All successful gambling is based on one simple idea: making good bets at favorable odds. Assessing whether a bet is good or not involves knowing two key facts:
When the payoff odds are higher than the odds against your winning, you have a good bet. Over time, if you kept making the same bet, you would win money, although the fluctuations might be severe. When the payoff odds are lower than the odds against your winning, you have a bad bet. In time, if you keep making such bets, you will lose money.
As a simple example, suppose that someone offered to wager on the roll of a single fair die. You're willing to bet $1 that you can roll a six. He bets $6 that you can't. You eagerly take the bet, because it's slightly favorable for you. There are six possible outcomes, one which wins for you and five which lose. The odds against your winning are 5-to-l. But your payoff odds are 6-to-l-Since the payoff odds are higher, the bet is profitable for you. (In six average trials, you will lose $1 five times and win $6 once, for a net profit of $1, or almost 17 cents per trial.)
When you walk into a casino, you are confronted with an avalanche of possible bets, almost all of which are unfavorable. Although most people who frequent casinos are aware that they are betting against the odds, only a few really understand what that means. Casual players mostly imagine that they lose when
^y place a bet and it doesn't win, or that the games don't let faeta win often enough. Actually, that's not the case. If you bet on the number 22 on a roulette wheel, the number will hit, in the long run, exactly as often as it's supposed to (one time in 3 8), and when the number doesn't hit, the casino is perfectly fair — it takes all your money, just as it's supposed to. In fact, in a sense you lose only when you win. When number 22 actually hits, the casino pays you less than required for an even-money bet — 35-to-l instead of the even-money odds of 37-to-l. It's these tiny taxes on the winning bets that provide the casino with all its gambling profits.
When you walk through a casino into the poker room and sit down at a no-limit hold 'em tournament, the picture changes a bit. As the tournament goes on, you'll be confronted with a long string ofpossible bets. The good news is that some will be favorable and some will be unfavorable, but you get to skip the unfavorable ones and concentrate on the favorable ones. The bad news is that it Won't be obvious at first which is which. Figuring that out is up to jfou, but the information in this chapter will put you quite a bit ahead of most of the other players. Becoming a better player is really a matter of recognizing and making your favorable bets, while avoiding the unfavorable or break-even bets.
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