I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When to quit

My local paper has a poker column on Sundays, and today's column was about when a poker player should quit playing.  This is a question I see discussed a lot on blackjack forums, and is something I am often asked about by civilians.  The correct answer is going to depend on several factors, but first a couple stories.

When Atlantic City first opened there was a period of time where the blackjack game offered an advantage off the top for a basic strategy player.  Many professionals were there playing including Alan Woods who is profiled in Gambling Wizards. One day Alan reached some arbitrary winning number, like he was up $30,000 or $50,000 for the day, and he decided to quit playing.  What made this unusual is that he was in the middle of a shoe with a high count, meaning he had a bigger than normal advantage.  Other card counters teased Alan for years about quitting in the middle of a positive shoe.  They looked at this as some kind of voodoo since professionals should look at all gambling as one long session, and your results over a given day, or week don't matter.  You have to think about it in terms of your result over a year, or many years. Alan's justification was that  leaving a positive shoe was no big deal since positive shoes were everywhere.  He has reached a personal goal that made him happy, and playing out the rest of the shoe for another hundred or two in ev. was not worth the emotional risk of losing back several thousand.  It's not a choice I would have made, but I understand his reasoning.

Story 2: I went on a trip with a friend, and we hit a casino at noon for a very good game which we played for 8 hours.  The shift was changing, and we drove to another casino, found another very good game and played another straight 8 hours.  At the end of swing shift he said, "You know, there is an even better game on graveyard." I had to decline.  16 straight hours was my limit.  I felt like Alan; there is always a good game somewhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You have to decide what kind of life you want to live. I didn't quit because I had won a certain amount of money, I quit because I was tired.

Story 3: I leave on a trip from Wednesday to Sunday.  I call my wife on Friday and say we're up 20k so far.  She says, "Quit playing.  Come home."  Now that is voodoo, and she knows when she says it that it will never happen, but it has become kind of a running gag between us. Similarly, if I call on Sunday morning and say I am losing she will say, "Don't come home."

These are the reasons I will end a play.

  1. The conditions have deteriorated such that I think the game is no longer worth playing, 
  2. I get fatigued and feel my ability to play well is diminished.
  3. I feel like there is heat on the play that may cause me to be barred or the casino may figure out what I am doing.
  4. I am close to triggering a CTR.  (Not because I am worried about CTRs but because it would mean having to give the casino my ID.)
  5. I winning an amount that I think is a choke-point for that casino. Every casino has an amount that if a player gets that much ahead the casino manager has to be called, and management starts freaking out. At the Wynn that amount might be $100k whereas at Harrahs it might be $20k.  I don't want to win over that number.
  6. I am still alert but I have put in enough hours and want to eat or sleep.
If you are not playing with an advantage, say you just like to go to your local casino or Vegas to gamble. Then you should realize that the less you play the better it is for you.  Look for reasons not to play. I read some craps system that advised waiting for a shooter on the craps table to make at least 5 rolls before you start betting on him.  Well this is great because those 5 rolls with no bets are saving you money. If you must gamble with a disadvantage then have a set amount you are willing to lose and don't go below it.  Come up with rules to sit out hands at blackjack, like - I always sit out a hand after being dealt 16. The more rules you have not to make a bet the better it will be for you.

One more story - On a recent trip I was playing with a partner.  We played for 2 days, did very well, and won what I think was a significant amount at that particular casino.  The third day we both had late flights, and had to decide whether to play the third morning.  I decided not to play, and let my partner play it alone. I thought it would look odd for both of us to show up again on the same table 3 days in a row.  I thought it would be better for both of us in the long run, and it gave me time to go scout another casino before my flight. He played and picked up an extra thousand or two in ev. but I'm happy with our decision.

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