I Thought I Had a System…the Gambler’s Fallacy and Other Gaming No-Nos

I Thought I Had a System…the Gambler’s Fallacy and Other Gaming No-Nos

‘I tawt I taw a puddy cat’ was the catchphrase of ‘tweety pie’, a fictional yellow bird from the Warner Brothers cartoon of the same name.

We kind of have a similar situation here at Casino Daily News — only in reverse. Whereas Tweety Pie really DID see a cat (Sylvester), we thought we had a solid gaming system, but which turned out to be about as much use as, well, a black and white cat.

So read on, and let this be a lesson to you about the folly of gaming systems…

Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat…

We’ll look a little at Roulette and Blackjack, as they are games often associated with systems, but first we’ll start with the game which we have the most experience of, or should we say misfortune with, namely Baccarat.

‘I have a system, it’s foolproof, I’ve already doubled, trebled, quadrupled my money…’ and so it goes, the familiar (to seasoned gamers) clarion call of the punter who thinks he or she is different from all the other gamers throughout history…

Well, they say pride comes before a fall, and they’re right. We really did indeed think we had a system because, after all, it had made money up to a certain point.

Let’s look a little at why that is so, before going on to explain what the system was and how it worked (or didn’t work) before turning to some other games as well…

The house always has an edge

First we need to outline exactly what Baccarat is, in case anybody’s not sure.

We’re referring to the straightforward ‘punto banco’ variant, where either the house (banker) wins or the player does, and you can bet on either outcome, so you can bet against yourself in effect…

The house has a slight edge, because it usually takes a small percentage (usually around 5%) of wins paid out on the banker bets.

There is also the possibility of a draw, and you can bet on that too, usually at 9:1 (though the actual likelihood of a draw is more like 10:1).

So it’s almost like the toss of a coin in effect, perhaps with the coin occasionally landing on its edge (ie. the draw) rather than one side or another. You would expect therefore to win around half the time and so not make any significant progress in the long run, in other words lose about the same as you bet.

A loophole?

The supposed weakness I tried to exploit was that a ‘banker’ win is fractionally more likely than a ‘player’ win (for reasons beyond the scope of this blog, but it revolves around the fact that the winning hand is whichever is closest to 9, with different rules applying to ‘players’ hands and ‘bankers’ hands on when to draw another card).

So I always bet on the banker’s hand — now, it’s maybe more likely that this will come up more times than not, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the banker will win every time of course + it’s still practically 50:50, or evens most times, so how do you protect yourself, especially if longer streaks of player wins come up?

Doubling stake each lost hand

That is where part 2 of this hare-brained scheme emerged; I doubled up the stake on the banker’s hand each time it didn’t win.

So let’s say we started by:

1)      Betting 1 on the banker’s hand, and it came up. Then we’d get 0.95 in winnings plus the stake back ( 1.95 total).

2)      So far, so good. Bet 1 again, and it comes up as a draw this time. This isn’t a disaster because the stake ‘pushes’ back in this case so you lose nothing apart from time. So we’re still 0.95 ‘up’.

3)      Rebet the 1, this time the player’s hand wins (now ‘down’ by 1- 0.95= 0.05).

4)      So we double up and bet 2 on the next deal. Let’s say that doesn’t come up either (down 2.05)..

5)      … double up to 4, it’s a player’s hand again (down 6.05) so we double to 8 and…finally the banker’s hand wins!

Let’s do a bit of math(s) here. We’ve lost a total of 6.05, and won 7.60 (the 8 pays at 2:1 but remember the house keeps 5 per cent) making a grand total of 1.55 …

So it’s very slow progress …

This can cause at least 2 clear and distinct problems.

1)      First, the player can become impatient, betting larger amounts than double the previous stake, which can then get them in trouble as they try to recoup further losses.

2)      Alternatively, the player might start with bigger stakes and double. Let’s say we go in with 7 as above, everything else equal. We’d be 6.65 up after stage 1) above, but after stage 3) we’d be 0.35 down, and by the end of stage 5) when we were back in the black, we’re only up by 13.35, having gambled 105 in order to do so.

Draws don’t help things much

The incidence of draws can cause a problem in that, although you don’t lose anything as your stake will ‘push’ back to you, it can heighten the sense of impatience (the author has experienced a run of SIX draws in a row whilst playing!) causing the player to deviate from their strategy and/or take foolish risks.

Of course, no one is saying you shouldn’t bet on a draw every once in a while, we did and it came up once or twice with a healthy payout. But in doing this you are deviating from your system, which is almost a tacit admission that the system isn’t working!

Well, that’s enough to be going on with. We’ve outlined the system we were using and some drawbacks to it, which is not to say that it didn’t make money in the short term. It DID, but in the next part we will take a look at how it all came crashing down…