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It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

If Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; then Mother Nature is one woman we definitely shouldn't mess with.

I get invited for coffee by a lot of fellow craps players.  Perhaps I look like I really NEED a drink, and fearing that I'm recovering from some sort of grain alcohol-based addiction, they decide that a strong cup of joe is what I should have instead. On the other hand, I like to think that it's really because they want to pick my brain.  The Java Java Coffee Hut at the Tropicana in Las Vegas is in my Top 100 favorite choices, and it served as the backdrop when I met Louie.

I had seen him at the tables of the Trop, San Remo, Excalibur and Orleans over a period of months.  Louie lives in an apartment behind the Tropicana near the airport, and is a somewhat poor craps player who sometimes wins.  He religiously tracks the dice, and says that he's a "percentage player".  His bets strike a balance between keeping the house edge small, and if he gets in a hole, he tries to work his way out gradually instead of chasing his losses with big bets, or at least that's usually his plan.  Louie sometimes has a premonition, and tries to out-guess Mother Nature with huge and risky wagers.  He says that is when he experiences his biggest losses, and to a much smaller extent, his biggest wins.  Overall, I sized him up as a fairly naive player who understood the game, but lacked discipline.

As it turned out, I was wrong. He not only didn't grasp the first thing about the math behind the game, what he thought he knew was wrong!   The reason that I sat down with Louie over a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain in the first place, is because his verbal invitation included the words, "I'd really like to learn how to improve my game."

Louie relied solely on his charts, and he wanted my help to glean more useful information out of THEM!  He thought that Precision-Shooting was a pile of neatly organized shit that was no better and no worse than Random-Rolling.  He said that his fortune lay in those charts if he could only figure out how to extract and decode the information that they contained.

Using his charts, Louie tallies what has been rolled so he can tell what hasn't hit ENOUGH and is therefore, DUE.  "The game doesn't really work that way Louie" I started to say. "Yes, the likelihood of getting a particular number to roll at least once increases with more throws, but it doesn't mean that a particular number HAS to roll next."   He disagreed.  He said if the chart wasn't showing him anything by the actual numbers on the paper, he would unfocus his eyes and try to "feel" the number that would be next.  He called it a premonition.  I said that it was likely "gas, heartburn, indigestion, or heat prostration, because it definitely wasn't Mother Nature" talking to him.  I said "Okay, let's try this. What is your favorite Place number?"  He replied that 5 had always been "good" to him, and so I set out the following example:

The chance of getting a 5 in one roll is 11.11%.

In ten rolls, it's 69.2%.

In twenty rolls, 90.5%.

But, this doesn't mean after 19th roll that 5 has a 90.5% probability on the next throw.

The chances are still four out of thirty-six or 11.11%, if you isolate and look at just one throw.  "Ah, I was looking at it all backwards" he smiled, "But why isn't it due on the 20th roll?"  "Because" I said, " you have to look at a slightly larger picture than one roll at a time. Louie, you don't need to know what the next number is, you only need to know how all the dice combinations fit together to form the game.  From there it's a matter of choosing the right method to use at the right time.  Looking at one roll at a time is a little like living one day at a time.  That approach may suit recovering alcoholics, and the severely aged, but I would rather live every day to it's fullest, but also plan ahead for short, medium and long term possibilities, projects, aspirations and ideals.  If you eat all of your seed-corn today, there will be nothing to harvest tomorrow." 

I went on to explain that if one roll means everything to you; then your short-sightedness will probably cost you dearly, and almost guarantees that you will be a long-term, medium-term and short-term loser.  Trying to out-guess Mother Nature is almost impossible.  I said, "Are you sure that you wouldn't rather learn Precision-Shooting?"  He politely declined with a terse, "Hell NO!"

Louie said that he learned everything that he knew from experience, and he did not subscribe to the superstitions that many players want random numbers and charting to prove.  I'm not sure what he thought his premonitions were, if not superstitions.  Still with all of that experience, he honestly didn't know why some bets offered greater long-term profit potential than others, or why higher payoffs on Proposition bets were outweighed by the greater risks.  I gave him a very rudimentary lesson that he absorbed very quickly.

Despite the lack of complete knowledge up until that point, Louie had been able to gain the intuition to gamble like a winner, but then had guessed wrong at some critical decision-junctions and paid a hefty price.  He had always abandoned logic at the wrong time, and taken to having his premonitions to guide him down a path of losses.  He showed me his charts, which we could partially cover to reveal one roll at a time.  With each new hand of dice, I would ask him what his bet would be.  He wrote his bet down and I did likewise.  At the end of each hand as shown on his chart, we would then compare notes.  Invariably my method showed about an 10% profit advantage over his on a warm or choppy series of hands.  When the dice on his Roll Chart went cold, my variations far outstripped his game by a wide margin.  On the hotter sections, they did the same thing.  I showed him a couple of variations that he could add to his already good approach.  We also discussed some highly risky moves that he selected which made his bankroll decline seriously.  I said that it was a good thing that it was only a paper loss.  He retorted that the losses had been real enough when they actually occurred to him at the tables when he originally marked the chart.

After about fifty minutes, and a second cup of that black nectar, he said, "I already use math to memorize payoffs.  But YOUR math gives me the KNOWLEDGE that there are legitimate reasons behind winning and losing strategies."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

When I next saw Louie, he was beyond happy.  He was ecstatic because the game was now a joy to him again.  He said that my one coffee-session with him renewed his confidence.  He said that he was now able to look at his charts to determine what to do next, as opposed to trying to figure out what number was supposed to be next.  He said that in adding confidence to his game, it kept him from getting nervous and making foolish, senseless bets so often at the tables.

He stated that he had always assumed that only dumb luck separated the winners from the losers, and that his premonitions were more reliable than the laws Mother Nature laid down to govern the entire universe.   He now understood that instead of fighting those laws, and trying to outguess Mother Nature, he could walk with her and her random numbers, hand in hand.

I replied that it's not nice to try and fool Mother Nature.  More often than not, she will turn around and make a fool out of YOU!  Louie was happy, and I needed a DRINK!

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

By: The Mad Professor

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