Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speaking of Fun

All work and no play makes Jack but not much else. I enjoy trading, I enjoy the hunt for a good stock, I like the very act of putting on the trade, I enjoy the wins when they come and I love ringing the cash register on a good trade. But when I relax I like to gamble (as does the Bride).

Over my many years I have played and mastered most of the casino games - at least mastered to the point where I know which ones I should never play and which ones pay the best and by best I mean most excitement and most comps.

For many years I played blackjack - I played back when you could actually make a buck at the game. But over the years, due to exposure, it has been changed by the casinos in such a manner as to make it a chore. If I have to play double deck - fine, I'll even play in a six deck game (but only when I can have the table to myself - there's a reason for this which I choose not to share but trust me when I say it has to do with probabilities and winning). But I will never sit down at a table where you can't double down any hand or one where you only get 6 to 5 for a blackjack. That's just bad and the greedy casinos should be ashamed of themselves. For every guy like me who might grind a couple of hundred bucks out of a night at the table there are thousands who will give them a couple of hundred bucks in a few minutes. This is like the caretakers of the Masters golf tournament changing the course because Tiger Woods got hot - once - it just doesn't make sense. And don't think that the playing public hasn't noticed - I just spent a week in Vegas and some of the loneliest people in the casinos were the blackjack dealers.

For awhile I embraced video poker as the way to play without getting hurt. Most of the games were returning 98% or better and for a number of years the Stratosphere out in Vegas actually had a couple of dozen games that, with perfect play, returned over 100% (based on the pay table). Then the casino managements noticed how people were winning every now and then at video poker and so they managed to beat the crap out that game to the point where you almost do better on slot machines. Thanks guys - the banks of empty games are an eyesore and silent testimony to your greedy ways.

I've played roulette, baccarat, Caribbean poker, Pai Gow, and the newest craze, 3-card poker (which is one of the few games you can win as long as you stay off the bonus button). They also have a 4-card and 5-card version as well as a table version of Hold 'Em. Hold 'Em is an awful game in my opinion - the poker equivalent of a coin flip. I'd rather play 5 or 7 card stud or even a game of Jacks draw than that crappy game - needless to say the several times I've played Hold 'Em I've won. It is all about reading your opponent and has little if anything to do with the cards. Just like trading - read the market which is the other traders and win.

Omaha Hold 'Em which is also played in the World Series is a more difficult game that has just about everything to do with the cards and very little to do with the opponent. As a result it is difficult to find a game of Omaha - too hard for the average Joe - requires too much thinking.

But now when I can't find a video poker game with a reasonable (98.5% or better) return I play craps. Craps is the one game that the casinos can't screw up. The expectation remains the same regardless of the casino you are in anywhere in the entire world. Single odds you give away .8%, double odds you give .6% and with triple odds (which many offer these days) it's down to .3%. Give me $200 and I can stay at a 10 dollar table for hours. Every time I go up a 100 bucks I triple up my wager (once) and go for a big score. If I lose, so what, I'm playing with the house money. If I lose my original stake - that's the price you pay for gambling. I win or lose more than that in 15 minutes on most days playing in the stock exchange casino.

But what I'm after is not a living just a break even plus a bit - and the comps. My bride and I just spent a week in Vegas - stayed at the Paris for 5 days and Bally's for 2 - right on the strip. We stayed 7 nights for free, we ate every meal for free, and drank every drink for free - which includes all of the Courvosier that I could possibly swill in a week (and I am capable of swilling free cognac with the best of them).

We gambled every day and every night - total cost - $1500 including air fare, a boatload of tips, and a rental car for a couple of days.

My advice - don't gamble - it is a losing proposition and eventually will lead to your ruin.

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