Monday, January 2, 2012

Apple's Steve Jobs believed his way was the only way and made enemies by refusing to compromise. I sympathize: Sometimes there's no middle ground!

I just finished reading the Isaacson biography of the late and often great Steve Jobs, and the impression I got was of a guy who couldn't understand why everyone else on the planet didn't think the way he did.

He was wrong from time to time - he didn't think it was a smart idea to allow outside apps for the iPhone, for example! - but he was right a lot more often than he wasn't, and the battles he won have changed a lot of lives.

Now, I'm no Steve Jobs, but after wading through thousands of posts to online bulletin boards dedicated to gambling, I'm stunned by how stubbornly wrong smart people can be about simple arithmetic, and can appreciate his aversion to compromise.

Setting aside for a moment the sad fact that most boards are diminished and degraded by foul-fingered bickering authored by a small minority, it's amazing how much time contributors are willing to spend discussing betting strategies that can't be supported by common sense, let alone mathematical analysis.

In the month I spent posting to Baccarat Forums, I was routinely blasted for defending a strategy that recommends a betting spread as high as 1 to 5,000.

The rationale for rejecting Target seemed to be that a betting plan that is out of the reach of more than 99% of all gamblers is at best undeserving of consideration, and at worst a criminal attempt to coerce idiots to hand over all their money to the casinos.

Target is, of course, a disciplined but relatively modest take on progressive betting, a concept that has been around for about as long as wagering itself.

What I find surprising is that so many presumably sensible players are willing to keep believing that there is any long-term alternative to progressive betting, and to spend countless hours discussing short-term maneuvers that can only work if they get lucky.

I haven't posted here for quite a while because I have been working instead on a baccarat article that started out as a piece for this blog, then kept growing and growing like a beanstalk on steroids.

It's still a work in progress, but I have posted it to my website, and readers who consider themselves experts on baccarat are welcome to read it and get mad at me whenever I repeat the plain truth that the game can only be beaten by progressive betting.

As with every other game with a long-term negative expectation, baccarat will in the end chew chunks out of a gambler's bankroll that approximate the percentage value of the house edge, meaning that for every $100 wagered back and forth, at least $1.35 will find a permanent home in the casino's coffers.

That's the theory, anyway. In truth, most players will lose much more than 1.35% of their total action by betting erratically, emotionally and stupidly.

Tight betting spreads and unrealistic stop-loss limits are popular among many players looking to limit their exposure, and all they do in the long run is absolutely guarantee that the house will win in the end.

The obsession at BF is with finding a way to make the "right" choice between Banker and Player as a betting proposition, and absolutely no one is willing to accept the simple truth that unless you know for certain which of those two options is going to win the next round, your selection will ultimately prove irrelevant.

Baccarat is a two-hole version of whack-a-mole, in essence, and the more you hop from one target to the other, the happier - and richer - the house will be.

My big mistake during my month on BF was to dig in my heels and advise baccarat players to stick with Player to avoid the 5% commission on winning bets on Banker.

I was right to point out that although Banker invariably wins more often than Player over the course of several hundred rounds, the commission gouge serves to turn a rare positive into a certain negative.

But if critical bets on Banker are increased to cover the win target plus the "bank tax" the damage done by commission can be at least neutralized, and often can boost the profit from winning more bets than you lose.

All I want to say this time out is that no one other than an infallible psychic has anything to gain from switching from Banker to Player and back again.

And since all psychics are frauds, even someone claiming powers that don't exist will do better to stick with one selection all the way.

That's not to suggest that backing away from a tough shoe is not a good idea. I always tell players that it's not brave or tough to keep betting through a long losing streak - it's downright foolish.

Prolonged, persistent losing streaks are anomalies - aberrations that casinos rely on to reduce sane, sober and sensible punters to putty.

Someone once wrote that gamblers are not battling bad luck or long odds when they try to overcome the house edge, they're playing against themselves - another awful truth that most players refuse to deal with.

I have long preached that choice in gambling is a bad thing, and Target's continued success in sports betting provides dramatic proof of that!

As many of you know, the Target real-time, real money sports betting trial began in late July of 2010, and most days since, I have posted a list of bets well ahead of game times, followed by good news or bad when all the playing's done.

In 2011, the Target trial racked up winnings of $100,000 and is now just shy of $180,000 in profits since Day One.

I added a five-a-day "spin-off" in July of 2011, a more modest application of the same objectives, and right now, that trial is well over $8,000 ahead.

The idea has always been to focus on underdogs at odds between +100 and +140 (even money to 1.4 to 1) and to apply a selection process that is in effect totally random.

In other words, no choices!

So far, it's mostly worked like a dream - the only rough water that almost sank the entire enterprise came soon after I was persuaded that since random selection was doing so well, maybe "smart" betting would do even better.

I learned the hard way what I'd known for years and had for a time forgotten: In gambling, happenstance will almost always make better choices than I do - and just like you, I'm not stupid.

My message has always been that if you can't afford to win, you shouldn't play.

It's not popular advice. Many baccarat players posting to BF insist they have been winning for years without progressive betting, by learning how to spot trends almost before they begin and then ride them to riches.

That makes them them infallible psychics - rare birds indeed! Liars, too.

I'm just a dumb punter who never knows if his next bet is going to win or lose.

What I do know is that if I bet smartly and consistently, I will be able to exploit winning streaks to the maximum and control damage from losing streaks.

I also know that I'm not likely to come out a winner if I take $500 to a $10 table and count on blind luck.

Target has several powerful points in its favor.

It tells you when to press your bets for the fastest recovery possible, but just as importantly, it signals when to stop chasing a winning streak and fall back to a minimum bet.

Random bettors will almost always keep pushing their luck way past the point where they have already made a tidy profit and need to slow down and stop putting their winnings at risk.

The biggest losers were very often big winners at one point - but when their luck turned (as it always must), they refused to recognize it, keep some of their gains, and rein in their bets.

In my opinion, based on far more real-play experience than most gamblers can claim, having to constantly decide how much to bet and when is way too stressful.

Target makes those decisions for me, using a formula developed from analyzing millions of bets (most of them derived from simulations, naturally, since I'm still a young man!).

Some say strategies take the fun out of gambling. I say winning is more fun than losing, and losing is what most people are doomed to do.

Don't believe it when someone tells you that gambling games are unpredictable.

In the short term, it's true. In the long run, very little changes: patterns repeat themselves and probability rules.

Target relies to a great degree on "twins" - two consecutive wins in a recovery series in which the house may have managed to get several bets ahead (-1, -1, -1, -1, -1, +1, +5).

But 70% or more of all turnarounds will be achieved with just ONE win, thanks to carefully controlled doubledowns.

Betting on a whim is foolish.

Even a fool will win once in a while, of course.

Mostly, he will keep on losing.

And luckily for casinos, fools have very short memories.

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._