Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A friendly challenge for blackjack aficionados with iPhones and iPods! Use the Target rules to match or beat the bankroll I have built up using MobilityWare's 21 simulation.

(Quick update: The Sethbets website is once again open to all)

I'm not claiming to be the world's greatest blackjack player, and I have no doubt that there are people out there who can make my million-plus in unspendable funny-munny look like chump change.

What I am saying is that my real-play experience, supported by what I'm able to do on the small screen of my iPod Touch in maybe a half-hour a day spread over 14 months, tells me that progressive betting is the only way to beat negative expectation in casino games of chance.

The gambling industry knows it and probably always has, which is why every game layout has spread limits, and why casino personnel are trained to quickly jump on a progressive bettor, and even show him the door if he can't be persuaded of the error of his ways.

Every time I say that, somebody somewhere will start an argument.  But the fact is that anyone who sits down at blackjack or baccarat in particular and bets a standard Martingale (-1, -2, -4, -8, -16, +32) will very soon encounter what might be described as polite interference.

The only solution to that is to keep moving after two or three bets at any one location, switching games if necessary but maintaining the correct bet values at all times.

The surprise to me is that I have been able to rack up the above win against a persistent house edge that at 4.0% is about four times expectation for blackjack while betting a much tighter spread than I usually recommend.

I start with a $25, and if I lose it, the next bet is $200.  Aggressive, yes, but what happens more often than not in these games is that a loss will be followed by a win, and vice versa.

If the second bet goes down, the LTD becomes 3,4 (three $100 units down, four units out) and the third bet is $400, followed by PBx2 (previous bet x2).

After three losers, there's one more PBx2 bet, and then we freeze until a mid-recovery win triggers two consecutive attempts to recover prior losses.

If those turnaround tries fail, start halving the bet...unless you have hit the max, in which case, NB=PB (next bet is a repeat of the previous bet) until recovery.

The max bet for this sim is $5,000, which provides a 1:200 spread.

It all sounds crazy, but by golly, it works, as the screen shots above confirm.

I fall back to a minimum $25 bet whenever the LTD reaches $100,000, and you will find that the stop-loss does not happen often.  How could it?  What matters is that cumulative wins cover those rare bail-outs, and the numbers above are equal to a fantasy win of more than $100,000 a month!

The simple rules above can be applied to baccarat, craps (including field bets) and even roulette, but my policy is to head for the blackjack tables whenever I'm looking at an LTD in the high double digits.

Blackjack offers the best table game odds in the house, but it is important to play basic strategy with absolute discipline, and to choose games with optimum rules (as many doubles and splits and redoubles and re-splits as possible, in other words).

I do have a couple of basic strategy quirks that I will vigorously defend whenever I face criticism, blackjack being a game that almost everyone seems to think they know everything about!

I will always hit my 12 or 13 against a dealer's 2 or 3, and I don't think twice about doubling down on a 10 against a dealer's A, 10 or paint-card (K,Q,J).

Earlier versions of the MobilityWare app have a couple of quirks of their own: Re-splits and repeat double-downs are not permitted, but if a player natural coincides with a dealer natural, the player wins!

Since 2-card 21 occurs only about 4.0% of the time, and the app is in any case dishing out about a 4.0% negative expectation instead of 1.0-2.0%, I believe that's a wash.

Pushes or ties are something else.  In blackjack, they're a particular pain, and I cringe every time I hear another player utter the platitude, "A push is better than a loss."  Playing to break even is a waste of time...

I prefer to double my bet after a push (or a tie in baccarat) up to an added value of $500 unless I'm a long way from a turnaround try, in which case I venture 2x the PB whatever the amount.

So for example, if your LTD in $100 units is 7,8 and you push, the next bet (NB) is 12u, and a win will take you way over your target (8).  But it's a one-time bonus: Lose, and the NB/LTD is 19,20.

If you take the trouble to log your play, you will find that doubling after a push adds as much as 40% to your overall session profit.

You will lose a little more frequently than you win, because that's the name of any house game, but when they happen, you will get a big kick out of those "bonus" paybacks.

Throughout all my posts here, I have maintained that no one can hope to beat casino table games in the long run without a huge amount of money behind them, and a powerful combination of discipline and steel gonads.

It's only fair: Opening and running a casino is a massive investment, and if we could bite into the house's bottom line with a mere fistful of dollars, there would soon be no casinos and no games for us to play, and beat.

In recent years I have created countless interactive spreadsheet models that provide totally objective random outcomes (usually 5,000 at a time) and enable different rules to be applied to the same set of bets before a new data sample is created with a quick tap on the recalc key.

I have been fairly guarded about my models up to now, but I have reached the point where I'm willing to offer them for analysis and evaluation to anyone who can convince me that they are qualified.

The Target capped progression approach works dramatically well against most table games, but can be defeated in sims (including my own) by what I usually refer to these days as the inertia assumption.

What that means is that if a player is willing to sit still for a losing streak lasting dozens or hundreds of rounds, remaining inert and unaffected, and if the house is willing to allow him to bet as wide a spread as he wants at one location, that player will eventually be bankrupted.

But since neither of those conditions apply in real life and real play with real money, occasional crash-n-burns don't tell us much except that if you play like a fool, you will lose like a fool.  Surprise!

Target's algorithm can also be successfully adapted for horse-race and sports betting, the key there being to avoid bets that pay less than even money, and pull back further in a losing trend than you would in casino house games with a house advantage of less than 3.0%.

Odds are much tighter away from the casino, and winning takes longer, too.  It's tough to get more action than at blackjack, where it's possible to place a bet and see an outcome every 10-15 seconds or so.

To me, baccarat and craps, where 100 rounds an hour means blazing speed, is like watching grass grow without the benefit of stop-action wizardry!

Whatever your game, you cannot hope to make consistent money if you depend on luck, which runs both ways, or on some half-baked "predictive" selection method that claims that a given outcome is more likely in the next hand, roll, spin or coin-toss.

Target doesn't depend on a win being probable next time, because a win is never probable before your bet is placed: If the house edge for your game is, say, 2.0%, then every bet you place faces a 51% probability of losing, which means that over time, you are sure to win less often than you lose.

Blackjack has some exceptions to the probability percentage thanks to supplementary bets that are permitted after your first blind wager.  But even if you double down on 11 and catch a 10, a win is still not certain: All you know for sure is that at least you can't lose.

Success in the long run is about getting maximum bang out of every win when you beat the odds and chips come your way, which means knowing at all times exactly how deep is your current "hole" and calculating bet values accordingly.

It's the arithmetic, mate, as Bob Hoskins once said in a very bad movie about London casinos.

Just know that in a casino, whether it's in London, Las Vegas or Timbuctu, players who consistently fail to do their duty and leave money behind when they push away from the table are considered to be the enemy.

Short-term winners are good for business; the other kind are not.

Winning really is possible, and that promise has to be valid in the long, long term or what would be the point?

It's possible, but that does not mean that it's easy...

_ 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. _