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I SAW IT WITH MY OWN EYES
By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum IX #2, June 1982)
© 1982 Blackjack Forum
On the last issue of Blackjack Forum, we published only three pages of "Letters," due—as always—to our space limitations. I usually prepare a dozen pages of letters, then use what I have room for—usually five to ten pages. I'm always disappointed that those letters ready for publication miss the boat. Sometimes, I'll save particularly interesting letters for a later issue. But more often than not, space limitations again get in the way. I used to tell myself that one of these issues was going to be nothing but letters from cover to cover. No articles, no sermon, no casino conditions, no order form; just fifty pages of the letters that were left on the cutting room floor. It would probably be one of the most entertaining and educational issues of BJF ever.
I wish I could gather together and publish as a whole the scads of letters that contradict each other. That issue would have to be titled, "I Saw It With My Own Eyes!"
Some years back, in the same week, I received one letter from a player who had seen a successful application of Jerry Patterson's TARGET system, and another letter from a player who had seen the failure of that system. The player who praised the system claimed he had seen a live exhibition of TARGET in action—in an Atlantic City casino!—by none other than Jerry Patterson himself, who had taken his new students into the field to demonstrate the efficacy of his strategy. The player ended his missive by saying, "Jerry may not have computer simulation proof for TARGET, but he has tested it extensively in the casinos with teams of his own students. To me that's more important. There are years of casino experience behind the TARGET system. The theory is solid. The casino shuffles are not random. That's indisputable. It's not like he's selling some dopey craps system."
The player who sent the letter that contradicted this viewpoint claimed he had been the record keeper on Jerry Patterson's and Eddie Olsen's first TARGET team a 6 month-long effort encompassing 17 players totaling more than 3000 hours of casino play. The outcome of this "successful" team, according to the computer printout which tallied the individual players' results, was a win rate averaging $1.06 per hour.
An amusing postscript to these letters is the fact that Patterson is, in fact, now selling "...some dopey craps system." If you're on Jerry's mailing list, you've probably received his latest flyers advertising his recent discoveries in craps and roulette. God only knows what kind of non-random streak theories are behind these brilliant strategies, but please don't send them to me to analyze! I wouldn't have believed Patterson would sink to these depths if I hadn't seen his ad flyer with my own eyes!
A few direct quotes from Patterson's flyers:
"The purpose of this letter is to convince you that you can win at craps and roulette. That a well-designed money management method can overcome the house advantage. And that after 10 years of research I have found the methods that will do just that.... The house advantage at craps is about 1.4% (if you only play the pass line taking full odds) and about 2.13% at roulette (if you only play the outside numbers). But, I have become convinced that a workable and well-designed money management system can overcome the house advantage. And that is what I am offering you.... A player makes his point and a round of cheers greets his win. The next point is established. A few more throws and he sevens out. Groans replace the cheers.'' Meanwhile what are you doing at this table? You are quietly grinding out a profit. The other players are winning, losing, winning, losing.. but you are taking down units of profit in a very consistent fashion.... Are you beginning to get the idea? We are talking about a very disciplined approach to grinding out our profits.... We are content to grind out a profit. Table after table. Hour after hour.... At roulette we are exploiting a natural bias that occurs at every roulette table. And we are grinding out a profit at most tables. There are no table selection factors. You can use ROUGE ET COLONNE at any roulette table... The (craps) Method does not give you a mathematical advantage over the casinos... Properly applied, however, it will give you a winning edge.... You may have one more question: If these methods are so good, why doesn't everybody use them and drive the casinos out of business? Because the vast majority of casino players are gamblers who have no idea what discipline and money management are all about... People are greedy and this is what the casinos play on -- unadulterated greed. One final point bears repeating. I am not claiming to give you a mathematical advantage over the casino. I am claiming that, with the proper dis cipline and money management techniques, you can overcome the house advantage...."
Marvelous doublespeak! You can't get "a mathematical advantage" (i.e., any mathematician would recognize these systems as baloney), but you can "overcome the house advantage" and get "a winning edge..." My favorite part of Jerry's latest spiel is where he castigates other casino players for being "greedy."
Many players fail to understand the theory behind progressive betting systems. It is not difficult to devise a methodical betting series that will win more often than it will lose even in negative expectation games. The granddaddy of all such progressive systems, of course, is the Martingale—a system of immediately chasing every prior loss with your next bet. With this progression, it takes only one win to win your series, regardless of the number of prior losses. Technically, if you had an unlimited bankroll, and if you could find a casino with no limits on their maximum bets, the Martingale betting strategy would eventually beat any game offered. But those are big If's.
Less radical progressive betting systems are generally methods of chasing your losses more slowly, stretching out the number of wins required to win your series. Such systems will fail less frequently than the Martingale due to bumping up against the maximum bet allowed. The "safest" progressive betting system I've ever heard of is "Oscar's System," as detailed in Dr. Allan Wilson's 1965 classic, The Casino Gambler's Guide. Oscar was a guy who carried many thousands of dollars into the casinos, intent on winning only $1 per betting series at the craps tables, until his weekend's play generated just a few hundred bucks - enough to cover his expenses.
He alleged to Dr. Wilson that in years of such play he had never gone home a loser! Could this be true?
Wilson contacted computer legend Julian Braun, who ran the whole thing through his computer for some two million pass line decisions. Braun's computer results indicated that Oscar may well have been telling the truth, as the computer "lost" only one out of every 4,250 betting sequences - due to bumping up against the $500 maximum bet allowed, requiring the progression to be abandoned.
Most instructive about this simulation, however, was the total amount that was lost on these rare losing series, compared to the total amount won on the winning series. For the complete run, the system showed a net loss on the abandoned losing sequences of $548,000 or about 1.46% of the total $40 million wagered! As Wilson sums it up, "...This figure is remarkably close to the theoretical (house) edge of 1.414 percent."
Statistically, if you send lots of players into the casinos with big bankrolls and Oscar's system, dozens of them will go home having won a few hundred bucks for every one that will go home without his shirt. Each winning sequence nets $1. The average loss on an abandoned sequence, however, according to Braun's computer run, is $13,100! In effect, one player, the "unlucky" statistical inevitability, is paying all of the other players' winnings, plus paying the house their preordained edge.
Players who base their strategies on what they've seen with their own eyes are the casinos' bread and butter. Allan Wilson and Julian Braun demonstrated this 25 years ago! Yet, I get dozens of letters every year from players who believe in progressive betting systems, based on their short term results.
To all of them I say, "Buy Allan Wilson's book. Read Chapter Sixteen."
Just because you've seen something with you own eyes doesn't mean you've seen everything. ♠
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I Saw It With My Own Eyes: Winners' Testimonials and Phony Gambling Systems
Arnold Snyder discusses phony gambling systems such as Jerry Patterson's TARGET, roulette, and craps systems, and explains why even phony gambling systems will have some winners praising it.