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Money Secrets

Can You Make Money in a Casino?

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In any casino, there are supposed secrets and systems that are passed from player to player, and the result of all this gambler camaraderie is big profits... for the casino in any case. In reality most systems are just ways to lose your money more slowly or to lose it in a different manner. I'll explain that latter part in a moment, because making your money last longer or having more fun while losing it are at least better than the usual alternative.

But there are a few ways to actually come out ahead when visiting casinos. Not all of the following techniques are appropriate every casino, but you might find something here that will work at a gambling establishment near you.

For example, there was that a man who made $80,000 over several months on my roulette wheel, when I was working in a casino fifteen or twenty years ago. I'll get the details of how he did it in a moment. But first let's look at some misconceptions about gambling games.

Gamblers' Dumb Ideas

If a red number comes up on a roulette table twenty times in a row, the odds of another red on the next spin are the same as they are for black: 18 out of 38 on an American wheel. But many people will be betting black after a "run" of red numbers, thinking a black one is "due" to come up. This is just one of the many delusional ideas out there.

Now if you want to test the theory with actual money, you can. Just stand by the roulette table and wait for a while. Once red has come up, say, four or more times in a row, bet on black. Do this every time there has been a run of red numbers. Remember, a black number is "due," meaning the little ball is more likely to land on one at these times, according to this theory. You'll have plenty of opportunities to bet during an evening, but I can tell you right now that you probably won't like the result, so don't quit your day job.

One of the most common ideas I have seen in recent years, is that some system of "money management" can make you a winner in a casino. Managing your bets in certain ways can slow your losses, and it certainly can mean leaving the place ahead more often. But money management doesn't change the odds. In the long run you still lose, just in different ways.

For example, if you sit down to play blackjack, without "card counting" or otherwise moving the odds in your favor, you may see your bankroll go up and down. If your habit is to keep playing until you win really big or lose, you'll normally go home having lost. On the other hand, if you have a simple money management system, you can go home a winner more often.

Let's say you start with $100. Make it a rule that you have to leave if you lose $50 from any high-point. This is called a "trailing stop loss" in stock trading. In other words, if your bankroll (the money you have to gamble with, including winnings) is up to $175 at some point, the most you'll let it slip back to is $125. That's $50 lost from that point, but you still leave $25 ahead. The idea here is that you can still win big while controlling losses. You can even increase the size of the "stop loss" once you get to say $300, to allow for bigger bets.

You will very likely go home ahead more often with a simple system like this. But you haven't changed the odds one bit. You are just disciplining yourself to play less and not lose too much in one night. Over the years, you'll still lose a small percentage of every dollar bet on average, resulting in a net loss overall.

Card Counting

There are real ways to win in a casino. Card counting can give you a real edge at blackjack (also known as "21"), for example. Anyone can learn how to do it, and I dealt to several players who consistently made money counting cards. However, you'll need a good book to show you how, and you'll need to practice and follow the "rules" religiously. Since 95% of "card counters" won't put forth the effort to do it right, they are a profitable market for the casino owners.

You also may not have the stomach for gambling, even when the odds are in your favor. With the best card counting you can still have days where you lose, and lose a lot. And betting less to avoid big losses can mean making less than minimum wage for your efforts. This is because you might have only a small edge on the "house" so if, for example, you have an average bet of $6, you manage to play well enough to get a 1% edge, and the dealer is dealing 60 hands per hour, you'll make just $6 per hour in the long run (and if you can't do that math you are not ready for card counting.

Roulette Systems

The most common roulette schemes are variations of the martingale system, in which you double your bet until you win. For example, you bet a dollar on red and if you lose you bet two, and if you lose that you bet four. Once you finally win you will be one dollar ahead for that "series" of bets, and then you start over with a one-dollar bet. Of course you are not changing the odds with this system. You might leave ahead once in a while, but normally you will double up to the table limit and then lose at some point. Notice that casinos design the upper and lower betting limits so that no more than six to eight "doublings" are possible. At some point in the evening you'll lose six to eight times in a row, and when you do you'll probably lose more money than all those $1 series wins added up to.

On the other hand, how you play matters if you just want to have fun as you lose, and have the possibility of a big win once in a while. If you wager a couple dollars on the "even-money" bets, you can probably make a hundred-dollar bankroll last all day and night, but you'll never be very far ahead at any point. But if you bet the numbers also, for a 35-to-1 payout, you can parlay a lucky win into bigger bets and possibly leave with many hundreds of dollars (I have seen it happen quite often). You can always leave when you hit your "stop loss" point, so the only additional risk you have with this strategy is that you'll have to go home earlier than you planned.

Now let's look at that roulette system...

It is sometimes possible to identify numbers that are coming out more than the the 1-in-38 spins that they should show up. You can do this by "charting" the wheel. Here's a basic description of this process:

Record the results of 5,000 spins (pen and notebook work fine). Find any numbers in that came up more than 151 times total. If there are any, start betting those numbers every spin. If not, try another wheel. By the way, when you bet a number, you get paid 35 to 1 if it hits, plus you keep your bet.

Roulette wheels can have biases, meaning some numbers come up more often that they should. If a number is frequent enough, you can make money betting it. For example, if 18 is showing up 1 in 30 spins, and you bet $10 on it each time, you would win $350 once for every 30 spins, on average, and lose $290 on the other 29 $10-bets. On a "fast" table, one where the croupier is managing to do 40 spins per hour, for example, you would average a $60 profit for every 30 spins, or about $80-per-hour.

This can be tough, because betting the same number every time is boring. Also, an "average" profit doesn't mean no losing nights. I saw that gentleman who won $80,000 lose $500 on some nights. The bias must be sufficient too. This player played numbers only if they came up 1-in-33 spins (151 out of 5,000 spins) or more often. The best wheel had a number that came up 1 in 29 spins, making him as much as $100 per hour for his time, depending on the pace of the game each night.

Why do the wheels have biases? There are many different reasons. For example, a few manufacturing imperfections might cause a bias. A divider between pockets which is higher than others "catches" the ball, causing it to fall on certain numbers more often. Also, a loose divider could absorb the "hit" of the ball causing it to drop rather than bounce off of it as it might normally do.

There are other reasons, but you don't have to know why a bias exists for this roulette system to work, as long as the bias is statistically significant. To know if it is sufficient, you track the results of 5,000 spins or more. If you bet based on any less than that you may be betting on a false-bias. The mathematics can be difficult, but a simple example helps explain: Any ten coin tosses can result in seven heads or tails, right? But an unbiased coin won't ever come up heads 7,000 out of 10,000 tosses. Big numbers show true bias.

If you do notice temporary reasons for a bias, like a sticky pocket with a few drops of someone's drink splashed in it, you may want to watch to see if they are corrected (cleaned in this case). Most biases remain there for a while because they are not noticed by management, or their cause is unknown, and replacing roulette wheels is expensive. Of course, cleaning one doesn't cost much.

A cheap solution some casinos use to thwart "wheel charters," is switching a couple wheels around. If you memorize the wood-grain pattern of the wheel you'll know if it was moved or replaced. This kind of roulette system works only on specific wheels (those with known biases), so you have to know you're at the same wheel each time you play.

Books on "Casino Secrets"

There are many books on gambling systems out there. They all promise a way to make big money. Most of them are pure garbage. Some, like those based on "money management," teach you discipline, so you can lose in a different and more controlled way. Some actually have a few useful secrets on how to win in a casino.

How do you choose? Read a bit of the book, and if you can't understand why what they are telling you will work, move on. You'll have to exercise your brain, and there will be some math in any good gambling book, but numbers are used to confuse as often as they are used to enlighten, so be sure to find a book that make sense to you.

Make Money With Casino Promotions

Other ways to make money in a casino is to take advantage of coupons and promotions. I have seen casinos do promotions that put the odds in your favor, like paying double on blackjack, or matching bets on the money-wheel. To really take advantage of these, though, you have to learn a bit about probabilities. Otherwise you won't know when the game favors you.

My wife and I have been visiting a casino where we have a club card that you can get for free. If you have this membership card they give you $5 in free slot machine play every time you walk in and give them $5. In other words, you get $10 of play for $5. We play five-cent slot machines and eat the free dinner they offer every evening. We have been to this place about eight times now, and have left ahead every time. You do have to play a certain number of times to keep the free money (I think it is 100 plays).

I do not know the payout settings on these machines, but the math is something like this: Suppose the machines pay back an average of 85%, and we bet five cents 200 times while we are there for forty five minutes (we never stay long--part of our success). Since we have bet $10 (200 times five cents) total, our average loss should be around $1.50 (the 15% the machines are designed to keep). That means between us we would have retained all of our own $5 and about $3.50 each of the free $5 they offer. Winning $7 and having two free meals is not much, but it's nice to be paid for a bit of entertainment.

As you can see, to make money with promotions (and there are people who make a living doing this in Las Vegas), you have to learn a little about probabilities. It isn't really difficult math, but it is necessary.



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