The Road to Carey Street is Paved With “Just One More”
Unfortunately, too many people decide that gambling is sure way to get to Easy Street. They play games of chance instead of games of skill and mistakenly believe that they can influence games of chance. They also rely on false hope and an array of myths about games of chance. What are the chief forms of gambling?
Chance Versus Skill in the Casino
In games of chance, the player is at the mercy of the odds, which are always in the house’s favor. Whether it’s a roulette ball, a slot-machine reel, or a die, the player can do nothing legal or ethical to affect the outcome. Slot machines are never “due to pay off.” Changing machines doesn’t give you a greater chance of winning. Observing a machine’s supposed “pattern” is a useless endeavour. Remember, the casino’s job is to make sure you lose. Meyer Lansky famously enforced rigid fairness in all the casinos he ran in Cuba. After all, the rules of the game favoured the house; there was no need for his establishments to cheat. Even games that seem to offer a 50-50 chance, such as roulette, are never truly “either-or.” In the United Kingdom, a roulette wheel has 37 spaces: 18 black, 18 red, and the green 0. That means that a red/black bet only pays 48.65 percent of the time, which means that you’ll only win back 97.30 percent of every 100 quid you bet.
The skill games in a casino all involve cards in one way or another. Poker, blackjack, baccarat, and demon are all examples of casino card games. None of these games is 100-percent skill, however. For example, if you skillfully force seven people out of a pot in poker and hold four aces, the one chap who stayed until the end could still have a straight flush. In baccarat or chemin de fer, you can still draw a seven to add to your four while the woman next to you gets dealt a nine. At blackjack, you could count cards, too, but pit bosses are trained to notice such things. You’ll be escorted out of the casino if the pit boss does notice.
The National Lottery
The proceeds from Lotto in Great Britain go to support the country’s Olympic athletes. Ever since going pear-shaped in Atlanta 20 years ago, England has worked to better its Olympic showing. The country expected to win 48 medals in Rio but won 63 instead. Part of this success, in large part, came from the 274 million pounds donated to the Olympic team from the national lottery. An additional 72 million pounds was donated to the Paralympic team.
In practice, the national lottery involves picking six numbers from one to 59. The jackpot pays if you get all six correct and pays 50,000 pounds if you get five correct along with the bonus ball. On the Lotto website, you can find all sorts of graphs, tables, and other charts that show the frequency of numbers being picked, how long it’s been since a number was drawn, and so on. Because of the strict rules regarding the Lotto, all drawn numbers are completely random. In other words, all of those nice charts and tables on the Lotto website are as completely useless as trying to discern patterns in slot machines.
The Gambling Act of 2005 streamlined the country’s betting rules and regulations and set standards across many enterprises. Most notable, the Act affected sports betting. In the United Kingdom, you can bet on football and cricket, horse races, and even the results of online fantasy games that involve teams of players casting spells at each other and whacking each other with swords. Betting on football alone is an industry worth nearly three-quarters of a trillion pounds worldwide. You can bet teams to win, lose, or draw. You can combine bets. You can even place what are known as accumulator bets, which might pay as much as 50 or 60 times your initial investment. Football’s a game of two halves, however, and if even one part of your accumulator bet doesn’t come in, you lose everything. For example, you might pick Chelsea to draw with Leicester City, Bayern to beat Werder Bremen, and a horse named Chaney St. Express to show at Ascot. Courtouis might make a big save and Thomas Müller might score at the death, but if Chaney St. Express is scratched, you lose.
Online casinos might be the most dangerous because you don’t have to leave your flat or house to play. You don’t even have to get dressed. All you have to do is sit in front of the computer playing popular slot machine programs, online poker, blackjack, or even demon and other solitaire games. One click of the mouse, and you’ve spent enough to cover the next fortnight’s grocery bill. As with their “brick-and-mortar” mates, online casinos are all programmed to win over the long haul, which means they’re also programmed to make you lose over the long haul.
The Bottom Line
It’s very simple: Eventually, you’re going to do a Devon Loch at the gambling table, virtual or otherwise. To avoid the pratfalls involved in becoming addicted, it’s best to adopt certain practices while gambling:
- Never play for more than you can afford to lose.
- Never play “just one more hand” or “just one more spin” to try to recoup losses.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
- If you go to the casino, leave all of your ATM cards, credit cards, chequebooks, and other methods of accessing more money at home; take only the cash with which you intend to play.
- Gamble on the “Buddy System.” Take someone with you to make sure you stick to your plan.
- If you happen to fall into the trap of addiction, get help.
Gambling is not now, never was, and never will be a surefire method of making a living. For every hero of a romantic novel who built his fortune at the baccarat table in Monte Carlo, there are millions of people who’ve lost everything playing “just one more hand.” The best way to think of gambling is to consider it entertainment to be enjoyed in responsible moderation. The best attitude to have is to go in thinking you’re going to lose everything you bet and being happy when you win instead. Most important, always quit while you’re ahead.
If your poison is sports betting, remember than no one knows everything. How many people, for example thought that newly promoted Burnley FC, even playing at home, would come out on top of Liverpool 2:0 on August 20, 2016? Even more obvious, who would have thought that Leicester City, thought by many to be heading for relegation, would win the Premiership in such dramatic fashion? Although the Foxes’ magical season carried odds of 5,000-to-1, almost no one bet on them. Don’t fall into the trap of betting the next 5,000-to-1 shot just because you have a “gut feeling.”
No matter how you choose to gamble, please be responsible. If you find yourself in trouble, get help.