Arnold Snyder discusses blackjack betting, losing streaks, and bankroll fluctuation in card counting.
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Blackjack Losing Streaks

 
casino blackjack betting, losing streaks, and bankroll fluctuation in card counting
 
BLACKJACK BANKROLL AND FLUCTUATIONS: CONTENTS
casino blackjack bankroll fluctuation and betting for card counting Winners and Losers: True Tales from
    the Trenches
blackjack bankroll fluctation and betting A Card Counter's Story
    By One More Shoe
blackjack bankroll, betting and fluctuation Understanding the Psychology of
    Losing
    By Orange Cnty KO
blackjack betting and bankroll fluctuation You Won't Win
    By Arnold Snyder
blackjack bankroll, betting, and fluctuation Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
    By Arnold Snyder
blackjack betting and bankroll fluctuation Waiting for the Long Run
    By Arnold Snyder
blackjack bankroll, betting, and fluctuation Luck: The Big Winner's Secret
    By Howard Grossman
 
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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun:
Those Losing Streaks That Never End

By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum , Vol. XXII #1, Spring 2002)
© Blackjack Forum 2002

In the decades I have been writing about blackjack, I have heard many players’ horror stories of bad fluctuations -- losing streaks that seemed as if they would never end. There have been pros who lost most of their savings over months of play, blackjack teams that took years to make a bank. Every experienced player has his story of the impossible losing streak. Two standard deviations. Three standard deviations. Four. I’ve also heard a few stories that went the other way.

Some years ago, Bill Zender told me about a truck driver who blew into Vegas with a few hundred bucks, and went on a winning streak that seemed without end. Over a period of months, he won more than a million bucks at the blackjack tables.

The casinos courted him like a king for awhile, waiting for him to fall. But he just kept winning. Despite no evidence that he was anything but lucky, one by one many of the Strip casinos stopped dealing to him because they couldn’t take the wins any more. The winning streak didn’t make sense to the pencil pushers and number crunchers; they felt he had to be doing something.

But he wasn’t. The casinos that had lost bundles to him, then refused to deal to him anymore -- and these were some of the biggest properties in Vegas -- came to regret it. The lucky trucker gave it all back even faster than he made it to the one joint that had the wisdom and patience to wait for his luck to turn.

After a few months of living the Vegas high life, he left town pretty much the way he came in, with a few hundred bucks in his jeans, and some tall tales to tell his buddies that none of them would ever believe.

Every religion has a unique vision of God, and that includes the First Church of Blackjack. All gamblers, from the most sophisticated and savvy advantage players to the hapless compulsives on tilt with their rent money, place their offerings at the Altar of Flux.

Our Supreme Deity is known by many names: Standard Deviation, Variance, Fluctuation, Luck, Fortune, Chance. Regardless of name, all gamblers know that Luck is a Lady. With the fickle heart of a vamp, she delights in toying with men’s lives and dreams. Many gamblers offer heartfelt prayers to Dame Fortune, but the sad fact is: the Goddess of Flux is stone deaf. Neither prayers of thanks, nor pleas for mercy, are ever heard.

We humans are so arrogant. If a man wins ten times his net worth in a weekend, he boasts of his skill, his daring, his timing, his intelligence. If, on the other hand, he loses his life savings, he jumps to blame the Goddess of Flux. Do not ask how she can be so cold-hearted, she who never gets the credit, but always the blame.

But this myopia of man does not anger her; for unlike the male God of the Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims, the Goddess of Flux doesn’t really give a damn.

Our Goddess is not a Fair Provider, but a wild and crazy Party Girl. She lets the good players go unrewarded, and the bad go unpunished. Good and bad mean nothing to the Goddess of Flux.

Many who have lost their fortunes to the whims of the Goddess ask how she can allow such catastrophes to occur. The Goddess of Flux never explains herself. She tempts, she teases, she lures, but she never explains. Cursing the Goddess of Flux has the same effect as pleading for her mercy, which is to say, no effect whatsoever.

Because we humans are logical and rational creatures, we long to believe that the Goddess of Flux shares these admirable attributes. When, alas, men see neither rhyme nor reason to her treatment of them, some fall into a state of deep despair. These lost souls turn away from the Goddess, and deny her existence. Like all atheists, they make Logic their new God, and they seek rational explanations for the wild and crazy results the Goddess puts before their eyes.

Should one of these infidels lose eight sessions in a row, he’ll say: “I must have been cheated. They must have been using altered decks. The running count was +20, I had three max bets on the table, and when I was dealt all babies against a dealer five up, the count jumped to +27! I had three double down hands, and every one of them caught a 4, 5 or 6; then the dealer hits to a six-card 21. It had to be a rigged shoe!”

But it wasn’t a rigged shoe, nor was it an altered deck; just the Goddess of Flux having her fun at the expense of a puny mortal.

Other atheists might blame different factors: “This system doesn’t work. I win when the count is negative, and lose when it’s positive. So, either the system sucks, or card counting is just a myth made up to sell books; it has no validity in the real world.”

Meanwhile, the atheist who has just won on eight consecutive sessions, is singing a different tune: “I’ve finally gotten my skills sharpened to perfection. I’m as close to invincible as a player can be. I do have to give credit to the side count of aces which has really made my bet-sizing pinpoint accurate. The casinos don’t stand much of a chance against me anymore. I’ve got to play all short sessions these days just to keep their suspicions down.”

But neither this player’s skill, nor his system, is any better than that of his counterpart who has just lost eight consecutive sessions. Both are merely playthings of the Drunken Mistress of Inexplicable Results.

Many intelligent and educated men claim to have a deep and intimate understanding of the Goddess of Flux. They devise charts and tables and graphs and spreadsheets to describe her crazy twists and turns. To these men, it is a mortal sin to call the Goddess by her common nickname, “Luck.” They speak of her in authoritative tones as “Variance,” or “Standard Deviation,” as if by changing her name they have reined her in, corralled her, broken her, dominated her.

But as with all men, she neither serves them, nor obeys them. They serve her, and she treats them as she pleases.

“There’s something wrong, Charlie. The team is four standard deviations below EV. That’s impossible!”

But to the Goddess of Flux, nothing is impossible. And she specializes in the highly improbable.

Most of those who believe in the Goddess of Flux regularly curse her existence. Likewise, those who have forsaken their belief in the Goddess would agree with the believers that if the Goddess did exist, then she is the enemy of men.

There is but a handful of men who worship the Goddess tirelessly, and always thank her for her attentions, whichever direction they take. Among those few who sing her praises are those who own the casinos, the race tracks, the lotteries. These faithful know that were it not for Lady Luck, they would have no customers.

She is the foundation of their business. And each time she dips into their coffers to rain fortune down upon some undeserving rube, a glimmer of hope is ignited among the masses of losers, a glimmer that keeps their fantasies alive, and their dollars flowing out of their pockets.

Likewise, the Goddess of Flux is not the enemy, but the friend, of all professional gamblers. This is why she is worshiped by the faithful followers of the First Church of Blackjack. Were it not for our Goddess, we card counters would extract our small percentage from the tables each and every time we played, and soon our action would be welcome nowhere.

The Goddess of Flux has but one objective: to skew the path of man. Because of her, at the blackjack tables the shortest distance from Point A to Point B is never a straight line. There are always mountains to climb, valleys to negotiate, and so many bends and forks in the road, it seems at times the dizzy path leads nowhere but in circles.

But for all her wild and crazy spirals, there is an equalizer to her whims that man has at his disposal - Persistence. For all her power to steer man’s destiny, the Goddess of Flux has no follow through. Like so many in today’s world, the Goddess suffers from ADD. Just when you’re sure she has her heart set on crushing you, she turns around and goes the other way.

Persistence is the only tool man has to overcome her folly. It’s a secret that every professional gambler learns, and it’s the knowledge that separates the pros from the wannabes. Time and work, work and time - the players’ only hope. How ironic that most of the people who attempt to enter the profession do so because they don’t want to work, and they don’t want to wait. They want easy money, and they want it now. Gambling is a magnet for those who lack discipline and patience; yet it is precisely these virtues that are required to succeed at this vice.

The fact is, if a man is determined to arrive at Point B from Point A, he will get there in the long run. Because of the machinations of the Goddess of Flux, no man may ever know how long that run will be. No formula, no spreadsheet, no graph can predict how long the Goddess will have her fun at our expense. But if we keep Point B in our sights, we will eventually arrive.

So, the next time Dame Fortune toys with your heart, your soul and your wallet, raise your glass and praise her thus: “Thanks for nothing, you cold-hearted, evil, damnable, nefarious, low-life, malicious monster from Hell!”

She is, after all, stone deaf. ♠

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  Blackjack Betting and Losing Streaks
Arnold Snyder describes the main difficulty facing any blackjack card counter on a small bankroll—the inevitable bankroll fluctuations and losing streaks that occur even when you're playing a winning game.