The Bottom Line
Question: Why do people gamble?
1. For enjoyment
3. Both of the above
There are many more possible answers to the question: “Why do people
gamble?” All of them probably apply, at one time or another, to someone or
another. However, answer number 1 could probably be stretched to cover
most of those other possible answers. The fact is that people are inclined
to do a lot of strange things for enjoyment. Take skydiving, bungee
jumping, mountain climbing… as examples. Then there are the really bizarre
hobbies: square dancing, playing bagpipes and golf. People get enjoyment
out of the darnedest things. Sadists enjoy being cruel. Masochists enjoy
being punished. Some people even get turned on by making money. As
they say: “Different strokes for different folks.”
If, for yourself, you answered: “For enjoyment” to the question, then this
book will, at best, be a waste of time for you and, at worst, just might
diminish your enjoyment. You might read things that you really don’t want
to know, like: “It’s really not bright to jump out of a perfectly good
airplane.” If your intent is simple enjoyment, then there is nothing this
book can teach you. You and only you know what turns you on.
If you answered: “For profit” to the question, then also, this book
probably will be of no benefit to you. You undoubtedly already know the
best games to play, how to play them correctly and the best places to play
them. You will have already read everything about casino gambling you can
get your hands on and are checking out this book just to make sure you haven’t
missed anything. Either you own a casino, are negotiating to build or buy
one, or you are some sort of expert. This book is not going to make an
expert more of an expert. If you own a casino, you can afford to hire all
the experts you need.
If you answered: “Both of the above” to the question, then we have
something to work with, assuming you are reading this book to help you become
more successful. Gambling can be both enjoyable and profitable, if you do
First, it helps if you know why you are doing what you are doing – going to
the casinos and gambling in this case. Examining your expectations and
motivations may help you to understand and possibly modify some tendencies that
might be keeping you from being a winner.
Several years ago when I was still working for a living, a friend of mine,
George, and I decided we needed a small vacation. We took Friday off and
got to Atlantic City about midday. Immediately we got onto the tables and
luck was with us. Within a few hours both of us had large stacks of chips
in front of us. It dawned on me that it might be a good time to quit, so I
turned to George and said: “I think it is about time for me to find something to
eat.” George nodded and said: “Good idea. I’ll join you.” We
cashed out and found a café. Over dinner I asked George; “Do you think we
ought to go home early; quit while we’re ahead?” George grinned broadly
and said: “Naw, let’s give it all back.” We stayed the whole weekend, had
a wonderful time and gave it all back.
That surely wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve ever done, as far as the money
was concerned, but we were there to enjoy ourselves, and we did. Few
things are more enjoyable to me than gambling on house money. The only
thing that could have made it much better would have been for us to have gone
home as big winners. We didn’t. But we stood a good chance.
The best you should ever expect is to stand a good chance.
How many people do you know, or have you ever known, who stand a good
chance to make a cash profit from their hobby? No one I have ever known
has made any money by skydiving, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, square
dancing, or golfing (I have very studiously avoided knowing anyone who plays the
Gambling tends to get a bad rap because it can cost money, a lot of money,
especially if you aren’t good at it. In that regard, it is not much
different than other types of hobby activities. Take golf for
example. Golf can be a very expensive hobby by the time you add it all up:
equipment costs, country club dues and/or green fees, special clothing, lawyer
fees, court costs and fines. Hobbies can be really expensive and rarely
ever turn a profit.
As hobbies go, casino gambling has another feature, in addition to the
profit potential, that sets it apart from other hobby activities: comps.
The casinos actually give the players free stuff just for playing. The
free stuff ranges from free drinks, free meals, free hotel rooms, free
merchandise, free limousine service… to just about anything you can think
Try to imagine a similar deal with other hobby activities. It is a
little like a golf resort having a promotion that offers free golf if you shoot
par golf and then, regardless of your score, just for playing at their course
they will give you a free lunch. If you play two rounds, they will throw
in dinner, a movie and a free night’s lodging.
Suppose the deal is: your score determines the amount you get paid or have
to pay for your green fee. For every stroke your game is under par, they
will give you money. If you play scratch golf, you play for free.
However, for every stroke your game is over par you have to pay them and the
higher your score, the higher your green fee. I’ve never heard of a deal
like that, but if there was and if I were a good golfer, you know where I’d
To carry the analogy out: the games in the chapter titled The Good
Games are the breakfast of champions; the games in the chapter titled The Bad
Games are like the golfer with a low handicap who sometimes breaks par but
mostly shoots a little over; the games in the chapter titled The Ugly Games are
strictly duffer stuff.
At the casino, the games you choose to play and how well you play them will
determine whether you have a profitable hobby or not. All it takes is a
bankroll, a little knowledge and the determination not to be taken advantage
of. If you have some money you can afford to gamble with and the ability
to use your head for anything other than a hat rack, you have the qualifications
to be a successful gambler.
Unlike golf or other physical sporting activities, it doesn’t take good
hand to eye coordination to gamble well. It hardly takes any physical
skill at all. In most casinos, you just have to be able to sit up.
Wheelchairs and oxygen bottles are OK. I’ve never seen anyone play from a
stretcher. I have actually seen a blind guy play Blackjack. He was
pretty good at it too.
Gambling is one of the few hobbies, short of armed robbery, in which you
can come home with more money than you started out with. Of course, luck
has a lot to do with it. Absolute amateurs, idiots, drunks and even
occasionally an expert can have a good session and come out ahead. Think
about it: you get to enjoy yourself, the casinos will give you free stuff and
you can make money at it, all at the same time. What a deal!
Or, should we say: What an ideal. It’s not always easy…
First and foremost, you must throw away some of your prejudices.
“What, me, prejudiced?” you ask, incredulous. Yeah, you. And me, but
then that’s a different story. You can take it to the bank that there are some
things that you believe, that you know to be absolutely true, that are not only
wrong, but will keep you from being a successful gambler. Giving them up
can be an arduous journey.
My most important credentials for writing this book are the mistakes I have
made over the years. Gradually, I have learned how to avoid a lot of the
mistakes. I have had to learn most of the lessons the hard way. But, you
don’t have to. Repent! And save a few of your hard-earned
bucks. If you are willing to learn, it’s actually pretty easy.
You don’t have to be smart enough, or industrious enough, to do a lot of
complicated math. You just have to be smart enough to listen to the folks
who are. Most of them are nice people. They tend to enjoy fooling
around with numbers so much that, if you show a little interest, they will
usually share their knowledge with you.
I wish I had been smart enough to check with them earlier in my life.
Mostly what this book is about is sharing those borrowed smarts. The
lessons were learned, little by little, over a long period of time. At one
time or another I have done about every dumb thing you can think of: fallen for
every come-on, made every sucker bet, lost the rent money… the list goes on and
But, I have gotten better. From years of exposure and experience, I
have learned to adjust my unreasonable expectations to the practical realities
of casino gambling. It is not easy to trim exorbitant flights of fancy
down to the realm of the possible, but that’s really where you have to start.
First, you need to find out what the situation really is, not in your
dreams, but in real life. Then, you have to be able to cope with what is
really possible and what isn’t. Most folks don’t have a clue.
Walk into any casino and look around at the people playing the slot
machines. Take the time to examine the folks at the corner convenience
store who are standing in line to buy lottery tickets. What do you
see? For the most part you see people who, somewhere in the bottom of
their hearts, really believe that they are going to strike it rich. We
both know that virtually none of them will.
That doesn’t mean that gambling, casino gambling in particular, has nothing
to offer. On the contrary, it is quite possible to profit from casino
gambling, apart from owning the casino. The probability of getting rich
doing it is so unlikely as to be laughable. Also, the probability of
making a decent living doing it is pretty small. However, the expectation
of enjoying yourself in a pleasant, attractive setting and occasionally coming
home with more money than you left with is not unreasonable.
Having reasonable expectations; knowing that there isn’t a magic
incantation, secret spell, silver bullet or proprietary winning system that will
open the Horn of Plenty; is a pretty good place to start. But,
that’s only the beginning.
You also need to look at the downside; stare into the abyss; come to grips
with the worst that can happen and ask yourself if you can afford it. You
flat-out have to have an appreciation that sometimes you will lose.
There’s a saying: “There ain’t a hoss that can’t be rode, or a cowboy that can’t
Deal with it. They don’t call it gambling for nothing. If you
can’t afford to lose, don’t gamble. Set aside what you can afford to spend
on your hobby and expect to spend it. Play the best games, play them well,
give yourself a chance to win, enjoy yourself and you will be a real winner
whether you make any money at it or not. You need to be careful about
harboring expectations that might not be met.
In order to become a successful gambler you have to be willing to accept
losses as part of the game. No one can win all the time. Thinking
that you should win all the time will only lead to disappointment and possibly
promote self-destructive behavior. A reasonable approach to gambling
requires some appreciation of the ebb and flow of fortune.
The bottom line is: you need to enjoy doing what it takes to really profit
from the experience. There is a Zen-like quality involved in getting down
to the details of what it takes to do a thing, like gambling, well. From
time to time, you need to hear the music of the game.
The force has to be with you. The force of self-will, that is, or
more precisely: self-won’t, to not make dumb plays. Turn it into a
game. Find a way to make it fun. Perhaps you can think of yourself
as a Jedi warrior, like Luke Skywalker, with whom the force is strong.
Maybe you can see yourself as the Jedi master, Obi-Wan Kanobi, or if you are
feeling a little weird, Yoda. Careful with the voice though you must
If you do it right, you will actually stand a good chance and, from time to
time, you will make money at it. If you are very good at it, you can win a
little more than half the time and your wins will total up to more than your
losses. But, you will still have losing sessions some of the time.
When you do, don’t panic. Learn to trust the percentages.
Self-discipline is essential to success. This book, and many others,
can give you the information about the best games and how to play them, but it
is up to you to turn that information into action. If you don’t enjoy the
challenge of never ever giving in to the temptation of letting the casinos have
the percentage on their side, at least until you are playing on their money,
then you shouldn’t gamble – ever.
If you acquire the essential knowledge and apply it without fail, winning
consistently is actually pretty straightforward: Play only when you have
the percentage on your side, and then, turn your bankroll into a multitude of
small wagers and let the percentage grind the opposition down. When you do
it right, it’s really not gambling.