature of this betting scheme is that when you are on those higher rolls, remember that the only thing you will win is the original wager *($5) so bettering $320 to get $5 is stupid.  But, it can work in the short run, depending how the cards are running.

2.  Craps variation:  You can do the same kind of thing on craps tables, without going to such extremes, by playing the odds.  This, however, takes time and patience,

And you can use the “money management” technique on the pass (or don’t pass) lines in craps, but again the house limit is you enemy.

3. Let It Ride.  Back when the Desert Inn opened, in the mid 1970’s, I took one of the few “press junkets”  in my newsing career.  The Summa Corp (Howard Hughes outfit) flew me and the (then) wife down for the grand opening.  Dinner with Robert Mitchum and Juliet Prowse (just us as a foursome, such are great to legendary press junkets…)

Another freebie was a two-hour intensive with “The Professor of Chance.”

He told the story of two people, who walked up to the same table and were betting (I forget which game) but whatever it was, they were getting 3:1 odds.  Bet $1 and get $3 back.

The house then had a run of games go against it:  six in all.

Now, consider what happened to the players.

One, using the money management technique, won $2 of the house money on each hand.  Six hands, so he won a total of $12.

The other fellow used a “let it ride” strategy.  He won as follows:

Hand #1: Bet  $ 1, gains $2 from the house, total $3.

Hand #2:  Bets $3, gains $6 from the house, total $9.

Hand #3:  Bets $9. gains $18 from the house, total $27

(See where this is going?)

Hand #4:  Bets $27, gains $54 from the house, total $81.

Hand #5:  Bets $81, gains $162 from the house, total  $243.

Hand #6:  Bets $243, gains $486 from the house, total $729.

Subtract the original $1 bet and the second player is up $728 while the hapless conservative player made a whopping $12 profit on the same run of luck.

The lesson, the Professor of Chance, explained to me, was to learn to recognize winning – and losing – streaks. Go with them.  When tables are cold, go have a drink or a swim.

4.  Ure’s Hot Slots.  This one is based on consciously looking for “runs.”  I begin by walking into an area of slots that are interesting to me (they call to me).

I make three spins at the maximum bet (usually $0.75 or $1.25 on quarter slots).  I then methodically play every machine in the room.  Or every progressive slot, depending on my mood.

On some machines, I will get more than what I’ve put in.  When I do, I stick with that machine for an additional three pulls. 

As soon as the machine is “cold” (or I’ve hit my “3-roll limit”) I’m off to the next machine.

The idea here is simple:  I assume the default on machines is to pay off zero.  But some machines will always be hot (although I’ve seen completely dead rooms, too).  So it’s just a matter of “sampling” with the idea of looking for a “run.”

Of course, since I’m fishing for a variation (or streak) the idea is that when I go once around the room I will have either found a couple of “hot” machines, or not.

On a “normal” run in a small to mid-sized casino, I will start with $100.  Play the quarter slots by my “method” and quit.  It’s not unusual for me to end with  anywhere from $120 to $225 after one round.

But the key is to recognize that this is a deviation only and that if I continue to play (which is tempting as hell) the  overall house odds (5% edge) will without doubt, wipe me out.

Once through, three pulls each, and additional pulls only if I have received more back that I put in after three pulls.

But that gets us into the matter of unethical manipulation of gambler emotions that has become so common on slot machines.

Loses Disguised as Winners (LDW):

The way this manipulation works is simple:  Let’s say you bet 5 coins.  You pull the handle.  The machine goes off like you’ve just won the moon.  But when you look, the payoff is only three stinking coins.  There’s a very good video about Losses Disguised as Winners – or LDW – on YouTube:

When I’m using my “system” of hunting for a streak, I’m extremely conscious of the LDW phenomena.  Don’t get sucked into it.

Now, a different view on slots that’s pretty good, is this one:

The idea with my approach is to find streaks and occasionally a “warm” machine.

There also is something to machine placement and server-based machines are becoming a lot more common.

But AGAIN, when I go to a casino, I realize that what I am doing is “gambling” – and that means the likelihood of loss.

So a typical “day” ion the casino is  a) once through the progressive slots, b) a few money management hands at blackjack, and then another few hands of jacks or better in video poker using money management or piling on, depending on mood.

Oh, yeah…one more thing:  Two pulls per day on the mega-payoff progressive by the front door.  Terrible odds.  The spin has almost not chance of hitting.  But, like the lottery, someone is going to win, so one dollar or a fiver puts you in that pool and maybe if you are in enough of those pools….

My Newest Crackpot Theory

I’m also taking a video casino game with my on one of our traveling laptops.  Know why?

My latest crackpot theory is called “Universe Loser Theory.”

The logic – weird as this will sound – is that let’s say that I am sitting in my room and I have an initial stake of $10,000.  I play this video game until I am down, oh, –$5,000.

Then I wander up the hall and into the casino.

Are my odds different in  the REAL casino?

Well, technically, no. That is the mathematical answer.

But remember, this is all about runs.  So in the real world if I have had a series of terrible runs against me on the video game, does that mean my luck is due to change in the real casino?

Or, is there another way it works: Let’s say I find (on the video game in the room) that I am in a “hot streak.”

I waltz down to the real casino and see if the luck follows me down there.  Are streaks personally associated?.

This latest crackpot theory  makes no sense to anyone who understands mathematics.  BUT in the world of chaos and complexity, is there something (like linked-quanta) that luck “follows”? 

Remember, when I give people money in a casino (wrote that up a couple of years ago) I seemed to do much better…but again, is that luck, or simply mistaking a normal statistical variation as a “result.”

There are plenty of hints that chance and luck have something of a flow to them. 

Be clear on this, however: Statements like “Fate favors the bold” are problematic.  The reason?  Those who were bold (and died for their wager) aren’t around to grieve their poor mathematical judgment.  Losers die.  Only the winners were left to report.  And they will attribute things to “fate’ or their own skill at “chance.”

So I get to wondering: If someone is having a heart attack in the midst of a casino, is there any spillover effect (win/loss-wise) on machines or gambling in that vicinity? 

A bit less morbid, then, should I be listening on the ham radio/scanners we take with us.  Listening  to local police activity, right?  Should we not go gambling when there are lots of aid runs and accidents about?

Or, does it work the other way?  When luck is running bad in a vicinity outside, could it run contrary inside the casino under some kind of universe-maintains equilibrium that is just past our understanding?

Then there’s the mystery of the “figure 8” in gambling.  Often on roulette, you will see the numbers spun form a “figure 8” on the table.  8 is also lucky in feng shui.  So would wearing an “8” medallion change “luck?”  I’ve made some which are both an 8 and Mobius, at the same time…..

I’ll summarize what I find in an upcoming Peoplenomics report (and maybe mention it here) but the whole generalized question is not about “winning” or “losing” gobs of money.

It’s much more important than that.  It’s trying to use games of chance (the video game in our room) as a crude form of instrumentation to see how the Winds of Luck are blowing.  And that, seems to me, is the Holy Grail of statistics.  If you get the general theory right, the rest becomes a fait accompli.

Don’t mind me going off the wonky scale on fundamental research now and then….it’s what the Ure family does now and then.

Send in your systems and write when you break even