Putting Bills Into a Machine

I wrote recently in a two-parter about a trip I took where I ended up quite a bit ahead. Sometime after I got back, Bonnie and I were having dinner with her sister, Robin, and Robin’s husband. Robin asked about the trip.

“Bonnie tells me you did pretty well there.”

“Yes. A $200,000 trip is pretty special,” was my reply. I was assuming Bonnie had given Robin the complete story, which wasn’t the case. Bonnie had told her I had done well, but not how well.

“Whoa! I had no idea you did that well. If you made $200,000 on that trip, why are you here. Why aren’t you still there?”

The question took me by surprise. I didn’t put together a complete answer that night, but here’s what perhaps I should have said. Long-time readers of mine won’t be surprised by this. If you’re not familiar with the way a successful gambler analyzes things, maybe you will be.

First of all, my score last time is not a major consideration for why I make a play. Yes, I captured lightening in a bottle that time, but it would be foolish to expect identical results next time. Sure, it could happen — with a probability of far less than 1%. A loss of more than $100,000 next time has a much higher likelihood than that. Still, I will definitely have an advantage, so going for it is in my plans.  

Here are the types of things I consider. I’m presenting them in the form of questions. Questions for which I either need to know the answers, or about which I can make educated guesses.

  1. What’s the return on the game itself in terms of percentages?
  2. How much is the slot club worth, including cash back, comps, mailers, and benefits from reaching a higher tier? (Sometimes one or more of these are zero.)
  3. What kind of promotions were going on at that time that boosted the return on the game?
  4. Are the promotions that were going on during my run still going on, or have they changed?

Without answering these questions in detail here, let me say I believed I had a small advantage, got very lucky, and a major promotion ended. 

  1. If I keep winning, how long will the casino tolerate this?

Clearly nothing lasts forever. Doing very well on an eight-day trip can be attributed at least partly to luck. Were I to keep it up over 20 days or so, the casino would likely conclude that whatever I was doing, they didn’t want me doing it at their house. If I lost during a continued stay, that’s not such a good result either. So, neither result would benefit me. Better to take a break.

  1. Is the desirable promotion, or a suitable replacement, coming back?

Yes, and accidentally on purpose it just so happened that my next trip was scheduled to be during such a promotion — which also had another attractive opportunity present that didn’t exist the previous time.

  1. Did I do anything to deflect the amount of my win?

Yes. I had both a $100,000 jackpot and a $50,000 jackpot while holding one ace each time and drawing four perfect cards. I let my host and everybody in the slot department know that I’ve played for years and never had two such lucky draws so close to each other. I said I thought the first one might be almost 650,000-to-1 and the second one almost that big. (I knew these were bad numbers when I said them. Just saying the exact odds on the $100,000 jackpot were 178,364-to-1 is identifying myself as being far more expert than I want them to believe.)

And, of course, I spoke about my lucky shirts and burning one of them when it ceased to be lucky for me. The more superstitious I can make them think I am, the better.

  1. When I go back, am I hoping to win or to lose?

That’s a tough one. I never want to lose, but keeping my long-term welcome there might demand that. A small loss might be the perfect solution. But I’m still playing every hand as best I can. As regular players know, even if you’re playing a good game perfectly, frequent losing sessions are part of the deal. Losses will come about without doing anything extra to generate them.

These thought processes are second nature to me. The only data point Robin had was my score, so she made what she felt was a common-sense inference about what I should do based on that score. I’ve had almost 50 years of gambling experience and lots and lots of study and thought about the winning process. Some of my methods are at major odds with what common sense tells non-gamblers.


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