Thursday, August 4, 2011

Target bounces back from a three-month sportsbook drubbing. A fluke? A fiddle? Or proof that progressive betting is a winning strategy?

Target finally turned around on July 24 after a struggle that had lasted for the best part of three months, and the new high point came courtesy of a couple of back-to-back winning streaks that to my great surprise ("Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit") some people find suspicious.

Never mind that selections are posted in advance every day or, more to the point, that the losing streak that had put Line #10 almost a hundred grand in the hole was about as far from statistical expectation as it's possible to get.

I thought it worth providing a snapshot of recent activity to underscore my argument that in fact, multiple back-to-back wins are really not unusual, especially when they have been preceded by an egregious departure from the statistical norm (whatever that may be).

The snap above confirms that when things got really tough, I drilled down to the nitty-gritty and placed just one bet a day on Line #10. A snap for Line 10 alone looks like this:

But then, that's how it goes when you defy the conventional wisdom: When you manage to get ahead, it's the result of an anecdotal, irrelevant fluke, but when times get temporarily tough, it's the norm.

No wonder most gamblers are losers.

I certainly agree that the recent upswing is anomalous, but no more so than the killer slump that preceded it!

A look at the updated chart at very quickly confirms that Target almost rebounded three times before it finally hauled itself out of the hole, and I can't help but think that those critical shortfalls were created by the (as it turned out) ill-advised changes I made to the original rules in recent weeks.

I am under constant pressure, from myself as well as from well-meaning observers, to tweak and improve the method and I have no problem with that.

But changes that result in three or four successive wins being insufficient for a full turnaround are quite obviously not changes for the better.

We had close brushes with recovery well over a month before final turnaround, and "close" counts in this context because the core premise of the Target strategy is that two consecutive wins should get us out of the hole, but three might be needed if the second bet is kept down by the rule that no bet should be more than 10x the bet before it.

The conventional wisdom has it that progressive betting can't work in the long run because at some point, cumulative losses will exceed the value of the maximum bet the house will allow.

That's a bunch of malarkey, because paired or grouped wins are common even in games with a house edge as high as the overall 10% (45-55) that applies when you back underdogs at the sports book.

Moreover, table limits and even house limits are irrelevant because the odds (for and against) are not affected if you choose to delay your critical bet until you can find someone willing to accept it.

I'll say it yet again: Double-up players can be found in any busy casino, table-hopping (and annoying the hell out of both dealers and players) after two or three bets as they try to disguise their methodology and find a slot where their next bet won't raise any eyebrows.

Blackjack and craps are the most popular targets because once in a while, a turnaround bet will pay far better than even money, with a natural at 21 or a 2x win in the field.

Fact is, table limits are in place solely to thwart progressive bettors—they have nothing to do with protecting players from themselves or segregating layouts to sort the minnows from the whales.

The lower the table limit, the more rapidly any player who varies his bet values is likely to fall pray to negative expectation (keeping in mind that most $5 bettors at a $300 max table will very rarely bet above $50).

Regular readers will know that spread is everything in betting, and the closer you get to 1:1 (flat betting), the harder it will be to win in the long run.

It's fine to start off at a "low rent" layout, then move from game to game as table limits dictate.

If you bet a tight spread at one location (and $5 to $300, as at my "local" qualifies as a tight spread), you might as well kiss your bankroll goodbye.

Spread as wide as you can, and table limits become almost meaningless (and I say almost only because at some point there's a very slight possibility that a table limit you bump up against is also the house limit, in which case you may need to cross the street or even a few state lines to place your next bet!).

Consider instead the overall likelihood of the two consecutive wins you need to turn around, vs. the probability of a losing streak long enough to bankrupt you. In a 1.0% give-or-take game like blackjack or baccarat, paired wins are a 25% probability, and your chances of going from a $5 start to a $25,000 house cap are a teeny, tiny, minuscule fraction of that percentage.

For example, in a simulated baccarat game with a $5 to $200 (1 to 40) permitted betting spread, you might theoretically "bust" a half dozen $1,000 buy-ins because of the table limit, while seeing a dozen or more paired wins that woulda saved and then substantially increased your bankroll but for the handicap.

And that's what the table limit is: a handicap that increases the house edge in a 1.4% game to 20% or more.

Far too many players react to a downturn as if they are obliged to stay at the same layout, or keep their bets low in the hope that they can recover their losses little by little.

Sometimes, to be fair, they don't have a choice, either because the low-limit table in front of them is the only game in town, or because they stepped up to the game with too little money to see them through even a brief slump.

But that, of course, is what the house counts on from every player: too little understanding of the math, coupled with too little hard cash.

If you are $600 behind at a $200 table, you will have to get four max bets ahead of the dealer just to climb out of the hole and break even: possible, but very unlikely. The same hole at a $1,000 table needs just two wins in succession for turnaround, a far superior proposition.

The other day, I was sent a link to a website that repeats the simplistic saw that in the long run, a player's final outcome will always match the combined value of all bets multipled by the house advantage, as in $100,000 of action against a 1.41% negative expectation "must" end with a loss of $1,410.


The sacred saw (defined as "a trite phrase or saying") only applies to flat or random bets.

The most rudimentary random number simulation supports the efficacy of progressive betting every time, as long as what I usually refer to as the inertia factor is disallowed.

In other words, people don't play the way the way RNGs play—just think of the old story about the golfing gorilla!

Winning with progressive betting isn't always easy, but it is a very long way indeed from impossible.

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._