My late mentor, the Atlantic City legend known as the Captain of Craps, taught me many valuable concepts when it came to gambling in general and casino gambling in particular. One of the most important was his idea that risking one’s money in a casino had to be a “manageable thrill.”
“You can’t bet too little because there is no thrill in that. An under-bet is really no bet,” he said. “An under-bet could be considered dull and not worth the time to make the bet.
“A person worth hundreds of thousands would not find it fun just betting pennies at roulette or craps or blackjack or any other casino game. But that same person might have a heart attack if he had to bet, let us say, half his wealth on one bet where the house had an edge over him. That would be way too much money for anyone who wasn’t insane to wager on a bet where that person was an underdog.
“Even if a player with a slight edge over the casino makes a wager that was too big would, of course, be too big to make.”
So how much a person bets must have some kind of “kick to it” or there isn’t that delicious feeling of anticipation that comes with putting one’s money on the line. Still the kick shouldn’t be a devastating one if that bet is lost. That is not fun. That is not a mere disappointment. That is a severe kick in the one area no one wants to be kicked.
[Please note: There are three general categories of casino players; 1. advantage players who actually have an edge on the games they play and manage their money appropriately, 2. good players who do not over-bet though some do not always make the best bets vis a vis the house edges they play against, and 3. extremely poor players when it comes to money management and such players will get themselves into trouble time and time again.]
About Those Player Categories, let me first discuss the “advantage players.”
With an edge over the casino these players must have a casino bankroll that can take the ups and downs of advantage-play. That’s right; their bankrolls must be quite large in relation to the bets they make since they are looking to turn the casino games on their heads and to do so they must be well-financed.
These players are looking to make money from the casinos, not through luck as are most players, but through skill. They cannot blanche when things go wrong and they can’t get too excited when things go right. They are in the long run, day in and day out and their emotions have to be totally in check. Most casino gamblers have no interest in joining the advantage-player company – it’s too much work and something of a major hassle.
The second category of player – maybe I should call this category “regular players” – contains the overwhelming majority of casino players. These players have a decided understanding of how much they can bet without becoming bored or nearing the heart-attack stage.
A five-dollar bet by a certain player might make such a player feel bored by it because he needs at least twice this much to get that thrill. Still, the total amount wagered in a given session, day or trip is controlled by a full understanding that “thus and such” is the maximum that he will allow himself to lose. In short, regular players do manage their money quite well regardless of whether they are having good luck or bad luck or something in between.
THE POOR PLOPPY PLAYERS
Now our third class of player contains the ploppies, or sad sacks or, worse, casino gamblers that should consider taking a break and thinking about the best way for them to play with the money they can actually afford to lose. These players are not in the problem category; they are merely uninformed and in fact silly as they take risks that are ridiculous with more money than they should wager.
If a player wakes up the next morning and thinks, “I bet how much last night?” or “I can’t believe I lost so much,” then that player has lost more than just money; that player has lost whatever modicum of discipline might exist in other aspects of this player’s life. Even a player who is rejoicing loudly the next day about an epic win has to reflect on the fact that betting what this player bet might not be a good idea next time the casino calls for him or her to play.
[Please note: The problem or degenerate gambler is a whole other category of player and such an individual is far better handled in a medical article and not a general gambling piece geared to recreational casino playing. Some people can destroy recreational activities and compulsiveness is an illness and not a playing prescription.]
Judging what a manageable thrill can be is not all that hard. Here is a look at two ways to know whether you are betting more or the amounts you should:
COMING HOME DEVASTATED
You are in the car, cab, train or airplane coming home from a bad day or extended trip to the casino. You lost a lot. Now you are thinking to yourself, “I wish I never decided to go to the casino. I feel awful. What the heck got into me?”
In such a case it is probable that you bet way over your head and with a bad streak or a few bad streaks in a row, Lady Luck seriously frowned on you during your whole time in her house of hope. Her house became your horror.
I am guessing that someone who wishes he never went to a casino probably pegged his betting limits way too high and was not emotionally ready to accept the possibility of a major loss.
Let me take this by way of an analogy. I remember a friend of mine who decided to start investing his money in the stock market. His investment advisor asked him what kind of risk he was willing to take and able to handle. My friend thought he could go for the bigger deals with more risk, “I can handle risk. No problem, buddy, no problem. I can handle it!”
In his mind he had (I’m guessing here) a dream that his high-risk investments would pay a tremendous amount and although his lips said he could handle risk, in reality, he couldn’t. Reality can strike hard on all of us.
Well, as most investors know the American stock market can go ka-bloop on occasion and those individuals who have high-risk investments will find themselves shaking their heads and hoping their hearts hold out when their investments plummet. My friend actually couldn’t take the risk he thought he could take (“I can handle it!”) because when the market headed for a swift and significant decline – well, you just had to look at his ashen face to understand that he never really thought he would lose such an enormous amount of money. He over-estimated his self-estimation.
You see, he thought he could take the risks but when the bad times actually happened – and these were not just a theory of bad times over which he mused but a brutal fact – he just wasn’t emotionally prepared to handle it.
I think it is a truism that most people think they can take more risk than they really can. That applies to casino gamblers too – it applies big time to them.
So memorize this precept: You probably can’t take the level of risk you believe you can take. Make that your mantra. If you think you can handle a bet of $50 per roulette spin, you might consider lowering that to $25 or $10.
[Please note: The manageable thrill must also be looked at as handling a total amount wagered over a given period of time. It is not just your minimum individual bet but the total you can handle losing. This must be factored in as well. You might be able to handle a $25 wager but those can add up when good luck disappears. So what level of total losses can you handle must be considered – and remember, don’t overrate your heart because it might not be able to handle your fantasies!]
COMING HOME JUST SOMEWHAT SAD
Let me take the exact same scenario as I used above: You are heading home from the casino after a losing trip. You feel a little sad that you didn’t win. Oh, well, you’ll get them next time. Other than losing, you had a good time. Your stomach is not churning in anguish. You are fine.
Okay, unlike our player in the first scenario, instead of losing an arm or a leg or a shirt or a purse, you just had a single fingernail clipped. It wasn’t fun but it will have no impact on your life or on your emotions in any big way. You will not curl up into a fetal position when you get home moaning your loss. Are you sad? Yes. Are you devastated? Not at all.
If this is your reaction to a bad streak, no big deal; you can handle yourself, you can handle your betting levels and you can handle your emotions. That is the manageable thrill that the Captain talked about.
Gambling systems can be fun to play as long as the player doesn’t actually think such systems will lead to an advantage over the casino. (I’ve covered many systems in other articles and guides for our website and I’ll cover more in the future.) Systems do give players a schematic way to approach essentially random games or games where the casino has stacked the edge in their favor by shorting payoffs.
But can gambling systems actually give the player an edge over the house? No. With the exception of true advantage-play which so few of the casino players can accomplish, systems merely structure how one plays the games. They give you a way to think about what to do next as opposed to “Uh, ahm, I’ll do this, ah, ahm.”
So let us say you have found a system you like to play. It makes decision-making so much easier than just taking what you think is a random shot at a possible win. The result is “thus and such” then you bet “this and that” and onward you go.
Is this good for the casino player? Not really but it does feel better for most players. They have a place to go after something happens. “If that happens, I do this.”
There is a very deep problem that can occur with most systems as many call for increasing one’s bet in situations where you have lost some or several bets in a row (think of the deadly Martingale in this regard) so this way of playing is courting disaster. You might be betting a manageable amount at the beginning but suddenly your system is saying to you, “Bet this large amount now!” But this “large” amount is much too high for you; and now you start to sweat.
Here is another simple precept to also make a prescription: If you start to sweat, you are betting too much. Sweat is not good. Stop what you are doing and take a break and think about what you can afford to bet and what it really means for you.
[Please note: Only you can really decide what to bet. Yet, if you read this article carefully you will hopefully understand there are many pitfalls for casino players. What should you do? Avoid them!]
All the best in and out of the casinos!