Jackpot Games - How Much Is Enough?
BY: Michael Vernon
What do you consider as a reasonable profit from a game of chance? I am talking about a zero sum game. You are you expected to lose. The odds against you guarantee it.
The gaming industry has done the best job of successfully brain washing the gambler to embrace the “jackpot paradigm”. “Risk a few coins, have a few free drinks and hit a million-dollar jackpot.” “Quit your day job and live the ‘life of Riley’.” “The pot of gold is just a pull away.” “Someone is going to win it.” “You could be next!” “Step right up and lay your money down.”
Slot machines, long known as the king of jackpot games of chance, offer the promise of millions. All you have to do is line up all the cherries across the glass. At least two television network magazine programs have covered this topic of how casinos can fix the pay-out. The programs made it clear that the machines are a player’s worst bet. Even with the casinos boasting a 98% pay back, the casino is still getting along with 2% of a “Gazillion” dollars, twenty-four seven. The City of Dreams stands as a testament to this fact.
“I’m gonna esplain it to you Lucy!” When a casino orders slot machines, they inform the manufacturer exactly how much they want the slots to pay out. The manufacturer installs a program chip call a random number generator. The RNG is programmed to mathematically produce the prescribed percentage pay-out requested by the casino. It is a simple matter of probability expressing astronomical odds. It is a known fact of gambling that the average slot player will never win a Jackpot of any sizable consequence. Casinos are not the business of giving away money.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually played a machine. If you have not guessed by now, I’d rather watch paint dry than play a machine. Sorry if I offend anyone that loves playing the one-arm bandits. Oops, I dated myself. I believe now days all you have to do is push a button. Allow me a moment to sidetrack with a history lesson.
I can recall receiving a genuine silver dollar from my Aunt Sylvia when she returned from a trip to Las Vegas. Back in those days, the dollar slots were played with Morgan Silver Dollars. I still have a few Morgan souvenirs from my aunt. Those were the days….
Okay, back to my point, how much profit is enough? At some point, the dream of striking it rich infected the table games. When this actually happened, I’m not sure. Probably, thirty-three seconds after the first casino opened.
The craps and blackjack are zero sum games. The odds insure the casino a constant rate of return for hosting the game. This means that you are not expected to win at the table games either. However, the player has it embedded in their belief system that, not only are they going to win, they are going to break the bank.
I have nothing against a strong positive winning attitude. In fact, I insist on it. Here’s the reality check. Table games simply are not jackpot games. I will honor anyone’s story of a big win on a craps table or a run of hot hands in a blackjack game. Everyone knows James Bond makes good on the roulette table! However, I must state politely, that the profits from a table game will mostly be modest. This is the point of my article.
I doubt that the average player knows or understands what a reasonable profit from a table game might be. Consequently, and because of the lure of the jackpot win, the unknowing table player is caught up in the casinos “mind game” of “more-always more”.
Pursuing the pot of gold, a table player may do one of the following. Either they gamble away their entire bankroll, chasing the jackpot, or after having won a bit, and not knowing when to quit, the gambler plays away the hard earned profit trying to win more. Then, what usually follows, is the loss of the rest of their bankroll, chasing the lost profit.
Funny how a couple of hundred in profit does not seem like much until taking a loss of a couple of hundred. A little bit of knowledge and a lot of discipline can make the difference between red and black ink. Never mind the emotions and forlorn memories of a game gone south.
So, what is the rule for profit? How many units per hour is enough? What percentage of increase above the original bankroll is acceptable? Do you play until you start to lose? Do you play until you start to win? Do you play, win or lose, until they offer you a free breakfast? “How much can I make playing this system?”
There is no way to figure an hourly win rate. A session can last twenty minutes or two hours and twenty minutes. The smart player should not allow themselves to be “caught out” playing for a predetermined win or believe in an advertised win rate. Any win is a good win!
The only way to quit “a winner” is to quit while you are still winning. A winning streak does not continue forever. You must have the discipline to pull out of a game well ahead of the crash. It is to late once the game turns and you are losing most of what you won.
Play smarter, not harder. Never chase a loss. That is playing out of control, engaging emotions trying to win back the money. Gaming is adult entertainment. Sometimes you will pay for it. Play for enjoyment first. Accept the fact that losing is a huge part of the game. The risk of losing creates the excitement. You can reduce the amount of money lost when you accept that losing is a part of gaming.
Think of it like auto racing. A crash is inevitable, but that does not stop the drivers from entering the race. They race full on knowing that a crash accident is out there in the near future. Man and machine pushed to the limits while doing everything possible to win and not crash. Learn to play your game the same way, do everything possible to win while limiting your losses.
With the odds stacked against you, learn to appreciate any profit. A win is a win! Because the games do not typically have great shifts from probability, be prepared to accept conservative profits. From my years of playing, I have seen it all, large and small wins. For both blackjack and dice, the units won, will constantly be modest. This is why I teach and preach to keep losses modest as well.
If you are a blackjack player, consider six to ten units a respectable return from a single session. If you can count cards, sixteen to twenty units makes you a hero. Using my recommended betting stake of thirty units for one session, the net profit would be between 20% to 60% of the original betting stake. The higher win rate assumes card counting.
If a player’s unit bet is $10, the profit could be $60 to $180 per session, six to eighteen units. Play three winning sessions and that will take care of the “rent” for most hotels in Las Vegas for a day, plus a bit of walking around money. Considering the restrictive rules now offered on twenty-one, winning six to ten units is admirable.
Craps is a bit more challenging when it comes to “saying stop”. This game can change directions in a heartbeat. If the table gets a hot shooter or two, the chips can come at you faster that you can pick them up. When the dice turn to ice, hell can freeze over. You must know how to play during these times, when to color up, and leave the game.
Crap games tend to run choppy most of the time. This means, either way you play, your stack of chips is chopped down. If you find yourself in profit 20% to 30% of your starting bankroll you are doing great. If you come close to doubling your bankroll, three cheers and order a drink while the box man colors you up.
Having the discipline, and an understanding of what a reasonable profit is, will make a huge difference in how much of the casino’s money you will take home. It is a bit like driving a Ferrari. How fast, is too fast, and, how fast do you really need to go? Being practical, considering all that goes with speed: tickets, points, insurance rates and general risk to life and limb, the prudent choice would be discipline. When driving a speed machine, it is always better to arrive in one piece. There is no percentage in bucking the odds, just because you can.
Never lose more than you reasonably expect to win. Always have a stop loss. Playing 4 Keeps™, the stop loss is a maximum of thirty units per bet made, or one entire session bankroll. A bankroll of thirty units per wager provides the player with a fair shot to win 20% to 30% above the starting bankroll, and sometimes more. If things don’t go your way, the risk is limited to the one bankroll and the loss is stopped.
For some individuals, winning a few hundred bucks is not enough. The solution for this player is with their betting unit and bankroll. To win more, they must bet more. The average number of units won, will be the same no matter if you are betting $1 or $100. It is a simple matter of increasing your unit bet. If you want to win $1000 per session playing Blackjack, you will have to play $100 units. Playing $5 units is never going to result in a $1000 dollar session. Total dollars won are directly proportional to the value of the unit played.
It really comes down to your comfort zone. What unit are you most comfortable playing? Do you have the required bankroll to play at a higher unit? Do you have the discipline to walk with the profit, no matter what? Table games do not have a jackpot bonus. Can you be satisfied with any win or are you just another member for the casino’s “Jack Pot Paradigm”?
© 2004 Michael Vernon
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