Why you can’t win big at slot machines/blackjack, and finally poker

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Ok, I figured I should write this article to help a lot of other people save a lot of money, and do better things with their time. But I’ll tell you why you really can’t win gambling, then why you can’t win playing poker (consistently, unless you are a robot), and my conclusions on how you can really ‘win’.

Slot Machines

Slots, no matter what anyone says, are fixed. People feel that when the machines are ‘warm’ you can win and when they are ‘cold’ you should avoid them. But what they are really saying, is this. If the guys watching the cameras see a lot of people walking around but not playing slots, they’ll flip a switch and let people win to get other people to start playing. If people are already spending tons of cash despite no pay-outs, there is no point in starting to let them win, because they are already playing (the ‘goal’ of a casino). A casino is a business, it’s not there to be your friend. It also depends on the number of people playing slots. How many times do you hear of someone winning big with only a few people around? Slots (especially nowadays) are a computer game. Except its a game that is controlled by someone else.

BlackJack

Blackjack — again, the odds are stacked in the casino’s favour. As many casino owners/dealers/etc say to those visiting Las Vegas in the US, ‘Who do you think built/paid for this city and these big hotels and these big casinos’? It’s the people that lose money. It’s virtually impossible to consistently win at blackjack, unless you ‘count cards’, which of course casinos have deemed ‘illegal’. (Duh, if they paid out money all the time they’d go out of business). To further discourage card counting, they reshuffle decks every hand, play with six decks, lower the blackjack payout (6:5 instead of 3:2). If you played with a consistent strategy (as opposed to card counting, say such as always doubling down on face cards, always splitting on pairs, and standing on 17 or higher), you’d get about a 2% return. In otherwords, you’d have to play 24 hours straight of blackjack to get a 2% return. So if you only bet $1,000 in an evening, you’d be ‘winning’ if you walked out with $20. Which means you’d be getting paid $0.83/hour. Hmm, seems a bit less than minimum wage. And depending where you live (i.e., the US), you might even be taxed on your ‘huge’ winnings, so you’d still walk out a loser.

Poker — the game with a chance?

So then came along poker. A game that perhaps you could win, or so you’d think. The house (casino) didn’t (necessarily) have a vested interested in who won, as long as someone was playing poker. When you play poker, you play either with session fees, or the casino takes a rake (a percentage of the winnings) every hand. They are more or less providing a service for a fee, the service of you playing in the casino with a bunch of security guards to try to prevent cheating. If it is a session fee, it means that you pay by the hour to play poker (i.e., maybe $50). If it is a rake, the casino usually takes between 5-15% of every hand, up to a certain maximum. (I.e., they might take a maximum of $5/hand). To put things in perspective, there are usually 10 players, and usually between 50-100 hands are played per hour. So in other words, for ’standard’ poker games (i.e., $5/$10 limit poker, and $1/$2 no-limit poker), the casino will get paid anywhere from $250-$300/hour. So they don’t care who wins, as long as other people are playing, because they get paid no matter what. (Obviously at the higher tables, the casino gets a higher percentage. At $100/$200 games, they obviously could make about $3000/hour).

So anyways, cool. Here is a game that is ‘fair’, and a game that is not stacked in the casinos favor. Here is a game that you have a chance winning at. Here is a game that you can get rich quick at. Because, of course, it’s a game of odds, isn’t it? Well, if you can play like a computer (totally emotionless and 100% clear-headed odds calculation), then you would probably win all the time (or rather — win all the time against people who aren’t emotionless and 100% clear headed). But that’s not how it works.

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verycoolwriting.com

A few things:

  • Greed affects your game - It is really really really really hard to walk away from the table while you are winning. Especially if you need the money. You start counting your money, what you can do with all this excess cash. You are excited. You feel as if you are untouchable. The money is just flowing your way. You are so confident, someone raises you but then you decide to try raising them on a crappy hand like 8 3 unsuited.  Then the flop comes up A 8 3 — and you laugh at how stupid your opponent is because you just hit two pair. Your opponent raises you, you reraise, he goes all-in — you call without thinking things through — then you realize he had a set of aces (AAA) against your two pair — and you just lost a big pile of your stack. Now you are annoyed, and angry. You just lost money you spent two hours ‘earning’. And then — you start playing with scared money — you are afraid of losing your remaining stack — so you change your style of play. You don’t make calls that you feel you should make. Instead, you fold your high cards like QJ because you only want to play premium hands, when in fact you just got bluffed out. Then that leads into…
  • Emotions - Playing poker is a roller coaster of emotions. If you start “losing” money (even if you are actually ahead with what you sat down at the table with) — you start feeling really bad. You were already planning that nice dinner you were going to buy, that new car you were going to lease, that new suit you were going to wear — but then you lose (part of) the money you were playing with. When you start “losing” — you start getting anxious, and you want to make the right calls. If you “lose” some again, you forget it is a game — and then you start beating yourself up — how stupid you are for making such a call, etc. Then you are afraid to bet when you should — and someone gets a huge pot (lot of money) — and you kick yourself because you know it should have been “your” money. And then you start playing hands you shouldn’t play — because you want to get back what you lost. And before you know it, you are behind, and you have to pull out your wallet to get another wad of cash. And you rebuy — and you lose that money in 10 minutes instead of the two hours you’ve been playing, because now you are on tilt — and you can’t believe what a stupid call you made. If you are lucky enough to get up from the table and walk away, you start berating yourself for how stupid you were for losing the money, wasting several hours of your life, having nothing to show for it — and how you could have had that new suit, that new car, been able to leave your job, get a sexy girlfriend — but now instead you have to work twice as hard to make back the money you just lost in such a short period of time.
  • The table changes players - Finally, if you are still playing at the table — you figure you’ve got everyone figured out. Who bluffs on crap, who only plays quality hands. And then you get some ‘idiot’ who starts calling on everything, but then magically gets the cards he needs to beat your premium hands. You raise big on AA, he calls, flop comes up A 10 2. You are laughing because you just hit a set. You don’t see a possible straight, but figure there’s no chance he would have called you on that. You raise big, he calls. Next card is a King. You push, he calls. Final card is a Jack. You raise, he goes all-in and you look at the board. You are kicking yourself — he didn’t call all the way to the river on a queen, did he? The board is A 10 2 K J. You call. He shows a hand of Q2 — utter crap. And you just lost your second big wad of cash. Now you are steaming. You want to shake him — yell at him — ask him what the heck he was doing calling on a big raise pre flop on Q2, and WHY oh WHY did he call on your next big raise on a pair of TWOS — when there were two big overcards on the board — an ace and a 10. And then you can only sit, shake your head, and walk away. You vow never to play poker again, only to find yourself at the table two hours later.

And so it goes. The cycle repeats itself. You spend 10 hours a day trying to make money, when in fact you lose more than you make. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You sit at the table playing poker. You get lightheaded, you go for a walk, and you are back at the table.

Thing is, you have to remember — 90% of the guys at the table all have the same brilliant idea as you. They are going to get rich quick with no work. They are going to outsmart/outwit/outbluff you, and walk away a champion. One day, they might have a big kill, but the next day spend or lose it all — and walk away with nothing. And they kick themselves for the two days of their life that they lost, with nothing to show for it.

Playing online is even worse. You don’t need to get out of your house to drive to a casino. You don’t see the wads of cash. You simply pull out a credit card, make a deposit, and start playing. Meanwhile your health suffers.

Some guys may, on average, win consistently. But it’s not “big” money. I knew a guy that was 27 years old (or so he said he was, he could have lied, as he told me — he was a “poker player” therefore couldn’t really believe what he said), had gray hair and had to hide it with a baseball cap. A woman lost her car, her house, her family — before she eventually made it ‘big’ (winning back the money she lost, and then about $100,000) — in five years. But was it worth it? Was it worth the stress, the anguish, the grief, the loss and suffering to ‘make it big’?

Online gambling is worse. You start working, then all of the sudden you get this feeling that I want to whip out your credit card, and just make a quick small deposit, and start playing poker. Because maybe this time you’ll make it big. Maybe this time you’ll “clean up good”. That’s an addiction.

So I decided to write this article, and help educate you why you really shouldn’t play poker. Why you shouldn’t gamble.

Spend the money on yourself that you’d spend on poker. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of it.

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