Tuesday, 8 November 2011

For what it's worth

To anyone that reads this I've a simple statement to make that I'm happy to admit to anyone. I'm a gambler. I have been since I turned around 19 and started to play poker. Much like anything in this world; gambling it's self can be a life long struggle with adversity in the pursuit of perfection. It's something that you're capable of doing from the moment you can think for yourself until the day that you die if your faculties are intact. You might ask why I'm writing this and I'll answer that. Simple I'm bored number one and number two; there is so much stigma related to the subject that I just want to get my feelings on the subject out in the open and leave something that's been annoying the fuck out of me for a long time.

Now before anyone starts wondering what difference it makes to me as a person. I'll tell you. It means nothing for the most part. It means that sometimes I'm going to look at some things from a different perspective. There's a stereotypical view of a gambler as a leech trying to put any money they have or don't have in some cases on a bet trying to get that big score. From a personal perspective that's not me. It never has been and never will be. I don't believe in that sort of thing. It's a shitty stereotype related to arseholes that give gamblers a bad name. Some gamblers I've got to know are some of the most honourable people I've had the pleasure to know. If you're looking at the highest end of the spectrum; some players will loan out 6 figure sums on an IOU or stake someone on the basis of a percentage of their winnings. Most of the interesting people I've got to know through this hobby have a sort of unwritten code of ethics. It's weird that in an age where people can be so anally retentive about deals and contracts; that gamblers can verbally agree things and meet terms without the bull shit that ties down some of the rest of the world.

You see there's a huge difference between being retarded when it comes to gambling and smart enough that you do not fuck yourself over. It's the same difference between someone that can drink a pint and someone that will just get paralytically shit faced every time they're within sniffing distance of a jagerbomb. Yes there is drawbacks and yes you have to learn lessons the hard way; by your pocket being hit in a time when money is king. But and it's as huge a but as J-Lo's arse. With those lessons there is an education if you're smart enough to pay attention that you can take advantage of some golden opportunities.

I appreciate that everyone has that mate that's pretty much fucked themselves up; betting on anything irrespective of them knowing the thing they're betting on. These are the gambling equivalent of someone that was gonna be a fuck up either way. If it wasn't gambling that got them it would have been the booze or pot or fucking Winning Streak scratchcards. They were someone bound to be fucked or fucked over. They're the people sending their bank account details to the Nigerian bank scam mails. In other words they don't look at the reality of the game and think they can beat anything.

Now I'm not going to say I came by this realisation overnight. It took me a few years to come to the conclusions I have now. Being honest at one point I was down about €2500 over a 2 year period. Trust me on the sunscreen on this. One of the best things I've ever did was compile my betting history to understand where I was burning money up and where I was most profitable. You have to understand that like the massive odds of the Lotto; usually the odds are stacked against you in favour of the bookie and you have to try limit those possible odds. Seen as though it's a common thing for people to have their yearly bet on the Grand National. Have a look at the history of the favourite winning that race and you'll soon see what I mean. That's a 40 horse race each year so your odds all things being equal are 39 to 1. That's 1 horse for you and 39 for the bookie to win. Ok horses aren't equal but traditionally the favourite for the race is usually around 7-1. It's this sort of shit that few people will take into account.

It's a sucker bet and much like someone on Deal or No Deal that keeps their box all the way through it just really isn't playing to the numbers. Just in case you're wondering what I mean with the Deal or No Deal Scenario. Say you have 25 boxes in the game. If you pick 1 box at this point you've got a 4% chance in having the jackpot box. Now if you get to the end and you've the 1c box and the €250,000 box available and you decide to go to the end. The banker tells Noel to offer you the swap. What do you do?
a) Keep your box sure the odds are 50/50.
b) Swap the box.

The answer is b. You should actually swap the box every time. You see it's simple maths. Although you have 2 boxes available. The odds are stacked heavily that the other box will have the €250,000. When you start each box has a 4% chance of being the jackpot. The box on your table's odds never changes. The boxes in play however do. For each box you've taken away throughout the game your adding 4% more likelihood to that other box being the jackpot. Your odds are actually 96 to 4 at that point. So would you still stay with the box? Of course not. 24 times the swap is the right move and only once keeping it is. It's a maths thing. It's known as variable change. Feel free to check it out. Anyone that's watched the excellent movie 21 may be aware of the concept.

At points in my teens I was going on the hop to play snooker or pool for money. Hell at one point I was gambling with my overtime money playing pool in Stillorgan or Bray. Yes that was a profitable endeavour and one of the things I did to get myself out of the aforementioned hole. It did take me a year solid to get ahead but it's something I've paid attention to as much as I can. The key to keeping this shit in the long run is knowing where to get your money in and when to stay the hell away from items. My favourite markets at the moment are MMA as you can see from my recent history of blogs. Bookies are still trying to catch up on this sport so a bit of knowledge can go a long way. Some things are just borderline impossible to predict on a regular basis. Horse racing being one. It's a fucking nightmare and is more a bet for fun thing in my opinion. It's also the sport where you'll hear the all too familiar mantra of "it can't lose". 

If you do like a gamble or two and your finding yourself on the losing end of things. I'd suggest reading a few things. Firstly the great book "Amarillo Slim in a world full of fat people" by Thomas Austin Preston or Amarillo Slim as he's better known. Slim is a gambling success story much in the same way that Magnier and McManus are through the bloodstock business which is heavily reliant on racing in general to make money. Slim has had a lifetime of gambling and came out all the richer. Much in the same vein as Doyle Brunson. Slim invested and kept a nest egg to retire to. If you read his life story you'll get a better insight the difference between a real gambler and someone that puts on a bet. Some of my favourite quotes of his that put things into better perspective are:

“I don’t believe in hunches. Hunches are for dogs making love.” Amarillo Slim
“Nobody is always a winner and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn’t play poker.” Amarillo Slim
Slim was one of the great proposition gamblers of his time and there's a heap of different famous bets. My favourite story about Slim is his famous ping pong bets. He always said he'd play anyone as long as he chose the paddles. This lead to him beating a world ping pong champion with them using coke bottles as paddles.
One of Slim's mottos was: "I never go looking for a sucker. I look for a Champion and make a sucker of of him."
To this respect Slim was one of the greatest gamblers in history. He would put a proposition to you that it looked like he could not win. He followed in the footsteps of Titanic Thompson who is the subject of an excellent biography by Kevin Cook. I'd seriously suggest reading both books. You will enjoy them and it will make you a better gambler for it.

I went a bit off track there but here's the simplest way to give yourself a chance of some success in the long run. Use different sites. Prices vary wildly from site to site so always go looking for value. You wouldn't spend €50 quid extra on a coat you know you can get cheaper in another store. There's really no excuse to do this in gambling either. Get the best value for your money. You owe it to yourself. Sites like www.oddschecker.com will give you a great insight into prices available across the major sites. Loyalty is not valued for the most part my sports book sites so be loyal to yourself.

The other thing I highly recommend is to offer odds and lay bets through sites like Betfair. If you know a sport lay odds. There's a huge market out there and there's easy money to be made. Remember in the long run it's the bookies that don't lose. This is why Betfair and similar sites can be advantageous as you're the bookie and only limited by the amount in your bankroll. People do not pay attention to this sort of shit enough. It's a simple proposition.

As much as I love them accumalators are your worst enemy. Try stick to doubles or trebles as you are more likely to get a return. If you're stretching to 4 selections look at doing a lucky 15 or something similar. This way there's a return of some sort if only some of your selections come through. When betting on the donks and you're getting over evens for a place. Put the each way bet down. This gives an opportunity for you to earn your original stake back plus a little profit.

Profit. That's the key word. You play to win. You gamble to win. Anyone that gambles for gambling's sake is a fucking moron. You might as well just flip a coin. It's quicker and you've better odds usually. They're one of those people that's probably decided to piss into the wind at some point too. Keep to what you know. Do not bet on shit you've not a clue on. If you're taking betting advice from anyone including me. Try see what they're like history wise. Too many people bet on the basis of thinking someone knows better. A lot of people are full of shit when it comes to betting as well. Look at investment bankers. They're gamblers of the worst accord. Gambling with other fuckers money whilst taking their fees regardless of the outcome. Yes some of them have did amazingly well for themselves but to all intents and purposes it's the investment banking sector that's caused the global recession. Some of them advising people to invest on shit they were betting against. The legendary stories of credit default swaps being the prime example. I base this on a lot of economist's views and through a few documentaries including the excellent Inside Job.

If you take anything from my rambling please take this advice. Never gamble money you don't have. If you can't afford to do it. Don't. I've got to the stage where I'd rather risk a gamble than have a drink as I may get a return on my bet as opposed to a filthy hangover. Worst case scenario you get no return.. Much like when you have a drink so I there's my twisted logic.

Don't chase lost money. If you're on a losing streak don't increase your bets or get desperate to cover the losses. This is the mistake most people make. They get emotional and panic. It's that panic that leads to mistakes and unnecessary risks. This leads back to the only play with what you can afford to lose.

The other side of things is trust the maths and keep a record. Luck is a four letter word. It's subjective. It's not a fact. Maths can not be denied. With some games the odds will always remain the same. Playing Texas holdem you've a set of odds that do not change. Don't get stupid because you've lost with a particular hand on repeated occasions. This is the mistake some people make and it's fatal. You have to be willing to play the numbers and take emotion and memory out of it in that respect. Keeping a record of what you've done is the best way to know where you stand. Record everything of relevance. Your stakes etc. and before too long you'll see the patterns that you can adjust.

There's opportunites out there. Of this I've no doubt. There's definitely ways to make money if you do things right. Learn when to hedge your bets so your not so reliant on one outcome.

I hope this makes some sense. I'll probably have a UFC blog for UFC on Fox and UFC 139 up by Friday.

Here endeth the lesson.

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