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=========================================   Thursday, August 16, 2001

Bankroll Requirements for each Game

Hello everyone,

No matter what game you play, you usually require a bankroll big enough to withstand any system you may apply.  Frank Scoblete gives us an indication of how big this bankroll should be.

Albert Einstein liked to do "mind experiments." For example, he once pictured
himself on a train traveling 30 miles per hour and thought, "If I shine a flashlight to the end of the car, the light will be traveling at 186,000 miles per second in relation to the interior of the train, but at what speed will it be traveling in relation to the ground? Do you add the speed of the train to the speed of light and come up with light traveling at an extra 30 miles per hour?"

Einstein realized that the speed of the train actually had no effect on the speed
of the light. Unlike a man walking at 5 miles per hour on a train going 30 miles
per hour, whose speed would be 35 miles per hour compared to the ground, light would travel at a speed of 186,000 miles per second both in the train and compared to the ground.  Is this illogical? Yes. True? Yes. Weird? Absolutely.

So here's my mind experiment: You have a casino game that returns 300 percent of all the money wagered at it. In the long run, for every dollar played at that game, the player can expect to win two dollars. However, the game is set up in such a way that, on average, you win a jackpot of 1.5 billion dollars once in every 500 million decisions - but all the other decisions are losers.

You then have a second game where the house pays back $99.50 for every $100 you bet (on average), and you can expect to win about 44 percent of your decisions.  (Astute Let's Talk Winning customers will recognize this game as blackjack.)

Now, which game is almost guaranteed to break your bankroll (your bankroll, now, not Bill Gates', Kerry Packer's or Sultan of Brunei's), and which game will give you a decent chance of walking out of the casino a winner? Is it the game where the player faces a house edge of one half of one percent? Or is it the game where the
player has a whopping edge of 300 percent over the house?

For the overwhelming majority of people, the game that returns two dollars for every one dollar wagered (or $3 if you count the original bet) is a killer, and the game that takes 50 cents of every $100 we wager gives us a good run for our money: Why? Because the chance of hitting that 1-in-500-million jackpot is remote, to say the least. The bankroll required to have a decent shot at it without going broke would dwarf the gross national product of a small nation. The bankroll needed to play the
other game with an almost positive assurance of not losing it all is minuscule in comparison, and could easily be found in the bank accounts of kids under 12 in towns allover the world.

What does this mind experiment prove? That the house edge, while important, is not the be-all and end-all of gambling. The speed of the game, the hit frequency and the number of winning decisions are equally important in answering the crucial question: "How big a bankroll do I need to absolutely assure myself of not going broke?"

Now, why do I take it so far as to mention going broke? Because I've been there and it's awful. I have the dubious distinction of being one of the few blackjack card counters to actually hit what the mathematicians call "ruin." It happened more than 10 years ago on my second extended trip to Atlantic City, during a 16-day stint playing the Tropworld's four-deck game. My wife, the beautiful Ap, and I had hammered Tropworld for two weeks a month earlier, and we had delusions that we
would become professional blackjack players and billionaires.

It wasn't to be. To make a long, agonizing story into a short, agonizing story: We lost every penny we had won on the previous trip and (it hurts to even remember this) every single stinking penny AP and I had saved for our gambling bankroll. Had AP not taken me for a long walk on the Boardwalk on that 16th day and suggested we go to see the Captain, my gambling mentor, I might have easily drained our bank accounts and continued playing.

I was on tilt. I was not thihking clearly. I had gone mad. Luckily, AP had kept her wits about her. "I saw a couple living on the Boardwalk," she said.

"They had all their earthly possessions in two carts, and I thought, 'That could be us if we continue to lose,"'

So we went to the Captain and the second he saw us he said: "There they are with empty pockets." It was plastered across our faces in giant Day-Glo letters: LOSERS!

He explained to us what had gone wrong. Even with an edge, the game of blackjack is a roller coaster, and you must have a big enough bankroll-to-bet ratio to endure the ups and downs that inevitably occur when you play it. You have to have the money to know that no matter how bad the session you're in is, you can't possibly lose everything. In fact, you should have enough money to know that no matter how bad the next week, month or six months are, you still can't get wiped out. That lets you play your game without pressing and making mistakes.

When AP and I next ventured into the casinos, we had more money behind us, so we knew that short of losing every decision for the next six months, we would be in the game. Of course, not everyone in the casino plays with the advantage card counters have. Most players are up against house edges of 1 to 6 percent or more. Still, the nature of gambling is such that in the short run anything can - and does - happen.

The math of gambling can tell you quite clearly what your average expected loss (or win) will be at any game. All you have to do is plug your betting levels into a very simple mathematical formula: Average Bet x Number of Decisions Per Hour x Hours Played x House Edge = Expected Win/Loss.

So if you wanted to play blackjack heads up for one hour at $10 a hand with perfect basic strategy (putting you at a 0.5 percent disadvantage), you could expect to lose on average four dollars ($10 average bet x 80 decisions per hour x I hour x 0.5% house edge = $4).

Unfortunately, owing to the streaky, freaky nature of chance, the above formula really wouldn't tell you if you were going to lose all, most, some, or none of your money in that hour or the next - or whether you would win a bundle or a single bet.

Because averages are, well, averages. The American family has on average 2.3 kids, but how many married people do you know with that 0.3 kid? Families have kids in ones, twos, threes and more. So, too, wins and losses at casino games rarely match the average expectation on a given evening because wild, weird and
wonderful things can happen. The following real-life examples demonstrate:

1. In August 2000, casino veteran Joan Canwright played Let It Ride at Bally's in Atlantic City and lost $300 at $10 per hand - without winning a single hand!

2. At Caesars Palace on july 14, 2000, gaming writer Barney Vinson witnessed the number 7 come up on one roulette wheel six times in a row - a billions-to-one shot!

3. At The Desen Inn in February 1998, slot expert John Robison went 93 spins on a slot machine without one hit.

4. At the Maxim Casino in Las Vegas in July 1995, a $5 player won 23 straight blackjack hands - some with doubles, splits, and splits with doubles - playing heads up against a dealer in a six-deck game. On the fourth hand, he started to escalate his bets, and he ended up winning several thousand dollars. I saw this.

5. At the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas in August I 994, long-time player Morris Guttermainn lost at roulette 11 times in a row. He was betting on red. Black came up 12 successive times. Somewhere in that awful run, Morris deceded to start increasing his bet, figuring that red had to come up sooner or later: as indeed it did after he had lost all his money!

Outlandish wins or horrendous losses can send your bankroll skyrocketlng to the heavens or skidding down the storm drain. To protect yourself against the latter, here's a simple formula to help you determine what you need to bring to the casino for one hour of play at your favorite game:
Ps = (q/p)a - (q/p)s / (q/p)a -1 x Pi x e=mc2..Just kidding :) 
My advice is to bring enough to last one hour under the assumption that you're going to lose every single bet. It doesn't get simpler than that.

All you have to do is ascertain how many decisions the game you're playing will require in an hour, then multiply that by your betting unit ($5, $10, $15, $25 or more) and you'll arrive at the amount of .money you should take to assure that you can last for one hour during which the goddess of chance decides to treat you the way the pigeo treat the statues in the park. (Bring half that much if you figure you can handle
losing it all, as even half of the suggested bankroll would be very difficult, though but not impossible, to lose one hour's time.) With all this in mind, let's look at some specific games.

A dealer at a crowded blackjack table can get through about 60 hands in an hour. So bring 70 units (70 times your average bet). Why 70? Because on some hands you'll have to split and/or double down. A $5 player should have $350; a $25 player needs $1,750. Bring this much and you'll probably be delighted to discover that as a basic strategy player, you'll stand a good chance of playing two or three hours without a serious threat of going belly up.

Determining the bankroll you need to guarantee that you won't get wiped out at craps is tricky, since there are so many different bets. If you make the Crazy Crapper bets with high house edges and low hit frequencies (the 12 for example), you'll need a LOT of money to survive a craps table's120 or more rolls per hour. If you playa smart, conservative game of Pass/Come with odds, and possibly place the 6 and/or 8, then you should bring 10 times the amount of your spread when you're up on the total number of numbers you want to be up on. (That sentence was
almost as weird as Einstein's light experiment, but just as true.) Here's an example: If you wanted to bet $5 on the Pass line and back it with $10 in odds, and then make two $5 Come bets with $10 in odds behind each, your spread would be $45, So you'd need a $450 bankroll. If you just wanted to go with one Pass or Come number, then your spread of $15 would require a total stake of $150. If you play the 5-Count system, you can give yourself extra insurance against bankroll death.

If you're making even-money bets (Red/Black, Odd/Even, 1 to 18, 19 to 36), you need 40 times your unit bet to assure that you won't go broke.

Roulette has approximately 40 decisions per hour, so it would seem that a $5 player would need $200. A more realistic figure, however, would be 23 times your bet. Why 23? Because that's the most times in a row I've ever heard of any outside bet coming up (if memory serves, it was black), and I doubt that the next time you play roulette you'll see such a record broken. So $5 bettors can be reasonably assured of lasting one hour with $115. The inside bets are another thing entirely. There are 38 numbers, which makes it hard to guarantee that you'll win even one bet in an hour of play. In fact, it's not unusual for someone to lose 40 decisions in a row betting one inside number. So go in with 40 units and pray that the dealer doesn't spin any more decisions than that in your first hour.

Let It Ride
Here's a game with a low house edge that can be awesome or awful, depending on how your luck is running. The reason is that the win frequency is a mere 25 percent. That's right - you win approximately one out of every four decisions, and you can gallop a long, long time on the losing end of this pony. Recall Ms. Cartwright, who lost 30 straight decisions, and you can see why you need some bucks behind you to guarantee you can't possibly get wiped out. So how much is enough? About 60 times your minimum bet. Since Let It Ride allows you to take down two of your three initial bets, when you lose you tend to lose only on the third bet (the "$" bet). With some exceptions, you don't let that first bet ("1") or the
second bet ("2") ride unless you are assured of a winner (holding a pair of 10's or better). So if you play for $5, bring $300 with you and you shouldn't have any fear of being stampeded.

Caribbean Stud
This game can be fast, slow or in-between, depending on how fast the dealer deals and how quickly the players make their decisions. An average of 40 - 50 decisions an hour is common, so bring 50 times your minimum bet and you should be able to last an hour if a storm of bad fortune slams your way.

Baccarat and Mini-baccarat
Baccarat is a slow game and mini-baccarat is a fast game. The former will have 30 to 50 decisions an hour at a full table; the latter will have upwards of 150 decisions an hour. If you can afford it, play baccarat, even if you have to play for slightly more mone. The speed of mini-bac can rip through a bankroll.

Spanish 21
Use the same formula as regular blackjack, but don't use the same basic strategy. Use the Armada Strategy; Spanish 21 is a different ship than its sister vessel.

Three Card Poker
This is a very fast game, so bring approximately 80 times your average bet and you should have no fear of being wiped out.

Slot Machines
Most slot machines are programmed to hit about 15 percent of the time. That doesn't necessarily mean that you'll win money 15 percent of the time; some hits simply return the coins you've just played. One of the big differences between slot machines and table games is that the player controls the pace of play. You could, if you wanted to (and were crazy) play one coin every year, or you could, if you wanted to (and were even crazier) playas fast as your finger could hit the PLAY MAX CREDITS button. So as far as a bankroll goes, you be the judge. I'd say a nice pace that will give equal parts adrenaline rush and level-headedness would
be about 240 spins an hour. Just multiply that number by whatever you intend to put into the machine per decision, and you have how much you need in order to assure no possibility of the one-armed bandit's holding you up for all of your cash. This advice holds true for video poker as well, where you also determine the number of decisions per hour.

Now that you know how much money to bring to assure yourself of not getting wiped out, should Lady Luck wipe her feet on you, remember that perfecting your strategy in these games is a separate and equally important issue.

Check out the strategies in Systems Gallery and learn them well before applying them for real.

Remember this too: Learn from my mistake. I know what it's like to come home with empty pockets. It's one of the worst feelings in the world, so as always, bet smart, have fun and play within your means.

Wishing you all the best,
Until next week,


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