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Patterns, Prostitutes, Progressions, Pageantry and Profits

Welcome to Monte Carlo.

Since 1929, the Grand Prix of Monaco is much more of a social event than just a stop on the Formula-One race circuit.  The streets of Monte Carlo are filled with people who are hell-bent on partying, gambling, people watching, race spectating, seeing the famous mingle with the infamous, and above all and most importantly, being seen NOT to take any notice of it! 

Acting blas, aloof and remaining detached from the whole circus that whirls around you is seen as the chic way to be hip, cool or debonair.  If everyone wasn’t trying SO hard to look like it was all normal and de rigeur, it would be hilarious.  As it was, it was just mildly amusing and perhaps a little bit pathetic. 

This tiny, but filthy rich principality combines the fashion-sense of a Paris haute-couture runway, the highest number of elite socialite icons gathered together in one place, the majority of Euro-trash poseurs, and the most exclusive collection of exotic and collectable motor-cars anywhere on this planet.  Monaco brings them all together and combines them into the most exclusively intoxicating human cocktail. 

One sip of that elixir leaves you breathless, disoriented, stunned, amazed and definitely thirsty for more!

Patterns, Prostitutes, Progressions, Pageantry and Profits are all part of the Grand Prix Circuit when it is held in a gambling mecca like Monte Carlo.   Long before Nevada legalized gambling, this place was the original “Sin City.”

The pageantry of all the circumstances and happenings surrounding the BIG EVENT is almost non-stop.  There are official parades every day.  There are royal yacht and off-shore boat races for a full week.  There were over 800 yachts in the Marina that measured at least one-hundred feet or more in length.

There are countless invitations to non-stop galas, and follow-up invitations to other parties that are held only after the first extravaganza ends.   Almost every hotel suite is turned into an orgiastic celebration.  It’s a bit like Mardi Gras in New Orleans with a slightly older, more monied, but equally immature crowd.  An ideal setting for the Mad Professor to indulge in hedonistic pleasures, if he were to chose so.   

There are bejeweled woman in bejeweled gowns, walking dogs with bejeweled leashes, getting into bejeweled Rolls-Royces to take them to their bejeweled country town-homes on the bejeweled cliffs that lean over the bejeweled ocean.  Before it was all over, I was ready to puke in bejeweled technicolor!

For only ten days each year, craps is offered as a table game in this country that is “owned” and run by the Grimaldi family for the past 700 years.   Prince Ranier, together with his daughters Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, and the heir apparent and successor to the throne, Prince Albert are the royal family and also owners of almost all non-residential property and major commercial businesses in this country.

There are two casinos to choose from.  The historical and very famous renaissance-designed Casino du Monte Carlo has been the setting for many movies and books.  Built in the early 1700’s, this casino is in the town’s main square, and has a quiet, cultured, sophisticated air during early daytime hours that becomes a little more electric, but still refined as players adhering to it’s strictly enforced “jacket and tie” dress-code, fill it’s vaulted rooms. 

The other casino is owned by Loews Corporation and was built in a 1970’s modern exposed-concrete and garish tri-color design.  This building is located on top of the famous roadway tunnel through which race winner Micheal Schumacher’s Ferrari traveled on his way to victory.   This “American” casino is not nearly as stately or imposing as the other house, but what it lacks in suave polish, it more than makes up for in excitement and action.

Both casinos have incredibly high-stakes being wagered by large numbers of players.  It seems that most are trying to out-do everyone else, to see who can have the highest bet on the table at any given time.  For our purposes, I’ll convert all denominations to U.S. dollars instead of the French Francs that are actually used there.

It’s not uncommon to see eight to ten players at once bet more than $100,000 each on the Pass Line.  Some people bet $10,000 on Any Craps or C & E on the Come-Out Roll.  Multiple bets of $25,000 on each of the Hardways would sometimes completely cover the entire square for a particular number if it had been hit at least once during a roll.  With only double odds available, some players would still have more than $500,000 in play at any given time.

Gamblers often look for patterns in outcomes of casino games. Whether you are in Atlantic City, Reno or Monte Carlo, things such as cycles, results following series, or events presaging one another, are followed throughout the craps world.   Most people would say that the notion of patterns in casino games is meaningless.  Patterns seen in the past, do not project into the future because the data, while constrained by the laws of math, are governed by chance.  It’s kind of like the formation of birds in a flock.

Why Betting Progressions Work When Experts Say They Can't

Craps players frequently debate progressive versus flat betting.  Should they start low and follow any host of progressions, or begin higher and stay constant?

All tried and true gambling gurus guarantee that systems to raise or lower bets don't affect house advantage or edge when odds and returns are uniform from round to round.  That part is absolutely true.

Casino balance sheets prove this over extended periods, showing "holds" remarkably close to the gross amounts wagered, multiplied by the house edge. If during a year, players "Place" the nine at craps for a total of $100 million, the hold on this action will be within a whisper of $4 million.  That is in line to the 4% edge on this bet, independent of how the individual wagers are sized, shaped, or sequenced.  Again, this fact is absolutely true.

Players however know from experience, that betting systems do affect performance.

Some believe the secret of success is "playing with the house's money;" where they press their bets after rounds in which they win, attempting to escalate their earnings.

Others adhere to the theory that long series of losses are rare; and they raise their bets after rounds in which they're beaten, attempting to recover when the cold streak ultimately breaks.  A third group takes the slow-but-sure flat-bet approach.

Now, as radio-personality Paul Harvey would say: “… here’s the rest of the story.”

Bets not only have a built-in edge favoring the house, but also an inherent volatility which can go either way.

v In the long run, for the casino's multitude of wagers, edge is overwhelming.

v

In the short run, for an individual's action during a session or casino visit, volatility predominates.
v If the game didn’t have volatility, everybody would succumb to the house edge, and nobody would ever win.  Even free all-you-can-eat buffets wouldn't lure folks to the casinos.

What does this mean to you and I?

v On any selected wager, flat-betting minimizes volatility.

v

On any selected wager, progressions raise volatility.
v The impact on a game depends to some degree on how players vary their bets.
v The overall effects of increasing volatility are common to all strategies.

Say two craps players Place Bet on the nine.

Tom always bets $10
Jerry starts at $5, goes to $10 when it wins, presses to $25 if it hits again, then stays at this level.
Tom averages $10 with a fluctuation or "standard deviation" which works out to $11.76 per round.
Jerry’s bets are at $5 for 60% of the time, $10 another 24%, and $25 the remaining 16%.   That means that his average bet works out to $9.40; with standard deviation that comes to $13.86 per round.

 

Let’s just look at edge alone after 1,000 decisions.

Tom’s expectation is to lose 4 percent of $10,000 or $400.
Jerry's expectation is to lose 4 percent of $9,400 or $376. 

But volatility, which dominates far beyond 1,000 trials, paints a different picture.

For typical short-term play, think about their status after 1,000 rounds.

Tom has a 14% likelihood of showing a profit, and can be 90% confident of being from $213 ahead to $1,013 behind.
Jerry, with a smaller average bet, has 20% chance of showing a profit and can be 90% confident of being from $347 ahead to $1,099 behind.
Of Jerry's $134 better-projected zenith, only $24 is attributable to edge, and $110 is due to volatility.
The $86 worse-projected nadir also represents $110 contributed by volatility, offset by only $24 from edge.
In both cases, the magnitude of the maximum loss exceeds that of the corresponding maximum profit by twice what the house expects to draw off through edge.

You can lose a lot more from volatility, than from edge.  It is that same volatility that gives Jerry a better chance at making a profit than Tom. 

When does edge begin to overshadow volatility?

Tom can go 59,000 rounds before edge causes his maximum theoretical profit to peak, and 235,000 rounds before his chance of being ahead falls below 5 percent.
Jerry, with higher volatility, can go 82,000 rounds before his maximum theoretical profit starts to fall and 327,000 rounds before his chance of being ahead is under 5 percent.

Raising volatility with progressive bets boosts the importance of fluctuation relative to edge.

For equivalent amounts at risk, lucky players get higher profits while the less fortunate suffer greater and faster losses.

So if you think that progressions have no effect on the outcome, think again. 

While you are doing that, let me mention the world’s oldest profession, and I’m not talking about used car sales, although the two professions DO have a lot in common.

Where you have men with money, you have prostitutes.  Where you have a lot of men with obscene amounts of money, you have the crme de la crme of prostitutes. In Monte Carlo, you have a LOT of money.  These ladies are not the $5 for 15 minute “crack-ho’s” who frequent America’s inner-city streets; they are the $5,000 to $30,000 per evening entrepreneurs who ply a trade that is as old as cave-men.  Regardless of the geography, both sets of women are selling their “companionship”.

Ernest Hemingway, in a drunken and randy mood at a late 1950’s society party once asked a woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars.   She smiled and said, “Of course I would.”  Hemingway then asked if she would do the same thing for one dollar.  Aghast, she was appalled and screamed, “What do you think I am…a whore?”  Old Ernest with his keen sense of timing and wit, replied, “We’ve already established WHAT you are, now we’re just negotiating a price.”   

The streets, bars, restaurants and casinos are filled with opportunistic women looking to improve their fortunes.   Come to think of it, there were a lot of women there who would never consider their gold-digging searches for rich men akin to prostitution, but in one way or another, it seems that there is a cost to everything we do.   Hmmm, it gives one pause for thought on a subject that may not be appropriate for this forum.

I was at a table where a very elderly gentleman was being charmed by a young lady who was about one-quarter of his age.  Her hands, lips, and arms were all over him as the evening progressed.   She kept saying, “I’m going to marry you…let’s get married tomorrow…I’ll make you really, really happy…I’ll do anything you want, just ask.”  After about the thirtieth time she said that, be replied, “Honey, you can do one thing for me.  Stop stepping on my oxygen-hose, because then I’ll be really, really dead.”   I chuckled at the irony, and proceeded to throw a reasonably good hand.

There are patterns that certain women follow as they seek to better their lot in life.  I understand the motivation, but the methods are so transparent, you would think that they would be more subtle.  As far as patterns in craps are concerned, they seem a little easier to understand than women.

We want to be the only ones to detect an anomaly amongst the numbers that are tossed by random-rollers.  Some people chart dice-results furtively and secretly, so the casinos won't get wise and take countermeasures.   Others do it openly in big binders.  I mention this because the Casino du Monte Carlo has the highest population of dice-charting players that I have ever seen.  If there wasn’t a Formula One Grand Prix race in town, I would have been positive that there was a Dice Table-Charting convention in full-swing. 

Several dealers told me that the number of charters wasn’t that unusual, and that the players from Germany wouldn’t even consider playing the game if it weren’t for charting.

Many patrons came equipped with small hand-held computers similar to the one that I use to keep track of certain “sweet spots” on various craps tables around the world.  They use those computers to determine trends at the tables and to predict upcoming rolls.  This information is used to determine their next type and series of bets.

I sat down with several different groups of the “computer-charters” during my stay at L’Hermitage Hotel there.  Language was not as big of a problem as I initially thought it would be.   My German was non-existent, and their English was flawless.  Their computer formulas were complex. They were convinced that there were discernable patterns, and only sophisticated computer software could find and exploit them.   A couple of them actually traveled the world and fed the roll results through a Fourier Analyzer.  They said that “regularities” buried in the results would yield to their software, and surrender betting procedures that would turn a profit.

I asked how the results had been so far.  They said that they had only been at it for three months, and that so far the losses had outstripped the profits by a large margin.  Their collective family inheritances had shrunk considerably.  They were quick to add that, “…just because there has been no profit, doesn’t mean that the program doesn’t work. It just means that it hasn’t been debugged and refined enough.” I did mention Precision-Shooting, which they attacked as meaningless and hopeless.  I wondered silently exactly what they thought their method was…the Holy Grail?

During race qualifying on Saturday, I sat down with another chap at the Tip Top Pub who said, “The first three days that I used my computer, I was ready to mortgage the farm.  I would hang around a table and bet in synch with the cycles to catch hot trends. Happily, I was in another country from the mortgage office during that period.  The more times that I used the program, more patterns would emerge, but they were always different. I learned a lot. So now I wait until someone has a good roll of at least 20 numbers, then I use a progression on the “Big Red” to bet against him.   It always works.”  I thought to myself that it would always work because a hand always ends with a “7”, but the progression might bump into the table limit before that occurs.  He said that he hadn’t run into that yet, and didn’t expect to.

It seemed that nearly everyone I met in the casinos was using a “system” with which to bet.

As the Sunday race approached, the tempo of activities increases even more.  There were endless parties that only started to break up at mid-morning, and topless sun-bathing galore.   There were processions of countless cover-girl type models of every nationality, and cavalcades of the rarest vehicles I’ve ever seen being driven with total abandon and wanton disrespect on Avenue Princess Grace.  There were rock stars, opera divas, movie actors and other famous faces, and we were all holding free-flowing glasses of vintage wines that each cost the equivalent to a weeks wages in America.   The free lavish parties seemed like an excuse to show off ones wealth.  The entire town was decked-out as an extravagant smorgasbord of conspicuous consumption. 

We were invited to all the parties that corporate sponsors like Marlboro, Bridgestone/Firestone, Fosters Beer, HSBC-Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, Gouloises cigarettes, Cano, Bennetton and Shell-Helix had.   The most memorable one was held by TAG-Hauer where they gave all invitees a specially designed for the event, 18-carat gold race-watch in a commemorative engraved onyx display case. 

All of the sponsorship pre-race celebrations were filled with brand-specific souvenirs.  They provided enough loot to fill four additional large suitcases for my trip home.  Gee, I hope that my friends don’t resent that their T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, sunglasses, socks, umbrellas, beer mugs, fanny packs, lighters, cigars, ashtrays, post-it notes, phone cards, towels, race programs, CD’s, seat cushions, bath robes, leather business folders, sun visors, pen & pencil sets, books, wine decanters, and assorted other gifts have huge logos on them.

Ten of the top twenty-three drivers in this series call Monaco “home”, including Canada’s Jacques Villenueve and Mercedes-McLaren’s David Coulthard.  Race winner Schumacher has a condo here, where he just re-signed for three more years, at $38 million per year, to wear the Ferrari uniform.  This may sound morally bankrupt, but no matter where I went, I was pretty sure that I WAS NOT the richest person in the room. 

Speaking of profit, it turned out to be a fairly profitable trip.   I played a total of about twenty hours.   In that time, I only got to shoot the dice seventeen times due to the extremely crowded conditions.  The dealers were very slow, almost laid-back to avoid any semblance of appearing to care, even with the exorbitant amounts of money in play.  They were genuinely surprised when they got “toked”, and their attitude improved considerably.  It seems that bets made for the dealers are very uncommon, although some players do tip at the end of a session.  It seems that the poor-service attitude from nearby France has been franchised and adopted rather successfully.  From the piano lounge of the Grand Hotel to the tiny little coffee-shop overhanging the Beau Rivage cliffs at the oceans edge, service ranged from great and distinguished to inferior and shabby.   While playing, I tipped at the start of each of my hands, and the reception from the dealers couldn’t have been nicer.  After hitting and pressing their bets for them, all semblance of European staidness dissolved into genuine Vegas “hot-hand” enthusiasm.

Of those shooting opportunities, my best hand was 63 rolls, and my worst hand contained 12 rolls of the dice.  Park Place Entertainment, in a joint effort with Loews Corporation and SBM-Societe Bain du Mers, picked up most of the expenses.  Those included: air-fare from Miami to New York to Paris to Nice, France; helicopter transfer from Nice to Monte Carlo; limousine from the heli-port; deluxe suite accommodation at L’Hermitage Hotel overlooking the Formula One street course near St. Devout Cathedral; plus VIP seating and All-Access Pit Passes for race activities and sponsorship hospitality tents and suites.

My own expenses included the unexpected need for a $1,400 Armani tuxedo, a $300 per day “cheapest-available” canvas-roofed Citroen 2CV Deux-Cheveau (two-cylinder) car rental, and a $1,000 “gift” to a police officer.  My profits AFTER all expenses were approximately $1,200.  Considering the effect that all of the Patterns, Prostitutes Progressions, and Pageantry had, it’s a wonder there is ANY profit left to speak of.

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

 The Mad Professor 

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