Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's fine by me if the gambling biz wants to portray me as a clueless crackpot. But stupid? Now they have crossed the line! Oh, and if you're looking for gambling's holy grail* it's been right here for years...


Let me first reassure my loyal readers that I'm not the crackpot who's threatened to sue the author of the rant extracted above (which continues at length on his blog).

I'm a different crackpot.

As it happens, I would not trust this guy to accurately count his own fingers and toes, let alone run a fair and open-minded evaluation of a betting strategy intended to overcome the house advantage at casino games of chance.

That's because about a year ago, Virtuoid aka Imspirit ("wishing I were just") took it upon himself to publish a detailed debunking of my Target strategy based upon an algorithm that later turned out to bear scant resemblance to the progressive rules set that has been evolving for years.

When I was first directed to Imspirit's exhaustive demolition of my work, I scratched my head and wondered why someone apparently dedicated to the pursuit of accurate and unbiased mathematics would undertake such a project without first checking the rules with the source.

Target's methodology is a lot less complicated than it used to be, but it still has to be followed with discipline and confidence, plus a bankroll that will sometimes need to be very large indeed (it grows rapidly, so that problem diminishes over time).

I took Imspirit's failure to consult me as a clue that something fishy was probably going on, and pressed him for weeks to explain exactly how he got the results he did.

After more than a month, the blog supplied a link to a page that identified the Buzzard of Bovada's 1,000 simulated 8-deck shoes of baccarat as Imspirit's source of outcomes, and listed the "Target" bets line by line.

Surprise!  Imspirit had tossed out Target's limit on the extent to which a bet can exceed the value of the preceding bet, widened the recommended betting spread by a factor of four, and ignored a critical rule about what to do if a first turnaround attempt after a mid-recovery win is a failure.

No explanation.  No apology.  Nothing!

I was particularly offended by the Imspirit travesty, because the guy (the only other name I have for him is Dave) provided a slew of negative data and charts based on the blatant abuse of a verifiable source of outcomes that I knew for sure Target had knocked into a cocked hat, as they say in the old country.

Why, oh why would he do that?

The Buzzard of Bovada, by the way, is better known online as the Wizard of Odds.  I prefer to recognize his professional role not as someone on the side of the players, but as an unashamed and blatant shill for a web gambling operation with questionable credentials and a murky reputation.

You'll find Mike Shackleford's 1,000 simulated 8-deck shoes and 1,000 6-deck shoes by clicking on whichever you choose to look at.

Zumma's data sets are subject to copyright, but available to anyone with persistence and a commitment to accuracy that V/D/I apparently lacks.

For the record, here's a summary from a recent run-through of the actual Target algorithm applied to the Buzzard's 1,000 8-deck data set:

 And the Buzzard's 6-deck simulated shoes:

Plus for good measure, Target's result against 1,000 "real shoes" that Zumma Publishing put out years ago:

And 600 more Zumma shoes made available more recently:

Combine the four separate verifiable trials, and you get this:

Yes, there were some losses in there.  And yes, there are some very large red numbers along the way to the overall win against almost 250,000 verifiable baccarat outcomes.

But I ask you to keep in mind that in simulations like these, the "player" is required to keep betting through crippling losing streaks, and we are also assuming the existence of a casino that would permit bets ranging from two to six digits at the same layout.

Neither conceit has any application to real life.

The above summaries include at bottom right a breakdown of major threats to the bankroll in each sample of outcomes, and a threat is defined as any series requiring a maximum bet.  Would anyone keep betting against a baccarat shoe that had the house 21 bets ahead?  Or even 10 bets ahead?  I don't think so.

Periodically, someone challenges me for "changing the rules" of Target, ignoring the fact that since I first posted a progressive betting method online (in 1996!) I have stressed the need for flexibility and a commonsense approach to whatever the game might be.

There's really only one rule that matters, and that is that after one or more losses in a new sequence of wagers that began with a minimum bet, you must be ready to venture a sum that covers your loss to date (LTD) plus your chosen win target (hence the name of the strategy).

I have not updated the rules set available if you click for it at the top of this blog, and I don't plan to.

But the summaries shown here include the application of a couple of very significant updates: If the first turnaround or recovery attempt in a losing series is lost, bet LTD+ a second time, and set a limit on how large a multiple of the previous bet (PB) your next bet (NB) is allowed to be in response to a mid-recovery win.

Another cunning little wrinkle, which is entirely player's choice, adds 1 unit to the win target for each bet in the current series, so that if your potential recovery is triggered by a win on bet #8, your next bet will be LTD+9.

You can also cut the PBx factor after an opening loss to less than 5 if you wish, although I don't recommend less than x3 because that way, a win with bet #2 will give you a profit of 1 unit for each of the two bets in the series.

Simple enough, and very, very effective.  Unless, of course, you happen to be a gambling industry mouthpiece so lacking in integrity that you will change the Target rules in order to "prove" that progressive betting doesn't beat the house advantage in the long run.

Winning in a casino always comes down to this simple truth: Over time, you will lose more often than you win, which means that when you win, you must win more on average than you lose when you lose; the only way you can achieve that is by the consistent, confident and well-funded application of progressive betting.

Red or black, odd or even, Player or Banker...none of that stuff matters, and any betting strategy that claims to rely on patterns, trends or predictive switching is a load of hogwash, to put it mildly.

In baccarat, I refuse to bet on the Bank if I can avoid it, which is 99 times out of 100.  When my arm is twisted, I goose the target after a win by at least 10% to cover the commission gouge, making a $500 Banker bet $550 and more often $600 so that if I win, I cover the house's outright theft of my hard-earned money, plus a little extra.  Again, a player's choice option!

Next, a summary that shows very effectively why Target in particular and progressive betting in general is the best and only safe bet in the long run.

The house edge for the quarter-million baccarat rounds was high at 1.43%...but Target kicked house butt anyway, and that's all that matters.

Sure, your chances of seeing the "twins" (two consecutive wins) you need to turn a losing series around are no better than the house's win probability at that moment, but that's not a problem because you just keep trying again and again until you prevail.

It's all about the right bet at the right time, a trick most players somehow don't learn in a lifetime of losing.

(If you want to start learning in your own time and in your own home, here's one way.)

An analysis of any truly random data set will show numbers very close to those above.

What we see (and always will) is confirmation that most wins will be followed by a loss, and most losses will be followed by a win.

Paired losses and paired wins are about half as frequent as isolated outcomes of either stripe, and triples are roughly half as frequent again.

Most important of all, more than 70% of streaks in either direction will end after two rounds (the rationale for Target's recommended -1, -5, ?10 opening sequence) and more than 85% and after three rounds.

Numbers, numbers, numbers: everything else in a casino is a distraction, and bet selection has no role to play.

Make a choice, stick with it through thick and thin, and with Target's help, you'll make money.

Without Target, you'll need a lot of luck.  I just hope you agree with the casinos that losing is a whole lot of fun...

Finally, I'd like to address Imspirit's claim that all "crackpots" base their loony claims on innumeracy and/or faulty computer simulations.

For all the years I have been doing this, it has been my habit to question every positive long-term result that my computer models indicate, and to build simulations that have built-in error checks.

The Target Betting rules can be modified in all of the models so that I can see the effect of each variation bet by bet or line by line.

That means that every Target "x factor" can be reduced to the lowest whole number above zero, and if the model is reporting accurately, the strategy's bottom line with a "1" in every trigger box will precisely match the sum total of all wins and losses.

So, if betting a single unit on every round shows a net result of -136 units after 10,000 bets (an actual value or AV indicating a negative expectation or NE of -1.36%) the Target summary block must show the same number or something's up.

Mistakes are a major time-waster and I won't tolerate them (although unlike Imspirit and other casino-sponsored mythematicians, I'm just a stupid human being and sometimes it takes me an hour or two to spot 'em and fix 'em!).

Let's imagine a roulette session in which a Target player with deep pockets and a razor-sharp talent for mental arithmetic bets Red and Black, Odd and Even and First and Last (aka Low and High) all at the same time.

Sure he's betting against himself, technically, but that's because he hates to lose!

Here's a sample output from a roulette model I created years ago but tidied up a little recently so I could let it out of the house:

First, I want to make it clear that results like this cannot possibly be guaranteed for six simultaneous bets against a game with an expected 5.26% house edge (this is double-zero roulette) and an AV that turned out to be a full percentage point higher than that.

I play roulette from time to time, but as soon as I get into just a little trouble, I take up my chips and walk to a less deadly game (usually blackjack).  But what the heck, this was a free trial...

Target's 6,000 bets in 1,000 wheel spins showed a net profit of +3.7% against an overall AV of more than -6.0%.

Imspirit and his casino-coddled cohorts would tell you that a result like that is impossible without blatant chicanery or a stupid mistake.

That's what they always say, because it's their job to keep you from finding out that if you bet progressively with a disciplined plan and money behind it, you will in the long run beat the bleep out of any casino game that has a house edge below 2.0%.

Next, here's what the same roulette model reports when all the Target switches or rules are "turned off":

The bottom line is that only my readers can judge whether or not I'm faking these results.

And all I can say is: Why would I do that...?

I'm not selling anything.  And please believe me, I am my own toughest critic! 

As for that ultimate scare word, progression, it is in the best interests of the gambling industry that whenever a player hears or reads that word, he or she should think of the Martingale and endless doubling, and reject the whole idea as suicidal.

As it happens, a capped Martingale can do very well for a very long time, and the casinos know that and will do whatever it takes to protect their profits from its unwanted effects.  Try it sometime!

Target Betting is, of course, a progression (it's also progressive, but that's something else again).

The big difference is that Target interrupts progressive betting as often as is necessary before recovery is achieved.

It slams hard at the front end of a losing streak, backs off, slams again, and keeps on switching from tiger to tabby cat and back again until a profit has been achieved.

The probable long-term success of the method is predicted by the chart above, which confirms that over time, streaks either way usually do not last long.

Let's look at a Martingale sequence with Target's approach alongside it:

Sure, I have manipulated the numbers here to create a worst-case scenario with a 0.006% probability, but it serves to illustrate the difference between a restrained progression and what the casinos want you to think the word progression means so that you will avoid it.

Here's a more likely scenario:

This time, the Martingale (aka 2x, double-up and other scary aliases) did better in percentage terms, but once again lagged in bottom-line profits.

With Target, you can basically do whatever you want after the second or third loss in a losing streak, but you must revert to the LTD+ win target rule in response to a mid-series win.

Some Target players prefer to slow down the escalation of bet sizes by refusing to bet more than a parlay after a mid-recovery win.  It slows the winning process down and because of that I don't recommend it...but it still works.

I have heard from other Target followers who choose to keep on reducing their bets during a prolonged losing streak, saving their chips for an extra hard SLAM! in response to a win.  I don't recommend that either (I'm a purist)...but it works.

Target's win rate is confirmed by error-checked and fully verifiable simulations to run at around 99.97%.  If those predicted three losses in 10,000 bets are sure to wipe out all your prior winnings, what's the point, you might ask.

That begs another question: Why play at all...?

Without an effective betting strategy (one that makes all your decisions for you and frees you from the extreme hazards of random wagering) you have less than a 50-50 chance of winning in the long run.

A win rate of 99.97% may not be a sure thing, but I'm just stupid enough to believe that it is a big improvement on all the alternatives.

(For more about accuracy, please visit this page at

* Caveat: If you are looking for a way to pile up profits in a casino with a shoestring bankroll and little or no risk, you should pass Target by and continue your quest through the rest of this life and into the hereafter.  The bad news: They don't have casinos in heaven, I'm told, because everyone there is already a winner.  In hell, the casinos cheat, although they do that here on earth anyway.  What table games come down to is that as long as the player has full control of bet values and has the discipline to fully exploit that control, the house edge can be consistently beaten.  But casinos apply spread limits precisely because they know this to be a mathematical fact, and players cripple themselves by applying stringent spread limits to their own play (usually because they can't afford to do otherwise).  A spread of less than 1 to 100 can make a player a steady winner for hours on end, but always at some point, a much wider range will be called for, and by then, 99.9% of all punters will be broke.  I have been saying this for years: If you can't afford to win, you shouldn't play. Getting those words out to people who I believe need to be wiser is the sole motivation for this blog and all the other words I have ever written about progressive betting.

_ 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 (formerly Bodog), spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this. _