A blast from the past here while I’m coping with a major meltdown when my computer died and I am busy trying to retrieve old data and learn how to use all the new programs on my new machine! ☹ This is a condensation of a 2-part blog from 2003.
A couple of weeks ago, Brad and I were doing a bounce-back collection run on the east side of the Strip, going around the block to pick up our rewards at Ellis Island, Tuscany, and the Hard Rock. I hadn’t been feeling well that week, so our plan was to head straight back to our condo without playing anywhere.
However, I suddenly realized that the Frugal Van was in need of gas and we were going right past Terrible’s casino where, using a coupon that we keep in the vehicle for just such last-minute change of plans, we could play for about a half-hour and get a comp for $25 worth of gas at a Terrible’s gas station. So we pulled into the casino parking lot.
We often play at Terrible’s, since they have very good promotions. I don’t know exactly how to put this politely — how about, Terrible’s isn’t exactly the Mirage! — but we enjoy being with the colorful group of gamblers in their customer mix, all seeming to have such a good time. Hey, we’re all a little eccentric at times! And I like a place where I can fit in when I’m in grunge mode. Brad can wear anything he pleases without checking with me to see if it’s “looks right.”
Anyway, we got out of the van in the parking lot and immediately met up with a panhandler. Brad is always a sucker in this circumstance, so I wasn’t surprised when he pulled out a roll of small bills (careful not to make a mistake and pull out the roll of big bills he usually keeps in the other pocket) and peeled off a single to donate. I’ve quit trying to convert him to the idea that it’s better to give money to charitable organizations so they can give longer-lasting help to the down-and-out. He doesn’t think that’s a bad idea and we send a check to the Salvation Army frequently. However, he also believes in crisis management – this guy probably really needs a drink or a cigarette right now!
But this time, I didn’t chide Brad for being an enabler. I really felt sorry for this person, who might’ve been the dumbest beggar in Las Vegas. The majority of the customers at Terrible’s are nickel bettors; quarter players are considered high rollers. We play $1 and $2 denominations and feel like whales. The pickin’s were probably pretty slim for this panhandler, so I felt uncharacteristically cheerful about Brad’s donation and agreed with him that it might do some good — maybe even help us break out of our recent losing streak.
We entered the casino and picked our machines. Brad reached in his big-bills pocket, looked at me, shook his head, and said, “I didn’t think we were going to play tonight, so I didn’t bring our regular gambling bankroll.” At which point, we both searched our pockets and billfolds and came up with a little over $600. We usually play $2 VP, but with this little bit of money, it would’ve been touch and go to last until we got the necessary points for $25 worth of gas. So we decided to play dollars and hope for the best.
I know many of you are thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture? Why would anyone risk $600, or even $100, to get $25 worth of gas? Why not just buy the gas and not risk any money? Wouldn’t that be a wiser move?”
The explanation for this involves a long discussion of the various personalities and goals of gamblers, something I talk about at length in More Frugal Gambling. But most of all, it gives a concrete example of our acceptance and use of the mathematically correct concept of “long-term” advantage gambling. We know that anything can happen in any one session or series of sessions. Skilled players can lose, and seat-of-the-pants players can get lucky and win. However, we believe strongly — and have proved the concept in actual experience — that if you gamble only when you have some kind of an edge, the longer you play the closer you will get to the long-term profit that the EV (expected theoretical return) holds out to you.
Therefore, we say to ourselves on any play, like this play at Terrible’s, “We will not look at one session loss to judge whether this was a good play.” It was, of course. The game return was less than 100%, but slot club points for gas put it well into positive territory and a promotion giving a bonus on a royal gave it extra value. So, although it’s never as much fun to lose as it is to win, we’re never surprised if we have a loss, even a big one, in any one session. We’ve experienced them many times and actually joked when we started playing at Terrible’s, “Well, how much is our $25 worth of gas going to cost us tonight?” But we were only joking, for we knew that this night’s play would just be tossed in the big bucket that holds the results of every session since we started casino gambling almost 20 years ago, a bucket that has been full of our original bankroll and overflowing with profit since 19 years ago.
So much for math talk and down to the rest of the story. We managed to play almost to where we would have had enough points for our $25 coupon for gas. But our $600 was almost gone and we were nervous. Would our smaller-than-usual in-our-pocket bankroll stretch long enough, even though we were playing a dollar game instead of our usual $2 one? Up to that point, Brad’s belief that helping the down-and-outer would reap some good wasn’t even helping us get one set of quads to assure we could get over the hump.
But suddenly, in the nick of time, his belief came through like a trooper and I hit a royal for $4,000 and was also given the $2,000 bonus.
Was this skill? Yes. By playing a good game, we would lose less in our numerous losing sessions, so when we did hit the royal, it would put us in profit territory and not just cover some of our previous losses.
Was this luck? Yes. You could say we were lucky that we hit a royal this particular session, since a royal comes around only about every 80 or so hours on average.
Did karma make us lucky that day? There’s no mathematical answer to this question. You decide what’s the “right” answer!