Gambling guide: Learn how to win.
Feature article - Gambling
The Eight Key Decisions of each Casino Gambling Session, by Jerry Patterson
Excerpted from Chapter 2 of Jerry Patterson's best selling book "Casino Gambling".

If you're flat betting, i.e., betting the same amount on the casino's even money bets -- each hand of blackjack, roll of the dice (pass line), or spin of the wheel, you get an edge by winning more bets than you lose.

If you're varying your bet size, you get an edge by knowing when you enter the advantage arena and when to increase your bet.

Understand these eight key decisions which you make in each of your casino gambling sessions, and you will take giant steps towards grabbing an edge every time you play.

Time management and money management are the keys for ascending to the advantage arena, for staying there, and for any short-term approach to a potential winning casino gambling session.

I like to express this idea as eight decisions that you make in conjunction with each gambling session.

Making these decisions will establish the discipline that most gamblers lack, but most winning gamblers possess - the discipline to Get The Edge!

They are:

  • Decision 1: To play or not to play
  • Decision 2: Which game to play
  • Decision 3: Which casino to play
  • Decision 4: Which table to play
  • Decision 5: Betting unit size and tactics for increasing the bet
  • Decision 6: When to leave the table
  • Decision 7: When to leave the casino
  • Decision 8: When to terminate the casino session

Taken together, these eight decisions constitute a Plan Of Action for your gambling trip (if you're traveling to a remote location like Las Vegas) and your gambling sessions.

You should think about each one before leaving home and/or before each gambling session, and write down your thoughts on each decision.

I recommend that you use a small pocket notebook and write down your thinking on each of these decisions before you play. But even if you don't write down your decisions, think about them. You will find that this mental preparation to become mentally ready will contribute to and enhance your winnings or minimize your losses during the inevitable losing sessions.

Let's examine each decision in detail.

Decision 1: To Play Or Not To Play

Ask yourself three questions before you leave home for the casino, or before you leave your hotel room for a session:

  • Am I tired?
  • Am I emotionally upset?
  • Do I have a plan of action of this session?

If you answered yes to either of the first two, you should seriously consider not playing at this time because your risk of losing is high. Or, if you play, reduce your bet size, or have some fun with the quarter video poker machines.

The casinos will always be there; go when your energy level is normal or high and you are mentally ready to exercise the discipline to win. Tired or emotionally upset gamblers risk losing their discipline to stick with a plan of action; if this happens, you are usually beaten before you start.

The third question above regarding the plan of action is, essentially, consciously making these eight decisions. As noted earlier, you should document each one, but even if you don't, think through each one before your session.

Decision 2: Which Game To Play

Most gamblers have a favorite game which they spend the majority of their session time playing.

Blackjack is the most popular followed by craps, roulette and baccarat.

Reading this book probably indicates that you are interested in learning to play and win at one or more of these popular casino table games.

Choose the game you feel at which you have the best chance of winning, or the game you have practiced at home and prepared for.

If you decide to play more than one game, allocate the time you plan to spend on each. For example, you may be a good blackjack player and plan to spend an hour or so playing blackjack, and then hit the craps tables to practice and/or execute your controlled throw.

This all sounds mundane, but it's important to think it through before your session. The idea is to establish discipline.

Decision 3: Which Casino To Play

If you have a choice of casinos, choose one with the greater number of tables and the less crowded conditions.

For blackjack, the more tables you can scout, the more chance you'll have of finding a player-favorable game. The same goes for roulette -- more tables equals a greater chance of finding a dealer signature or power sector.

If you're playing craps, you want to find uncrowded tables in which you can get more turns with the dice to practice and/or execute your controlled throw and gain the edge over the casino.

If you live close to a casino location and play often, you should assess the conditions at your local casinos; find out which times are best to play within your own playing constraints.

An Important Note to Internet Casino Players:

I recommend choosing a casino which deals its games using genuine random numbers, not pseudo random numbers. For a definition and description of random numbers used by online casinos, refer to Special Report: Internet Casinos -- Possibilities And Pitfalls.

Decision 4: Which Table To Play

Are you going to use blackjack's winning factors to scout for and find player-favorable games (Casino Gambling, Chapter 7)?

Are you going to scout for a power sector at roulette (Casino Gambling, Chapter 17)?

Or practice your controlled throw (Casino Gambling, Chapter 12)?

This decision ties into which game to play, but keeping it as separate decision in your winning paradigm is a key part of your approach to the discipline I'm stressing in this chapter.

The idea is to make a conscious decision and NOT, as most gamblers do, enter a table at random; i.e., any table with an open seat or open spot.

Decision 5: Betting Unit Sizeand Tactics for Increasing the Bet

Making this decision starts with a basic money management policy the size of your bankroll and the number of units into which you break it. I recommend a 100-unit bankroll, but I realize that aggressive gamblers will go for 50 and some even less. I know gamblers who leave home with a couple of hundred dollars and bet with $5 and $10 units (a 40-unit or 20-unit roll).

The fewer the units you break your bankroll into, the higher the risk of tapping out, so it's best to accumulate a 100- or at least a 50-unit bankroll before you take off for the casinos.

If you've been gambling a while and read other books, you've read this policy elsewhere, but it's important enough to repeat here: Establish a gambling bankroll with money you can afford to lose and then set it aside for strict use at the tables.

Once you've defined your unit size, think about the level of risk you wish to take in raising your bet. Are you aggressive? Do you want to go for the jugular when you get into a hot game? Or play it conservative settling for less of a win, but not giving back a whole lot when you do get ahead, or not losing as much when things don't break your way?

Now decide on which betting strategy you are going to employ. I recommend choosing one in this book, but if you're a recreational gambler and have your own betting strategy which has worked well for you over the years, by all means, use it.

Each of the most popular table games -- blackjack, craps, and roulette -- has extensive descriptions of optional betting tactics for betting when you are in the advantage zone and when you are not.

Decision 6: When To Leave The Table

How do you know when it's time to leave a table?

Here are the three criteria to use:

1. Depart on a Game Breakdown

In blackjack, if you find yourself playing into a strong dealer bias and losing most of your hands, it's time to leave. Don't wait for things to turn. Strong dealer biases can last for many shoes, some for hours. Get away quick; cut your losses short. In craps, if you're having trouble in executing your controlled throw and suffering too many quick seven outs, its time to leave.

If you're playing for fun, remember Huey Mahl's words of wisdom: "we are exposed to the vagaries of dice for very short periods in the overall scheme of things". Anything can happen in the short term. The table may be in a losing trend and this losing trend could continue even though, in the long run, things will even out to the small house edge. If you don't believe that craps tables exhibit trends, observe several games in your next session. You'll see hot tables, cold tables and choppy tables. In roulette, if the power sectors are not sustaining and you are not hitting early on, call it off and move on to another game or take a break.

2. Depart on a Stop-loss

Part of this decision process is establishing a stop-loss which would apply to each table you enter. How many betting units will you lose before you quit playing and depart? I've discussed stop-loss considerations with each betting tactic described in this book. You need to review them and adopt the ones that fit the level of risk you are prepared to take.

3. Depart on a Stop-win

This is a concept which is foreign to many gamblers, but very important nonetheless. A stop-win is the opposite of a stop-loss. A stop-win can occur in one of two ways: (1) you have set a win goal for this session and accomplished that goal; (2) you're in a hot game and have experienced a nice win; you've set a trailing stop-loss and have moved it up as you continued to win; the trailing stop-loss is triggered and you depart on a stop-win.

Decision 7: When To Leave The Casino

If you have a choice of casinos in the casino location you find yourself in, leave when the tables are crowded and you have difficulty finding a winning table in blackjack, or a craps table where you can get the dice quickly or a roulette table where power sectors are hitting. Go to a casino with better conditions.

I live near Atlantic City and enjoy wonderful conditions: eleven casinos within a one and a half mile section along the famous boardwalk. So I have no problem in changing casinos.Atlantic City offers the best playing conditions in the world especially if you like to walk. No auto traffic; bike traffic only between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.; just fresh air and a beautiful ocean. And plenty of games to choose from -- hundreds of blackjack tables and dozens of craps and roulette tables.

Sure the Vegas Strip compares favorably, but there is the traffic to contend with whether you are walking or driving. Downtown Vegas offers good conditions but fewer tables to choose from.

If you're locked in to a one-casino location, be careful. If playing conditions are bad, keep your bet sizes small and respect your stop-losses.

Keep in mind that every unit you save, every unit you don't lose, looks that much better especially after a losing session because you've cut your losses short. Never give back a win when you're confronted by poor playing conditions. This is the time to go to the Video Poker machines and have some fun playing with quarters.

Decision 8: When To Terminate The Casino Session

There are two good reasons to terminate a gambling session:

1. You have reached the limit of your optimal session time. You need a break to keep your perspective and your control. I have found that, in many years of working with my gambling students, optimal session time is around 90 minutes. Give it a try.

2. Fatigue; you are just plain tired and this is affecting your judgment and play.

Serious loss. For example, you lost your discipline and dropped a session bankroll at one table. Don't dig for more money. Leave and take a break. Assess the situation.

We call these eight decisions a winning paradigm; taken together, they constitute a plan of action for your casino trip and/or session.

I suggest cutting and pasting this page into a Word Processor document and then printing it out for study and use.

Better yet, purchase Casino Gambling and read Chapter 2; there is more good advice therein besides these eight decisions.

Best of luck!

Jerry

P.S. There is much more about discipline and self control in Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook, a best seller since it was published in 1977, now in it's 3rd edition with over 250,000 copies sold.

Jerry Patterson is the author of two best selling books: Blackjack - A Winner's Handbook and Casino Gambling.

[Article submitted June 2002]

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