New contributor James Webb on the world’s worst gambling strategies
It’s been a time-old obsession. How exactly to take on the casino and come out on top. Over the centuries gamblers have tried everything from physics to clairvoyance, and superstition to staggering feats of memory, try to tip the odds in their favour. In fact the number of systems, strategies and techniques must have run into the hundreds by now – and the huge majority have proved to be flawed at best and catastrophically misguided at worst.
But the problem is that, superficially at least, most do seem to have a form of logic behind them. But when logic meets chance its most established principles tend to count for very little. Combine this with the psychology of gambling behaviour and it’s hardly a recipe for success.
So, to save you a great deal of time, effort and, above all, money, here are some common strategies – and some of the reasons why they may be destined to leave you seriously out of pocket.
Roulette is one of the games that attracts many attempts at devising winning strategies. Some are better than others, such as covering as many possible numbers with each individual bet. But others are deeply flawed. A great example is any strategy that encourages you to try to spot patterns in what’s essentially a game with random, inherently unpredictable outcomes.
While some claim the events in the world actually do follow an ordained pattern, apply this logic to the roulette wheel and you’re bound to leave the casino red-faced and out of pocket. There’s simply no way of knowing how fast the ball will be spinning around the wheel and which position it’s dropped from – therefore, no possible way of predicting the outcome.
However, there are some ways of tweaking your approach to the game to make the most of your money. Following renowned gambling writer Frank Scoblete’s roulette strategy is your best bet. He goes into depth about the Martingale Strategy and the Paroli System – to tried-and-tested methods for making your roulette budget go further – and this could make all the difference to your performance at the roulette table.
The Monte Carlo Fallacy
The Monte Carlo Fallacy, also sometimes known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, is an example of how the psychology of gambling can come up against the laws of probability. The thinking is that if there has been a run of a certain number of outcomes, for example if red comes up again and again on the roulette wheel, then it increases the likelihood of black coming up next. It sounds logical, but it fails to recognise the fact that every spin of the wheel is an independent event unrelated to what has gone before it. So while over an extended period there may well be approximate 50/50 split of black and red results, there can be indefinite spells of just one or other coming up.
One famous, if extreme, example of this came in the early 1960s when a young Sean Connery was playing in a casino in Italy he allegedly put money on 17 black three times in a row and it came up each time, netting him 17 million lire – and a reputation as an international playboy – in the process.
This remarkable run of luck could have had a very different outcome for Connery if he’d fallen prey to the phenomenon that afflicts players of every kind of game.
Any winning series of events, whether they’re hands in poker or spins on a slots game or a roulette wheel this can generate a feeling of invulnerability – and that’s when decision-making becomes impaired thanks to the rush of adrenalin that can be part and parcel of a series of highs. The result is that higher and higher amounts are wagered on each round when a more conservative approach would be the wiser way to go.
High Odds Dissonance
In his book The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math are Taking the Luck out of Gambling mathematician Adam Kucharski also identifies an psychological oddity that can make many of us believe in a high odds strategy. In his example, he uses horse racing in which, even though the odds may be 66-1 the gambler will focus on the possibility of winning 66 times their stake rather than the fact that the animal in question has a 1 in 66 chance of winning. When looked at logically, most people would tend to agree that there is very little chance of the bet coming off but there are still very many who hope for the big win rather than the more predictable but lower return option.
There are countless theories about how to get the better of slots, from looking for so-called ‘lucky machines’ to spacing the time between spins – with one of the most popular times being thought to be 17 seconds. There’s also a great deal of debate about whether it’s better in the long run to put on multiple low stakes bets or fewer, larger ones. The answer is that none of these make any difference. Each spin is random and if you’re going to get lucky that’s there is to it – just ask Elmer Sherwin who won the $21,147,947 jackpot playing a slot machine in Las Vegas’s Cannery Casino and Hotel in 2005.
Sixteen years earlier, in 1989, he had won $4.6 million from a slot in the newly-opened Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip. Now that defies any system or strategy.
So avoid drowning your sorrows by avoiding these strategies like the plague. In reality, it does pay to have a strategy that sees you bet your money in manageable chunks, rather than just acting on a whim and going for broke. However, a bad strategy can lead you to a humiliating defeat quicker than you can imagine.
Leeds based James Webb is an enthusiastic gambler.