Saturday, February 15, 2020

More about Baccarat: Not my favourite game, but big-money gamblers worldwide lose more at it than against any other casino option, and I decided 2020 was the year to pay closer attention.

In the most recent 2020 post (the one I thought would probably be my last) I detoured into baccarat and reiterated my long held belief that anyone who thinks betting Banker is the best policy "because it wins more often" is either deluded or daft.

But then I remembered that however much proof to the contrary I produce, a lot of readers of this blog assume I'm both deluded and daft when I insist that progressive betting my way will consistently beat most casino house games.

Either that or...I'm a conman peddling an impossible dream, an idiot who has made a whole series of fatal mistakes in my arithmetic for the past 40 years, and I'm too stupid or stubborn to admit it, even to myself.

I discovered long ago that most of the insults hurled my way originate with people whose agenda is diametrically opposite to mine.

They want to preserve the myth that negative expectation can't be beaten in the long run, but good-time gamblers can have lots of fun trying before they empty their wallets and head for home.

My campaign is to convince sentient gamblers that it stands to sense that only progressive betting can beat the odds and win in the long term.  But this post is not a rant on that topic.

What I am hoping to do here is to prove definitively (and verifiably) that the Bet Banker argument is a load of old cobblers and that commission-free winning bets on Player only is the smarter, safer way to go.

For years I have referred to 3,000 shoes of baccarat offered online by the Wizard of Odds (Mike Shackleford) or printed in hard copy by Zumma Publishing.

Analysis of those independent and incorruptible (by me) blocks of outcomes proves that my approach to progressive betting is viable and dependable.

After last month's post, I decided to expand the sample by 2,000 more shoes, taking those from one of ten data dumps put up by the redoubtable Wizard.

What I have seen in the past after running tests in which the Banker-only punter follows my strategy while his Player-only pal does the same is that over time, both methods win about the same amount at the rate of roughly $2,000 an hour.

Because such tests demand that every single bet must count and there can be no escape from killer losing streaks, a table minimum bet of $25 will often balloon to $50,000 and both "players" must at times have very deep pockets indeed.

In theory, that's fine, because baccarat attracts the highest of the world's high rollers, and bets far fatter than my $50,000 cap are commonplace.

I don't believe that even a bonkers billionaire would sit through some of the mean streaks that Target had to endure, but I guess the end result is all that matters when the sample contains over 380,000 rounds, or about 50,000 hours of continuous play.

What I have always argued is that while Banker will win more rounds than Player, even in a single shoe, the "five percent" commission applied to every win will turn a perceived (and heavily promoted) edge into a liability.

The Wiz's data confirms this every time: In the 8-deck set, Banker wins 50.7% of all non-tied hands, and the 6-deck 1,000-shoe sample, Banker wins 50.6%.

Fine and dandy, until you take Banker's 65,595 wins and chop 'em down by 5% for a final net total of 64,160 against Player's net (and gross) win of  64,231.

You'd be right to say there's not much in it, but however shills like Shackleford may try to spin the numbers, there is NO Banker edge at baccarat.

In the Zumma 1,000-shoe set, Banker grosses 37,152 and nets 35,294 wins against Player's 35,959.

This stuff matters because 99.99% of all players bet randomly in effect, even if in their minds they think they are successfully winning more when they win than they lose when they lose.

Target bettors know for sure that they will achieve that goal if they stick with my progressive strategy, but most punters don't have a hope in hell of pulling that off.

Bottom line: Here's the summary from the 3,000 shoes mentioned here plus another 2,000 picked up from the Wizard's more recent batch of (gasp!) 250,000 random shoes...

How 5% isn't really five percent...

The thing to notice here other than Banker's horrible net outcome is that with the Target strategy precisely applied on each side, both grossed about the same amount, suffered similar punishing losing streaks, and would have gone bust but for access to a bankroll about a fifth of the amount a famous poker player "won" at baccarat in two casinos a while back.

(Somehow, two sets of judges in two different countries were able to deny him his "winnings" without saying he cheated!).

Also worth noting is that Player managed an average win about 7.0% greater than his average loss against 5,000 shoes while Banker's gross average win was equal to his average loss, and with the gouge applied, dropped to less than 96%.

In fairness, I would not apply the Player progressive strategy to Banker wagers if I were crazy enough to bet them, but I had no choice in this trial because the objective was to accurately highlight the myth of the Banker edge.

So there you have it.  If you're not among the 0.01% of gamblers who seriously play to win and a shill tries to bamboozle you with bad baccarat advice, just remember the five Bs: Betting Banker is Barking Bloody Bonkers.

You'll thank me one day.

Appendix = TMI?

The Wizard of Odds and I have both fallen into the high-speed number generation trap!

He has much fancier gear than I do, but after restricting my baccarat analysis to 3,600 verifiable shoes supplied by the Wiz and Zumma Publishing, I decided to branch out a little

Mr. Shackleford clearly figured that if he could generate 2,000 random shoes, why not 250,000 by golly, and his most recent 20 MILLION-round data dump is where I went for my expanded effort to illustrate my position on Banker bets at baccarat.

Here’s a summary from 7,000 shoes, or more than half a million bets on the casino table game that most closely resembles a snoozing sloth:

Readers who think I am making all this up won’t budge because of the latest analysis, but those with open minds will note that Banker and Player won about the same amount with Target’s help, as logic and arithmetic agree they should.

Then came the “5 percent” gouge that in this test proved to be almost 35% overall, and knocked Banker down to a win a third less than Player’s.

The central panel above shows that in two data sets out of five, each 1,400 shoes or more than 110,000 bets, Banker grossed more than Player.  But in all five, Banker’s net win was less than the other guy’s un-gouged gross (and net).

It is, as we would expect, helpful to win more bets than you lose, and because of that edge, Banker did not see as many maximum/limit bets as his commission-dodging pal.

Then again, Player’s average win was almost 15 percent greater than his average loss, while Banker fell short of a 4 percent AWB/ALB edge.

For both punters, a very high percentage of the overall positive outcome came from bets above $500.  Player lost overall on bets below $5,000.


You will hear mythematicians argue that since the house advantage for the game of baccarat (about 1.35%) applies equally to every bet, it must also bear negatively on bets at every value.  That has always been twaddle…unless bets are flat or random.

In strategic progressive betting, bets rise in value in response to protracted losing streaks, and our numbers show that the house edge diminishes as bet amounts increase, as logic predicts.

It’s plain enough: If the house is, say, ten bets ahead in a given series or sequence of bets, an excessive run of house wins must be at least partially offset by opposite outcomes in order for the long-term known negative expectation to prevail.

For example:

Target backs off after a certain point in a losing sequence, and piles on the pressure when a mid-series win suggests that a second consecutive house loss might occur.

There is never a guarantee of a second win, obviously, but our aim is to be as ready as we can be if it happens, so a well-timed win will do us the most possible good.

Bet values are not relevant in this analysis!  I have been saying for more than 25 years that party-time punters with penny-ante bankrolls have no hope of long-term profit.  The house edge will always get ‘em in the end.

Disciplined strategic betting is something else entirely.

When this blog was born, I talked about pattern betting, and that remains the essence of Target, along with the common-sense dictum that you cannot hope to recover prior losses by betting the same amount or less.

It is a reactive discipline, not a predictive one, and anyone who pretends to know what is coming next in a game of chance is blowing smoke.

The house advantage is built on a foundation far stronger than the simple truth that over time, you will lose more bets than you win.  The rock that matters most is money, and the house is betting that it can survive an anomalous losing streak for far longer than you can.

Tests like this one involve deadly losing streaks far longer than any a human being would be willing to endure, scary slides in which flight would have been much smarter than fight for an actual player.

But in these 7,000 shoes and the 3,600 that preceded them, unreal hazards applied equally to Banker and Player, and the final outcome is all that matters.

Because of very deep pockets on both sides, long losing streaks were successfully surmounted—it just so happens that in the end, Player was able to turn a more-losses-than-wins scenario a third sunnier than his over-taxed, Banker-betting buddy.

And on the topic of bet values, in real play there would be no sense in untidy bets like those you see above: rounding up (but never down) would be applied.

As for players with limited bankrolls, I can promise them that if they learn and rigorously apply the principles of Target, they will enjoy themselves much more at the tables and hang on to their money for much longer.
(Here's a little story that might help you to visualise the idiocy of setting any betting strategy loose on half a million outcomes with no human or natural input allowed, other than the right to set bet values.  Imagine that you're signed up for a kayaking adventure that permits you to buy as many little floating ducks as you want, with the promise that if you make it to a special dock down-river, you'll be allowed to sell them back at a profit.  You're also given a net that you can use to scoop up any additional toy ducks that you see bobbing about within reach along the way, and those will also fetch a premium price from the cashier's window, if you ever get there. The rules are really tough, though.  You won't be given a paddle, and you will be expected to go with the flow, drifting wherever the stream takes you.  You have been told that there will be occasional rapids, rough patches that could sink you, but you are not allowed to protect yourself from them, and all you can do is sit tight and pray you don't tip over.  How good are your chances, do you reckon?)

_ An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you. One more piece of friendly advice: If you are inclined to use target betting with real money against online "casinos" such as Bovada, spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this. _

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

After more than a decade of this Target blog, nothing has changed! You can win if you want to and you're willing to work at it, but most gamblers can't be bothered.

Last March, the 10th anniversary of this blog passed me by unnoticed, and I’m embarrassed that I have apparently not had anything new to say for more than three years now.

I have let my sleeping blog lie (supine, not deceitful) because it’s still getting an impressive number of hits every day from all over the world, even if I am never going to be able to claim viral status.

All that activity reminds me that there are still plenty of people out there who don’t swallow the glib idea promoted by casinos everywhere, that “You can’t win in the end, but we can offer you a thousand ways to have fun while you’re losing.”

My excuse for keeping quiet is that since I moved back to my native land I have been distracted by a different area of gambling that is also doomed to fail according to the conventional wisdom: betting on horse-racing.

There was also a long spell in which I did what little I could to put a stop to one of the biggest rip-offs in the sad history of lousy bets, casino machines in betting shops that permitted befuddled and benighted punters to bet up to £100 a spin against a house edge greater than -4.0%.

When I landed in the old country and very soon afterwards popped in to one of those High Street betting offices that are pretty much unique to the UK, I could not believe my eyes.

Slot machines legally permitted to gouge as much as £3,000 an hour against crooked odds?  Insane!

Turned out that a loophole in gambling laws intended to limit high-stakes casino games to actual bricks-and-mortar casinos which would in turn be closely monitored, allowed video versions of those same games to be offered in thousands of locations all over the country.

So instead of gambling addicts having to go out of their way to play at fewer than 200 casinos spaced far apart in controlled locations, more than 8,000 betting shops offered punters big-money roulette and blackjack on four high-tech machines per shop. 
And often these mini-casinos could be found clustered in clumps of a half dozen or more in town centres, a few steps off the pavement in High Streets and residential areas.

My contribution to the national campaign against machines known here as FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals) may have been small, but I cheered as loud as anyone last year when the British government finally announced that the maximum permitted bet-per-spin would be slashed from £100 to £2.

It took the pols in Westminster a decade to get their fingers out, with Britain’s Gambling Commission refusing to bite the hand that feeds it more than £20,000,000 a year to fund fat salaries and pensions, and doing its darndest to muddy the waters and slow the process down.

The odds still stink but at least now certifiable idiots will have to play a whole lot longer to lose the grocery money, the rent, and the kids’ college funds.

Right before the axe fell, those machines were fattening bookies’ profits by almost £2 billion a year, or about half what Nevada rakes in from all the casinos and all the games in the state.

The big difference is that Nevada attracts millions of nationwide and international visitors each year, whereas the rake from casino-style slots in the UK was from a relatively piddling 35,000 machines in 10,000 locations.

Meanwhile, I have been applying all I have learned from casino house games to create a filtered betting strategy restricted to horse-race favourites and second favourites only, and after almost five years of intensive research, I figure I have the algorithm pretty much down pat.

So…back to my temporarily shelved obsession with beating house table games that are mostly not nearly as bent as those awful FOBTs.

The good news and the bad news: Nothing has changed.

You’re still certain to lose more bets than you win in the long term, which means that progressive betting is the only way to overcome the mathematical house advantage.

Do the job right, and losing more often than you win won’t stop you from winning more money than you lose.

Mythematicians (my affectionate term for self-elevated experts who lie about the numbers that underpin every gambling game) are still popping up online to advise punters against any non-random betting strategy.  Pit-bosses and dealers all weigh in against its wisdom when they see it in play, and that’s all the proof you need that progressive betting is the only way to go.

Progressive betting is usually taken to mean doubling and redoubling until a win is finally achieved, “risking perhaps thousands to win a handful of dollars.” 
Target (or Turnaround, to use its original name) has never promoted endless doubling, but it will often require very large bets to recoup prior losses.

Exactly the same is true of the mathematical underpinning of the house edge, except that the punter, not the dealer, decides bet values, usually according to a personal pattern that seems rational and conservative but is essentially random.

Against 99.99% of all punters, the casinos have the best winning strategy of all:  Let the suckers pile up big wins once in a while, then wait for them to get greedy (or drunk on “free” cocktails!) and lose it all and then some. 
Playing strategically, whatever bet you make, that’s the amount you seek to win, aiming to get back in the black with far fewer winning wagers than the number of losses it took to get you into the red in the first place.

If have to bet $1,000 in order to grab back past losses and show a turnaround profit of $200, you didn’t win $200, you won $1,000, and anyone who says otherwise is either an idiot or a mythematician on the payroll of a casino somewhere.

Of course the numbers have not changed since blog post #1 in March, 2009.
For example, win 490 bets in 1,000—losing 510—and flat betting will show a 2.0% loss from -20/1,000. 
Random betting will almost always do the same. 

But if on average, you win 20% more when you win than you lose when you lose—say $12 vs. $10—you’ll see wins worth $5,880 and lost bets costing $5,100 for a profit of $780 on total action of $10,980.
That’s a 7.1% “hold” versus an indicated or predicted loss of 2.0% ($200 according to the EV, or expected value, which once the dealing’s done, becomes the actual value=AV).

When I first described Turnaround online way back in the nineties, I stressed the importance of betting more when you win than you lose when you lose and was bombarded with smart-ass rejoinders all adding up to the same thing:  “We get it!  You want us to bet more when we know we’re going to win and less when we know we’re going to lose.” 
Funny, but very, very dumb. 
A higher AWB (average winning bet) is readily achieved by pulling back when things are going badly and might get worse, and responding relatively aggressively when a single mid-recovery win signals a potential—but never certain—positive trend. 
By now I have countless millions of outcomes proving my point, including models that pit Target against verifiable data sets made available by a very successful Las Vegas shill who calls himself the Wizard of Odds, and by Zumma Publishing. 
But for simplicity, here’s a sequence in which bets are frozen after two consecutive losses and doubled after any win: -10, -20, -20, -20, -20, +20, +40, -80, -80, -80, -80, +80, +160, +240 = +130. 
In that set, there were 9 losses averaging 46 and 5 wins averaging 108.  The house edge was -4/14 or -28.6% and Target delivered a win of a bit more than one current unit (80) on action of 950, a 13.7% hold against an AV that against the same action indicated a loss of -28.6% = -272.
No one can hope to win if the opening bet remains the unit of currency throughout a recovery sequence  or series: here, three bets in a row set the value of the unit, and we aim to win one current unit before we fall back to a minimum bet. 
Simplistic, perhaps, but confirmed countless thousands of times in models that cannot cheat the way that anti-strategists do repeatedly to bolster their mantra that you can’t win in the end. 
Mostly, they are paid to challenge possible threats to the house advantage and will do whatever it takes, their credo being that long-term winning is just another form of cheating and dirty, underhanded “analysis” of any viable betting strategy is fair play in defence of (the casinos’) greater good.

I’m used to being vilified—and sometimes even threatened—by critics with a hidden agenda, but even I was taken aback by a crook who pretended to be a protector of gullible punters and posted a “de-bunking” of Target/Turnaround after throwing out every single published rule of the strategy.

It took him weeks to reveal the mangled, deliberately doomed algorithm he had used in his “research” and when I pointed out all his errors, he announced that he was “not interested” in applying the strategy’s rules to a fair analysis.

Oh, well…

I have said from the start that my ideas are of very limited value to a small-time gambler with a shoestring budget.

No one can expect to beat the house and its stupendous fiscal firepower by placing penny-ante bets and praying hard.

On the other hand, players with millions at their disposal won’t be able to “buy the pot” in the long run, unless they follow a disciplined strategy that keeps their greed and self-destructive urges under control and requires a very wide spread in bet values.

That disqualifies most so-called “whales” because for them, the thrill of the game lies in risking huge sums and knowing that however much they lose, there’s plenty more money ready to be thrown away another day, pain free.

When I lived in Nevada, I’d occasionally stand a polite distance away and watch overfunded thrill seekers blunder away thousands and then tell everyone that they’d had a great time going (briefly) broke.

I’d watch the wins and losses and put my mental arithmetic to the test, making “air bets” on each round and always winning while actual chips once owned by ignorant players migrated mercilessly into the dealer’s tray.  It was always frustrating, but reassuring!

I’ll say it again: big money alone cannot guarantee big wins.  Big money and a proven betting strategy is something else again.

And readers who don’t have millions to back their bets can very successfully use my ideas to limit their losses while providing them with far more winning sessions than they will see if they fly by the seat of their pants instead of betting strategically.

Turnaround/Target has evolved—by which I mean improved!—over the years, but is still in essence a waiting strategy, a method that seeks to minimise risk and respond effectively to potential opportunities.

It is absolutely accurate to maintain that in a game with say, a 1.5% house edge, every bet faces exactly the same inherent, mathematical disadvantage, regardless of how many consecutive losses or wins may have preceded it.

But the most cursory assessment of a meaningful data set (I suggest 1,000 bets or more) will show streaks for and against the player that if analysed will confirm an overall bias for the house which prevails in spite of dips and spikes along the way that pretty much even out.

The strategy was first developed for blackjack, and that remains my number one house game of choice, because bonuses for naturals (even at today’s skimpy 6-5 instead of the traditional 3-2) and a player edge for doubles and splits that often exceeds 20.0%, combine to make it the least dangerous option on the casino floor.

Given precision play—adherence to the basic strategy that every player should have down pat before venturing near a table—the house advantage is negligible, compared to 1.35% for baccarat, 5.26% for double-zero roulette and 5.6% for field bets at craps.

Blackjack is also more exciting than any other house game, in my experience, and unlike 3-card poker, Let-it-Ride and other sucker bets, lets you feel that you control your destiny to some extent as long as you stick with the programme.

Today’s streamlined version of Turnaround/Target is about as simple and straightforward as a viable strategy can get, with all of the attention-dodging feints built in the earlier editions long gone.

Years ago, I came to realise that suspicious casino pit prowlers are only interested in wild bet swings with a whiff of a Martingale, and the best way to avoid attention is to take a walk to another game or layout if the next bet might send up a flare.

It makes no difference at all to Target’s long-term prospects, which remain excellent after all these years.

Strangely, most of the readers who have written to me about the blog are baccarat aficionados whose loyalty to their dangerous game is admirable, even if they invariably challenge my advice to never put money on Banker.

It is a fact that Banker wins more hands than Player in the long run, about 2.0% more, which in 10,000 rounds gives B 5,100 wins vs. P’s 4,900.  

A no-brainer, right?  Wrong!  Banker bets come in at 95% net because of the standard house gouge (aka commission) which always skims 5.0% off all those B vaunted wins, and the numbers above then look a lot different: B 4,845 paid vs. P 4,900.  Oops.

To belabour the point, the Wizard’s 2,000 shoes of baccarat plus Zumma’s 1,000 shoes give Banker 104,234 wins and Player 101,355 wins for a total Banker edge over Player of 2.84%.  So yes, Banker wins more often than Player.

But wait: Apply the “5 percent” gouge and the value of those Banker wins drops to 99,022 units, given flat bets of 1u per round (crass stupidity, but this is arithmetic, not an actual game) and Player’s 101,355 winners look a whole lot better—2.36% better, in fact.

So much for the claimed advantage of a Banker bet.  Winning more often is not a whole of use if in the end you will win less money!  Anyone want to argue with that?

Of course, no one is crazy enough to bet the same amount every time against 3,000 shoes of baccarat, or even one.

Against a betting strategy that relies on waiting until a mid-recovery win comes along, then boosting the bet value in pursuit of a prolonged positive trend, the gouge damage is much worse (still 5.0% off all wins, with each loss at 100%, but much more painful, whatever you might hear from all the fools who say, “But it’s only five percent!”).

I know from experience (I was banned from the blackjack tables for years at one casino and had to make do with baccarat) that long Banker runs are a nightmare for Player-only punters, so I grudgingly recommend the  wobble or WBL (win before last) bet selection method, which at least catches extended streaks either way.

One important additional weapon: a 10.0% boost to turnaround bets whenever Wobble calls for a pile of chips on Banker.  That will at least offset the gouge, and applies only when a win will mean recovery if it comes to pass.  Otherwise, track net values, not gross Banker wins, when reckoning the end-of-series (EOS) target value.

For those among you who baccarat boosters who always bet banker and object to being called foolish, here are a few little things to ponder:

When I first posted this update, I included a slew of snaps from worksheets that hammered home the horrible truth that betting Banker at baccarat is not as smart as the casinos would have you believe.

Then I decided that life would be simplified for my readers if I ran tests with Target/Turnaround "betting" Player on every round for 3,000 verifiable shoes, then doing the same backing Banker for each of 227,000 rounds or so.

The results are summarised above.

As expected, my patient progression won a tidy sum with all those Player bets ($4.5 million) and did just a little bit better backing Banker (up $4.7 million).

Then came Bertie Banker's commission bill: $2.44 million, or more than half his winnings!

And that meant that Peter Punter putting all his money on Player did twice as well in spite of losing more bets than he won.

And "only five percent" turned out to be more than 50%.

No fakery, crookery or mythematics here...just arithmetic once again proving what educated players have always known: Do what the house tells you to do (or listen to shills), and you'll lose your shirt and trousers too...and deserve it.

To get the summary above, I broke the WOO six- and eight-deck shoes and the Zumma 1,000 shoes into 200-shoe blocks to save my trusty laptop from a heart attack, and Banker's net did not top Player's commission-free profit once in 15 contests.

The summary file is another document I'm happy to share (Excel 15x200 shoes) with a friendly request from non-professionals without mythematical agendas!

It's interesting (to me) that Mike Shackleford, the Oz behind the WOO curtain, has never used his breath-taking resources to supply as many sim-generated blackjack outcomes as he has baccarat rounds offered up to "prove" that you can’t win.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that the results you will get from superfast sims will always be inferior to the profits you can expect from real-time play.  Duhhhhh...  Let me put that another way: real-time games are usually easier to beat than simulated ones.

A big problem with sims is that they offer no scope for a sensible pause and a switch to a different layout or game when the going gets really tough.

Who in his right mind would sit still to take a further pounding after, say, six consecutive losses, one win, then five losses and one win, then eight more losses in a row?  Not me, or you either, probably.  But Target had to suffer countless beatings against these baccarat data sets far worse than any that human flesh could endure, and it still managed to come out ahead, over and over again.

In the WOO 6-deck sets, with Target in play throughout, close to 90 percent of all series or sequences end within ten bets or fewer, with the most serious threats to the bankroll dragging on for 171 bets in shoes 1-500, and 52 bets in shoes 501-1,000.

In both sets, 60 percent of all series were done and dusted (with a profit, obviously) in fewer than six bets.

What might have happened, do you think, if our robot player had opted for pastures new and hopefully greener every time he got more than ten punts into the red?

Short skirmishes are the norm in any table game because the house edge makes those games essentially a 50-50 proposition.

Bet flat or bet randomly (as most players do) and the 1.35% house edge at baccarat will get you in the end.

Bet strategically, and the screen cuts you see above illustrate that the house edge can be trounced again and again.

And just in case you’re unconvinced by the baccarat banker comparisons above, you fill find the equivalent data from Wizard Shackleford’s much larger 8-deck data set at the end of this post.

Of course, sims can’t tell us what WILL happen, only what CAN happen.

Because I have a life to live away from my computer, it has taken me years to accumulate barely 150,000 rounds recorded against honest games of blackjack.

Long ago, I published screenshots of my win against an iPod game of 21, and they showed me well over a million bucks ahead of sim that I could not manipulate in any way.

More recently, I found a terrific game that I had to tweak in the beginning in order to build a bankroll equal to the challenge of beating a house advantage that is a fifth or less of the edge that makes baccarat so hard for flat or random bettors to make long-term headway against.

Here’s where I left the game last time:

It’s a crazy win, of course.  But is a great place to go to learn a game that is easily the best bet in any casino, online or otherwise.  And despite a few minor quirks, it offers a rare opportunity to test the effectiveness of the TT strategy.

I spent some time a while back revisiting Oscar’s Grind, probably the best-known progressive betting method other than redoubling and the only one casinos will endorse when pressed for advice.  What does that tell you?

Legend says Oscar was a craps nut who wrote tens of thousands of roll results in a pile of notebooks filled with stubby-pencil scribbles, and he made a decent living freezing his bet after any loss and adding one unit after every win (-1, -1, -1, -1, +1, +2, -3, -3, -3, +3, +4, +4 and out with a 1u profit against an AV of -2/12=17%).

A mythematician who styled himself “The Bishop” calculated Oscar’s win-rate at 99.98%, wisely adding that “that 0.02% will kill you.”

I don’t know where that impressive win rate came from outside of Bishop Snyder’s imagination, but I can tell you that my models programmed with an OG algorithm have never been able to match it!  (See below)

The problem is that one loss is too soon to freeze and one unit is too little to pump the NB, which perhaps explains why no one will step in and offer friendly advice from the pit if you put the method to work at a craps table or anywhere else.

Redoubling or the Martingale is quite another story.  Try that with gusto and you’ll have a new best friend at your side in an instant, advising you that you are putting your bankroll at terrible risk, so please stop now.

Much the same can happen with Turnaround/Target, and your response should be similar: any hassle from house staff should be met with a smile and a thank-you just before you walk away to place the appropriate next bet somewhere new.

In all the years I spent in Nevada, I’d often see hit-and-run Martingale punters, doubling up three times at the most against any one game, and strolling on before any heat could come down on them.

The mythematicians who love to use me for target practice (pun intended) routinely deny such h-&-r players exist anywhere, but I have seen them and talked to them and long admired their patience and pluck.

Pit critters have seen them too, which is why these days in Nevada, few casinos permit players to stroll up to a table and start betting mid-shoe.

The rule is that you have to wait until the next shuffle, a pain in the arse inflicted solely to hamper double-uppers in search of a nice bonus from a double-down or a natural.

Not that the casinos reveal their agenda.  They lie like rugs to protect their edge and a strategy that can recover past losses plus a profit in just one win is a serious threat.

You will also hear that table limits—$10 to $500, $25 to $1,000, $100 to $5,000 and so on—are for the players’ sake, when in fact the idea is to discourage very wide bet spreads that can alter the arithmetic in a strategy bettor’s favour.

Experienced winners simply take an over-limit bet to a matching layout when necessary, knowing that doing so will not affect their long-term prospects one iota.

Doubles and splits, by the way, have better than a 20.0% player edge against a fair game of blackjack, so it’s smart to learn the basic strategy inside out and apply it with precision and consistently, regardless of the size of the bet.

Try the basic strategy for blackjack against the game linked above and record every round and you’ll be delighted with what doubles can do for you, even without a disciplined betting strategy.  Use both, and you’ll be hooked for life, and a little bit wealthier too once you find a casino that won’t back you off for being too canny.

As for dear old Oscar, he’d have been so much better off if he’d frozen after a second loss, and doubled his bet after a win instead of upping it by a measly one unit.

Unit values need to change throughout a recovery series to match the current depth of the hole you are in, also known as the loss-to-date or LTD.

For example, if you open with a $10 bet and lose it, make the next bet $25 and calculate your LTD in $25 units until the bet hits $75, when you should adjust to $100 units (8 down, 3 out in $25 units becomes 3 down, one out in $100 units).

“Down and out” is key here, an easy way to track your LTD and make sure your bets keep a recovery within easy reach.

“Down” refers to the combined value or prior losses in the current series, and “out” is the amount on the table in front of you.

Linking your bet values to your loss to date, knowing precisely where you stand and what you need to do to get ahead again, is critical to a viable betting strategy, more important than luck or the depth of your pockets.

OG can easily hit an LTD of -100 units in a prolonged battle, and adding just 1u after any win will delay recovery for a very long time, and quite possibly put it off forever.

Turnaround/Target relates the unit value to the win target, and ideally your next bet (NB) should not be less than a fifth of your LTD.  You’ll get the hang of it! 

As I said before, casinos view steady winners as cheats, which as far as I know has only ever been true of the notorious but nameless world-class poker player who got a little too greedy and bankrolled a scam that came down to reading marked cards at baccarat tables.

He won a bundle in London and Atlantic City, but was caught green-handed, so to speak, and could not collect.  

He’s lucky he didn’t wind up in the pokey (pun again intended!) and my guess is that other poker players on the world circuit are a lot more wary of him these days.

So to wrap up what will probably be my swan song, discipline and consistency are key not just to Turnaround/Target in a casino but to horse-race betting too.

It’s wise to work hard and learn a lot of lessons before risking real money at any game, and always keep this in mind: Of course you can win in the long run, but it won’t always be a walk in the park.

I do want to thank everyone who has been supportive and engaged with this blog over this past decade plus, and also the unbelievers who blasted me for daring to challenge the conventional wisdom, because their pig-headedness provided added motivation.

It is a fact, as I said at the beginning of this post and many times before, that a flat or random punter will always fall prey to the house advantage in any game, maybe not this time, but soon.

On the other hand, when strategic betting is in play, it belies the ancient mantra that “Any amount bet against a negative expectation will have a negative result.”

There's always going to be someone who will say that results from any sample of data, however large and however impeccable and verifiable, is merely "anecdotal" and proves nothing, and there is really no answer to that.

Not being a baccarat enthusiast, I stopped at 3,000 shoes or about 230,000 rounds because I felt my point had been made.  All the shoes in each set are numbered, so I suppose I'd be up for a closer look at a randomly-selected sample if the effort was generously funded.

But it won't happen because gamblers as a breed set high risk above all else, treating winning as a short-term accident that must be quickly rectified or the universe might tilt out of whack.

I remember a great conversation with a craps player at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a guy who clearly wasn't stupid and who was well-heeled enough to be cool with a table minimum of $50.  For craps!

He asked me about my method of linking bets in a recovery sequence with a specific win target, and I explained how important it is to win more when you win than...etc.  It all made sense, he said, and he'd give it a go right now, happy that the strategy was so simple.

I then watched him lose more than $2,000 in less than ten minutes, with hardly any of his bets matching Target's softly-softly approach to recovering prior losses.

"So what happened?" I asked as we walked away from the table.  "I forgot what you told me," he said.

And that's really what gambling is all about for the vast majority of players: Go with your gut, and get ready to lose all your lolly and love it.

I have a million models that prove that Target--call it a patient progression if you like, but progressive betting is what it's about--really works.  But very few people can be bothered to look at gambling that closely.  It isn't any fun, they're saying, and I get that.

Ask me nicely, with an explanation of who you are and what you plan to do with corroborating data that has taken me half a lifetime to pull together, and I’ll send you the above baccarat summary file in full.

The bet-by-bet files showing the detailed results of all 227,000 rounds are not on offer…I figure that over the years I have spent at least 50,000 hours on the Target project since it began in 1978.  Value that effort at even a piddling £50 an hour and you can put a theoretical price on obsession!

And of course, there will always be readers who conclude that my numbers are faked to make all my work seem worthwhile.

Mythematicians as a clique prefer to think I'm a crook than to accept that they have their heads up their backsides (although casino risk assessors the world over are well aware that house games can be consistently beaten and have developed multiple tricks to make winning even harder than the house edge does unaided).

It is true enough that there can be only two explanations for my results: Either I’m lying (or deluded), or the ancient axiom that you can’t win in the end against negative expectation is one of the great cons of all time.

What do you think?  Do tell...

Seth Theobeau,
25-January 2020

_ An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you. One more piece of friendly advice: If you are inclined to use target betting with real money against online "casinos" such as Bodog, spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this. _

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm a little late to this party, but discussing the difference between a shill and a charlatan is timelessly topical.

A friend sent me a link to this thread the other day, and the biggest kick I got out of it was the news that Mike Shackleford, aka the Wizard of Odds, had finally sold out to the casino industry after years of pretending that he was a players' champion.

Sure, I'm just a little envious of the $2.4 million he banked in exchange for at last showing his true colours.

But perhaps now gullible punters will see that the WOO website has always been the internet equivalent of a fairground barker, loudly luring suckers into a tent that they will leave lighter in the wallet than they were when they fell for his patter.

I have never denied that Mr. Shackleford knows his arithmetic, and even under his empire's new owners, his numbers are solid.

But all the numbers really tell you is that if you bet exactly the way the Wizard and his paymasters (the ones who funded him for years before he stopped trying to fool everyone and openly sold out) want you to, you don't have a cat in hell's chance of winning in the long run.

You have to set your bet values randomly, without any reference to how much you're in the hole or what it takes to get back in the black.

Above all, you have to bet a very tight spread ($5 to $100 should see you broke in no time!).

And if that doesn't finish you off, be sure to get scared before you can get even, taking a big hit and hoping you can start over and recover your losses another day.

Here's the post that caught my friend's eye:

"Albalaha" is just the most recent of countless self-proclaimed experts who have dismissed my take on progressive betting as a viable antidote to the house advantage without proof or explanation.

But he's at least a few rungs higher up the ethics ladder than my old pal Dave "Imspirit" Anonymous.

Years back, Imspirit published reams of charts that he claimed proved that my Target method crashed and burned against baccarat outcomes sourced from Zumma Publishing and the Wizard of Shills.

I had already published proof that Target handily beat the same 250,000 or so objective (meaning verifiable) data sets, so I asked Dave to confirm that he had applied my "core" algorithm correctly.

It took him a month or more to comply, and I was not greatly surprised to learn that he had thrown out all of the Target rules to get the results he wanted, excusing himself by saying that he followed an algorithm supplied by a third party.

I knew Dave wasn't on the side of the angels when he said he was "not interested" in running an objective trial using the methodology I had long ago posted online, where he could easily have found it if he had any integrity at all.

All water under the bridge, but readers might at least see why people like "Albalaha" who trash my work without explanation (and sad little weasels like Dave who cheat to get the results they want!) don't bother me for longer than a day or two.

That said, the name of the forum where "Albalaha" posts is a sure sign that he has nothing to teach players who really want to win.

Bet selection is irrelevant to the challenge of beating the house advantage in casino games of chance.

If you have two or more options to choose between, you are much better served sticking with one or the other than hopping back and forth.

The only determining factor in long-term profitability is how much you bet and when, and in effect, switching from one choice to another can double your chances of losing.

For example, my (verifiable!) single-zero roulette model confirms that it is entirely possible to win on all six even-money propositions at the end of a long session at the table, assuming you can accurately track the optimum bet values for red AND black, odd AND even and first AND last without blowing a mental gasket.

The essence of Target is, of course, progressive betting.

And progressive betting is the only way to overcome the otherwise certain negative effect of losing more bets than you win.

Many of you will know the mantra very well: If you bet in such a way that you win more money when you win than you lose when you lose, then losing more often than you win won't hurt you.

Betting six ways to Sunday as above isn't something most solo players could handle, but backing both propositions at baccarat can be just as successful:

I am often chided for making life too complicated for the average punter, and I never apologise for that.

Far better to back my statements with proof, I believe, than to behave like so may of my critics and dismiss a viable betting method without corroboration or explanation!

The baccarat outcomes summarized above are from the first 2,000 shoes in the 10th tranche of simulated decisions (25,000 shoes in each!) posted online by the Wiz of Shills before he cashed out.

Of course the big problem with all simulations (mine included) is that they cannot tell us what WILL happen, only what CAN happen.

Massive data sets that seem to cause a fixed betting algorithm to crash and burn can only do so if we accept that a gambler with a huge bankroll would happily throw it all away rather than take any defensive action when things get really, really tough.

Target 3-Play and the other riffs on my original algorithm (Turnaround, first posted online 20 years ago!) demand progressive betting, and that puts very large sums of money at risk from time to time.

But my approach applies a bet limit, with a fixed maximum and a brake on how much greater a bet can be than the one that preceded it.

It also freezes or even reduces bet values when a prolonged losing streak calls for defensive action, little details that Dastardly Dave and his ilk prefer to ignore.

The baccarat summaries above confirm that backing Player all the way routinely nets bigger profits than following the standard shill advice to "always bet on the Bank because it wins more often."

Sure, Banker catches more wins overall.  But the drip, drip, drip of "5%" commission shaved off every payback adds up to a bloody red torrent at the end of the day (70% of the total win in the first 1,000 shoe set above, and 66% in the second).

So, Mike at thinks I may be a shill in disguise, just like Mr. Shackleford.

The truth is that casino games really can be consistently beaten, and the casinos know that better than anyone.

Progressive betting is Casino Enemy Number One, which for most people means doubling up from an opening 1-unit bet after a loss, doing it again and again (-1, -2, -4, -8, -16...) until an eventual win delivers an overall profit of one unit.

I prefer a modification that adds +1 after an opening win until a loss, then repeats before resuming doubling (+1, +2, +3, +4, -5, -10, -25, +50) but that's not the Target way and I am just demonstrating that the much-derided Martingale is not the only way to go.

Folks like Mike happily buy into the myth that casinos love system punters, with Las Vegas pioneer Benny Binion RIP often quoted as saying that he sent chauffeured limos to bring the poor saps to his door.

The truth is that if you, Dear Reader, ever sit down at a casino table game and launch an obvious progression, you will have a pit critter purring at your elbow in no time flat.

Casino personnel never lift a finger when an idiot is throwing his money away (why would they!) but put a Martingale or similar into play, and friendly advice will soon come at you from all directions.

So, the TRUTH is that shills are in business to convince punters that there's no way to win in the long run, but never mind...losing is such fun.

A charlatan is a creature of a different stripe, someone who will ding you for $5,000 and sit you down for a two-day seminar "teaching" you that baccarat can be beaten by using past trends to predict what's going to happen next.

It can't work, it doesn't work...but then again, it does, as long as you're the guy giving the lecture, rather than the mark sitting in the audience.

Target, Turnaround and all its variations are about pattern betting, as the intro to this blog has been saying since Day One.

I can't tell you what the next decision in any game will be, but I can guarantee you that if you bet the right progression, you will see a losing sequence turn around in five bets or fewer about 80% of the time, and in 10 bets or fewer 95% of the time.

Will the other 5% kill you?

It will if you sit tight and keep betting larger and larger amounts until you go broke, that's for certain.

But if you do as no simulated robot can and take a break whenever you feel like it, resuming the algorithm at the same values elsewhere when you are ready, the patterns of wins and losses that apply more than 95% of the time will probably (but not definitely) get you out of trouble.

It won't always be easy and it won't always be fun.

But in the end, winning is always better than losing...and the casinos can handle a few more winners.

Too often, I'll hear that the bet values Target requires are too rich for the average punter.

Sorry about that, but it's the reason the average punter always loses in the end.

You know the rule: If you can't afford to win, you shouldn't play...

Casinos have the edge in all their games, obviously, but even they see occasional slumps when all the numbers they know inside out and upside down take a temporary break, and madness prevails.

What Target does, as regular readers know, is to tell you when you have won enough.

Most gamblers are undone by greed as much as by ignorance.  They press and pull back randomly, with no notion of the damage their behavior is doing to their long-term prospects.

You can't neutralize a prolonged losing streak by hurling money at it, but as long as you are betting below your max, chances are that a move will put you alongside a more "normal" win-loss pattern.

As for moving from game to game, often the decision will not be yours to make.

Table limits are in place solely to confound progressive betting, and as soon as your next bet value exceeds the prevailing limit, it's your cue to take up your chips and walk.

Here's a fact: the sum total of all your bets of below average value will always be negative, while high-value bets will add up to a profit sufficient to offset the low-value losses and put you ahead.

Look at the baccarat summaries above. 

It's all there, un-fiddled, un-fixed and un-faked, UN-like the methods of Dastardly Dave and other shills whose job it is to convince you that you can't win in the end.

Sure, the sums at stake in 160,000 rounds of robotic, non-human, simulated play are often gigantic, and very few of the world's baccarat players could handle

Doesn't matter.

The message from the You Can't Win contingent will always be that the house advantage at games of chance is mathematically unbeatable.

It's just not true.  The odds can be beaten.  The casinos know it.  And that's why they need shills.  

An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you. One more piece of friendly advice: If you are inclined to use target betting with real money against online "casinos" such as Bovada, spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this. _