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On Education and Gambling - Karen's Musings
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estherchaya
estherchaya
On Education and Gambling
Yesterday, my manager and his manager provided me with more information than I ever thought was possible to know about gambling. Now, I remember once having a similar conversation about poker, but this was just general gambling information. It all started because we're having some sort of NCAA fantasy something or other in our group. That'd be great, except I know shit about basketball. And I'm so inept I couldn't even figure out how to sign up to the Yahoo fantasy group thingy. Nevertheless, I wiggled my way through bad directions to sign up for the yahoo thingy, and I picked some teams based on absolutely no understanding of anything useful whatsoever.

Meanwhile, my managers were explaining point spreads to me (this thing doesn't have point spreads, but apparently football pools have point spreads which STILL make no sense, though they did a valiant job of explaining it to me). Somehow point spreads led us to a discussion of bookies, which led us to a discussion of Vegas gambling. Now, silly naive me... I think Vegas, I think Casino...roulette, craps, blackjack, poker, slots... never occurred to me that there was this whole huge thriving legal industry in sports betting there. How this ever escaped me, I'll never know. So they started explaining how "juice" works (apparently differently than I thought), and how the bookies use point spreads to create a statistical advantage for themselves (which made slightly more sense) and how sometimes the point spreads have to be changed after betting has started and why the bookies don't like that. It's bad for business, you see.

You see, now I know a whole LOT about gambling! See, the bookies like to put the point spreads where 50% of the betters (I'm sure there's a more appropriate word for that) bet on Team A and 50% bet on Team B. Then, apparently, Team A betters are paying Team B betters and vice versa, but the bookies take the "juice" (10% off the top). I always thought "juice" was like interest when you owe your bookie money. But apparently I was not aware of the bigger picture. So the bookies take 10% and everybody's winnings are covered. Or something. Apparently this is a multi-billion dollar business. Who knew? (I mean, aside from gamblers)

Okay, so somehow, and frankly, I can't really remember how, this led to a general discussion of Vegas, casinos, and gambling. Apparently in Roulette, as I'm sure 99.8 percent of you already knew but little naive me didn't know), you can bet "red" or "black" instead of betting a number. Fair enough. But that seems a little odd, right? wouldn't the odds be pretty much even on that? Sure, except that there are 39 numbers on the wheel (maybe I'm wrong about the numbers) and 2 of the squares are GREEN! That puts the odds slightly more in the favor of the house. Who knew?!?

Black Jack has the best odds for the house of any other game in a casino. Apparently the odds are 52/48 in the house's favor. Seems like it'd be a lousy bet to take then, right? But apparently there's this thing called "doubling down" which makes things better for you, but by then my head was already spinning with my newfound knowledge and I never found out what doubling down meant or why it was a good thing.

And Craps! Don't forget Craps! I never really knew how craps worked, but now I see that it's FAR more complicated than I thought. And the guys who work the table must have some ridiculous talent. Seriously. I don't think I'd ever be cut out for it. I think I want to work at a Casino. Except that would mean moving. And becoming more coordinated. And breathing in really smoky rooms. And probably wearing a little bowtie, but I suppose that's not so offensive. So instead of working in a casino, I think I should like to go somewhere and play craps. Or is that "shoot craps"? Because, really, what else am I going to do with all this useful knowledge I've obtained??

By the way, casinos give free rooms to big spenders. But there's a trick. When the boss is around, you bet big, big, big. But when the boss walks away, you go back to puny bets. When he comes back, more big, big, big bets. This evens out the amount you're spending in the long run, but gives the appearance of spending a lot of money. Also, you should be staying put. A casino owner would much rather have you lose $1000 over four hours at one table than lose $1000 in one hand and walk away for a while. Apparently the longevity moves things in their favor. But don't worry, you and I aren't in danger of ever appearing to be big spenders. Big spenders, apparently, lose $100,000 a night regularly.

And sheesh! These casinos spare no expense! One casino has a roller coaster at the top of it. Thirty stories UP. The Bellagio cost a billion dollars to build. Stores BEG for retail space there. Cartier, um, and others, but Cartier is the only one I can remember off hand. They have a gallery of fine art. They have restaurants. They have fountains. They have zillions of dollars. There's a three month waiting list to get into the bar or some such thing. It's ridiculous.

But I could win at Vegas. Because all those Casino owners build skyscrapers and Eiffel towers and domed-fresco ceilinged casinos, and roller coasters, and they drive rolls royces and other expensive cars and they practically sweat money because people win in Vegas, right? Oh, sorry, I forgot rule number one of gambling: The House Always Wins. They make billions of dollars off that 1% advantage they've got. Go figure.

This isn't even a tiny fraction of what I learned about gambling yesterday. And the anectdotes I heard were funny yet educational.

But the most disturbing thing? That they KNEW all of this and it was clear I was only learning the very tippiest tip of the iceberg that is their knowledge base on this subject. And there I was, completely naive, seriously innocent, disbelieving, yet fascinated. All in all, I think I'll stick with the safe bets for now, thanks.

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Current Mood: amused edumacated

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Comments
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh good. I feel better now.
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Truth is, I'm never going to Vegas. Seth's been there once, he hated it, he doesn't want to go back. So what am I going to do? Go without him?

I've been to one casino (Foxwoods, in my former home-town in Connecticut), but I was such a chicken, and by myself (my boyfriend stayed out in the shopping part of it with my best friend who was then underage), and so all I did was play slots. I think I might have played one had of blackjack too.

The truth is, I make a lousy gambler, because even if I go in completely willing to lose my money (call it the price of entertainment), I get sad when I start losing money (even if it's just money I've won so really was never mine in the first place). Then I get bored and leave. I don't get that instinct that I have to win back that $2. I just get sad that I didn't stop before I lost the $2. So I walk away. So maybe gambling isn't for me. I wish I could go to a real casino and play with fake money, just so I could have the experience without getting all sad about it.
allah_sulu From: allah_sulu Date: March 16th, 2005 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Vegas is better than Foxwoods.

Part of it is the competition -- every hotel/casino wants you to give them money, as opposed to their neighbor, which is why they have so many cheap/free shows, cheap food, etc.

And cool things like roller coasters on the outside of the Stratosphere. Been there, done that!
kmusser From: kmusser Date: March 16th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you wanted to work in a casino without moving, I think the one in Charles Town, WV would be just over an hour commute *grin* There are a couple of folks on my friends list that have had casino jobs in the past - and Wendy's brother is a bookie.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure I'm not cut out for it, but I have this ridiculous fascination with gambling (especially poker, but less specifically card and dice games that involve gambling). I don't know why, but I'm absolutely fascinated with it. I mean, I hate gambling personally...but that's because I don't like losing money. But I there's something about it that intrigues me.

Anyway, doesn't charlestown just have slots and races? Or do they have all-out casinos?
kmusser From: kmusser Date: March 16th, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure they also have card tables, though I haven't gone looking for them, I occasionally go there for the races. I know they call themselves a casino, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
yermie From: yermie Date: March 16th, 2005 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Online?

You could always play online...

Many of the online gambling sites have a "free" side, and a "pay" side. Spend time on the free side, learning how to play, and (if you feel lucky) then go to the pay side, and lose all your money.

Craps is a lot of fun. It's the fastest way to make (and lose) money in a casino. It has the highest payback on a bet, and some of the best odds for your betting. However, it takes some getting used to, and learning. If you're going to a casino, and going to play craps, play either during the day, or go during the week. That way the tables aren't quite as busy, and you can ask the croupiers for help (not, should I bet this now?, but if you put a $5 chip on a $6 bet, they'll tell you what you did wrong, and explain why...)

You know, there are a lot of casinos here in MS...
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Online?

Playing online isn't the same. I like the idea of the casino atmosphere, in small doses, anyway. So I don't wanna play online.

So if I go to MS, will you take me to a casino?
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Online?

If next year's conference is in Orlando, you should go visit my father.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: March 16th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Online?

oh, and as for the casino atmosphere killing me... I'm not sure I'd especially like it (I found it overwhelming the ONE time I was in a casino), but I'm fascinated by the dynamic.
yermie From: yermie Date: March 16th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Online?

So if I go to MS, will you take me to a casino?

The odds of me taking you to a casino will significantly improve if you come to MS, yes.

cellio From: cellio Date: March 16th, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't know most of that either, by the way.

Dani and I went to Niagara Falls once and spent an evening in their casino. That was my only visit to a casino. We're small-stakes players; basically, we budgetted for an evening's entertainment. I was surprised -- though this makes sense in retrospect -- to find that you can't play at real tables with people and actual cards and dice and stuff unless you're betting tens of dollars at a time (or much more, of course; they had the special room for high-stakes play with I think a $1000 minimum bet). So all we could do was play around with the video/slots games, which isn't as much fun.
(Deleted comment)
yermie From: yermie Date: March 16th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, some casinos allow you to stay at your current bet level, even if the table changes. So, if you get there around 3pm, and start playing blackjack at a $5 min table, and are still playing at 7pm when the table becomes a $10 min, you stay at the $5 level...

At least, that's what I was told by the casino workers at Beau Rivage last time I went (about 6 years ago). So, it may have changed, or not be applicable at your casino of choice.
beaniekins From: beaniekins Date: March 17th, 2005 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm totally going on that roller coaster when I go to Vegas in May!

Also, there's an awesome book called, "Bringing Down the House" all about a group of professional card counters based out of M.I.T. It's a true story and it's absolutely fascinating. I learned a lot about casinos and the culture. It's an easy read, you'll finish it in no time. I highly recommend picking it up.
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