I first went to Las Vegas when I was 27 years old. Until that time I had no interest whatsoever in gambling – courtesy of one of my professors, Dr. Jargowsky, from UTD. He taught a class that dealt with statistical analysis in which I finally came to understand just how futile it is to bet against the odds.
So, when I finally decided to go to Vegas, I also decided to learn to count cards at Blackjack so that at least I’d lose my money slowly. I chose a book called Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete, I memorized the tables, and then I practiced for weeks using Microsoft Casino (you can download a free trial here). This actually helped a lot as I found that if I played properly I could usually sit at a table all night and come away even or a little up or down (usually down).
Since that time I’ve had a lot more experience in the casinos and as a result I have three bits of advice to offer:
- Don’t gamble unless you’re good at math. If you wouldn’t consider yourself “quick” with numbers, you are going to lose.
- If you fancy yourself a Blackjack player, for God’s sake, purchase the aforementioned book and software and learn to count. Nothing is more pathetic than watching suckers come and go while I continue to play at a table for hours on the same initial buy-in.
- Become intimately familiar with The Wizard of Odds. It’s a site run by an Adjunct Professor of Casino Math at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This site is the gambler’s statistical bible and also includes excellent information regarding etiquette, tipping and a variety of other gambling related topics.
Oh, and one other thing. If you gamble for any period of time, in any casino, anywhere in the world you are going to lose money. Some people say “don’t gamble more than you can afford to lose”, but that’s a bunch of crap. What they should tell you is “Don’t spend more money than you’re willing to spend to be entertained.”
And consider the opportunity cost of every dollar you are gambling. For example, if you’re going to drop $100 at the blackjack tables make damn sure that it’s going to entertain you as much or more than an all you can eat buffet at the Bellagio followed by a kick-ass Vegas show like Mystere or Blue Man Group.