Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stop me if you've heard this before: If you can't afford to win, you shouldn't play (probably the best gambling advice you'll ever get!)

I'm not posting here very often these days, simply because I have said all I have to say about progressive betting over and over again, and even someone afflicted with acute blogghorhea has to get tired eventually!

Still and all, just lately I have had several e-mails from readers initially praising Target betting principles to the skies, then suddenly going quiet.

I can't help but assume that in spite of my repeated warnings that winning consistently takes a great deal of money on top of discipline, confidence and courage, they tried to beat the house with an inadequate bankroll.

The great trap for most gamblers, I have learned over many, many years at this, is that they want to make too much money too fast, propelled by the notion that somehow all the arithmetic that governs games of chance will not apply to them.

The truth is that sometimes, with a positive expectation ranging from less than 1.0% at blackjack to more than 5.0% at double-zero roulette and other carnival games, even the house suffers an occasional shellacking, and it's player greed, not percentage points, that eventually sucks their money back into the cashier's cage.

I'm often asked how much it takes to beat house games, and the best answer I can ever give is that it depends, much as I'd like to come up with a definitive number.

All any of us can do is to stay away from games of chance if we can't pull together a bankroll of at least 5,000 times our minimum bet, and even then, we have to stick strictly with the betting rules and hope that we can keep building our arsenal so that failure becomes a diminishing threat.

Yes, it's a lot of money, and quite possibly people with that much in their pockets are too smart to risk losing it.

But there is not a business proposition anywhere, opening a casino included, that does not require an initial investment far greater than the anticipated return.

In time, a wise investment will pay back the initial outlay and the gravy train will keep chugging down the tracks.  But time and money are two essential ingredients that most gamblers either can't or won't stir into the mix.

A few months back, I was with a guy in Las Vegas who was headed for a craps table with a $50 minimum, and he asked me to refresh his memory on the rules of Target 3-Play, which is about as simple and effective a strategy as you will ever find.

It took maybe half a minute to run through it again: After an opening loss in a new series, bet at least 3x your first bet, then double it if there's a second loss; after three losses, drop back to your minimum, and stay there until there's a win; after the win, bet your loss to date plus one unit per round, and be prepared to double the bet just twice before retreating to the minimum. So, three losses, drop hard can that be?

Great! said he...then I watched him lose almost $2,000 without once following the Target rules.

When I asked him what went wrong, he told me he couldn't remember the strategy in the heat of the game because it was too complicated.

I'm blogging again today because I suspect a lot of people are just like my friend in Las Vegas, and suffer a sudden brain seizure the moment the going gets tough.  And that, of course, is exactly when discipline and confidence (and sometimes lots of CASH) are most important.

What progressive betting is all about is managing our money so that over time, we consistently win more when we win than we lose when we lose.

That's essential, because we can be certain that in the long run, we will lose more bets than we win.  The house advantage will see to that.

Using 3x as the second bet increase (I prefer 5x, but never mind that for now), we might see a sequence of rounds that goes -1, -3, -6, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, -1, +1, -27, +54 giving the house an overall edge of -8/12 or 66%, indicating a probable loss of our action of about 66 units.

Instead, we lost 10 bets for a total of 43 units and won two bets worth 55 units, giving us an overall win of +12/98 = +12.2%
It's not always that simple, obviously.

Then again, a few scribbles on the back of an envelope will confirm that -1, +3 = +2 and -1, +1 (how most people bet) = 0.

I think we can all agree that breaking even is not a long-term winning strategy.

The way the numbers work is that about half of all decisions in these games are followed by an opposite decision, about half of those (roughly 25%) are followed by a same decision, and half of those see a third consecutive same outcome.

So, WWWL or LLLW, WWL or LLW and WL or LW collectively account for more than 85% of all rounds in any house game.

That arithmetic in turn gives the house just a 15% probability that it will see more than three consecutive wins.

Target needs two consecutive wins to recover prior losses in a downturn...and that's a 25% probability.

Sure, 4 to 1 is a long shot.  But because we apply damage control in response to a negative trend, we're able to keep our losses under control until the next turnaround opportunity presents itself.

Each time we fail, bets are recalibrated to ensure that next time we are given a chance of recovery, we will have exactly the right amount of money on the table.

Timing is everything in gambling, as it is in life, and if all we ever do is recover in two bets what it took us three bets to lose, we won't be "making a contribution" to the house's groaning coffers.

Most gamblers are random bettors, so they have little hope of a quick recovery once bad timing has dumped them into a deep hole, and the harder they struggle, the deeper they sink.

In contrast, we know that two wins in a row will always save our bacon.

Meanwhile, every time the chips pile high in the betting circle, our chances of winning are just a little less than 50-50.

All I can say to readers who have run out of money before turnaround came is that it is senseless to take on a Sherman tank with a pea-shooter (although given today's news about Russia's $200m update of a weapon that has been obsolete for more than 50 years, maybe I should substitute Armata for Sherman?).

The best way to build confidence in Target is practice, practice and more practice against games that won't cost you a cent.

I recommend the demo games offered by Pinnacle Sports, not because we can graduate to real money (they won't let us) but because they are in my opinion the straightest simulations available anywhere on the 'Net.

And don't pay any attention to lectures by professional shills like the Wizard of Odds who insist that no betting strategy can win in the long run.

Mike Shackleford's page should be retitled "The Half-Truth About Betting Systems" because his billion-bet sims limit betting spread to 1-6 and are in any event divorced from reality because of what I call an inertia assumption.

Here's how it works: If you keep betting like a robot through even the worst losing streaks you have ever seen, you will eventually crash and burn the way the casinos and their shills require.

Mr. Shackleford and his casino-sponsored peers like to deride the whole concept of progressive betting by saying that its supporters just keep increasing their bet values until they score a win, making any "proof" they offer meaningless.

But the Wiz and his pals have no problem creating "proofs" that require a player to be inert and insensible for millions upon millions of bets!

If, however, you act like a real human being and apply educated damage control according to a strict betting strategy, you will ride out the rough spots through thousands of rounds and stay ahead of the game indefinitely.

Here's a screenshot from a single iteration of a verifiable random sim which does not rely on a suicidal half-wit to behave as no real person ever would.

Instead, it features a much smarter player who follows the Target 3-Play algorithm and defies the "laws" of mythematics that are so enthusiastically supported by casinos and their hirelings!

Common sense and consistency really do work wonders together.

For instance, the "Zumma 1,000" baccarat data set available to all on the Internet hits Player with a -1.6% overall negative expectation, but Target 3-Play returns a +5.2% "player edge" after the equivalent of more than 1,000 hours of play.

Scary exposure?  Yes.  Occasional very large bets?  Yup.  Spreads wider than the Wizard's weedy 1 to 6?  Hell, yes!

But the point is that according to experts like the Wiz, no strategy can hope to stay ahead against a data set as large as 85,000 rounds.


In reality (also known as Las Vegas), it is possible to bet as little as $5 and as much as $25,000 a pop without special dispensation, but not at the same table.

Table limits are irrelevant to a strategy player, because if the next bet is too high for the current location, the odds of winning are unaffected by suspending play and moving to a higher rent proposition.

Sometimes, winning can put a serious strain on shoe leather, but even if a recovery stretches into hours or days rather than minutes, it's always better than losing.

If this is your first visit to this blog, you would be smart not to believe a word I tell you until you have spent several hours testing and learning the Target strategy against games that won't bankrupt you.

Target 3-Play has a win progression, too: +1, +2, +4, +4, +4, +4, -4, (15).

Against baccarat, I recommend doubling any bet under 100 units in response to a tie. I like to triple after a 7,7 tie and double-double after a natural tie, but just ask Mike Shackleford: I'm a crazy person.

At blackjack, double after a push up to 100u, and do the same at roulette (single-zero only!) after a zero or any middle-line number, win or lose. Bet black or red or any of the other even-money propositions, and don't hop between them (stay on black or red, odd or even, first or last).

At craps, bet only on the field when 6,6 pays 3x (avoid the game otherwise) and double up to 100u whenever the shooter sevens out.

The point of all these double-ups is to improve the recovery profit without getting greedy.

Greed bankrupts more gamblers than free booze or sheer stupidity, so be grateful that the Target rules don't just tell you when to bit big, but when to bank your profits and fall back to a minimum wager.

You will quickly learn that having no decisions to make is a huge relief.

I'm talking about betting, obviously, since blackjack is the only relatively safe game in the house that permits the player to alter his hand after placing his bet and before the dealer's hand is exposed.

Forget Pai-Gow Poker and 3-Card Poker along with Let-It-Ride and other game variations that essentially hand the house your head on a platter!

As for baccarat, avoid bets on Banker, because the so-called "5 percent" commission can easily clean you out (as in +95, -100, +95, -100, +95, -100 = -15 instead of break-even).

I hear squeals of protest whenever I say that, but it's the truth. Yes, Banker wins more often than Player, but the commission rip-off makes it the worst of the two bets in the long run.

In any two-choice situation, back the same one every time.

Think of a two-mole game of whack-a-mole and you have to concede that if you position your mallet between the two holes and wait for one or other of the moles to pop up, you're sure to miss more often than if you're poised over the same hole every time.

Give it a try next time you're at a fairground!

Good the tables (forget those pesky moles and make a little money instead).

(3-Play is a streamlined version of the progressive strategy that has been described here since March of 2009 and has been available to all since 1997.  At craps/field and roulette, it's not necessary to fall back to a minimum bet after three losses: you can simply suspend betting entirely until what would have been a win comes along, then dive back in with the appropriate bet.  At baccarat, you can sometimes sit out without leaving the table, and if you are at a baccarat or blackjack layout where the table minimum is higher than your own chosen minimum, you can either fall back to the smallest bet allowed, or quit the game and resume when you are in compliance with both the Target and the house rules.  Remember, your profit prospects are unaffected by stops, skips and switches.  Most gamblers believe they have to ride out a losing streak in order to benefit from an off-setting swing their way.  They're wrong.)

_ 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/Bovada, spend a few minutes and save a lot of money by reading this.