A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I know you don’t like the double-up systems where you keep doubling your bet after losses until you win. What if you do the opposite and keep doubling wins? Isn’t betting more when you’re playing with house money the way to go?
A. I never look at it as playing with house money. Any money I win is mine. If I choose to play with it, that’s OK, and if I choose to leave the casino and take the money home, that’s OK too.
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Doubling after wins or systematically increasing your bets in any way after wins is called a “betting progression,” usually used on bets with even-money payoffs such as red or black at roulette, blackjack (not including blackjacks) or the player bet at baccarat.
Most progressions do not double the bet after every bet because when a loss comes, it would leave no profit.
Instead, most progressions hold back a little after each win. One conservative win might start with a $10 bet, then add $5 after each win. After a $10 win, you’d bet $15, then $20, $25 and so on.
If you have a nice winning streak, the results can be spectacular. Win six in a row in the system above and you win $10, $15, $20, $25, $30 and $35 for a total of $135. If your bets were a flat $10, winning six in a row would leave your profit at $60.
However, if you don’t string several wins together, progressions can leave you with losses when you would have won or broken even, or smaller wins instead of larger.
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If you win at $10 and lose at $15, you have a net loss of $5 instead of breaking even on two $10 bets. If you win at $10 and $15 and lose at $20, you have a net profit of $5, but if you won twice and lost once all at $10, you’d have a profit of $10.
None of the changes in bet size alters the house edge. If you’re betting red/black in roulette with a house edge of 5.26 percent, then the edge is 5.26 percent on every play.
If your progression means you’re betting more money than you would with flat bets, then the house edge is applied to a larger bet total, meaning on the average, you’ll lose more money. If you bet $10 per roulette spin for 100 spins, you risk $1,000 and your average loss is $52.60. But if the progressions leads you to average $15 per spin, then you risk $1,500 and your average loss is $78.90.
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Progression bettors should consider a lower beginning bet than they’d make if they were flat betting. Someone who would normally bet $10 per spin or hand when flat betting should consider starting a progression at $5.
In any case, progressions aren’t a magic wand. The good times may be really good, but overall, there’s a cost.
Q. Elvis slots used to be from IGT, and now they’re from WMS. How does something like that happening, a big title moving to a major competitor?
A. Licenses are negotiated for a limited time, and at the end of the contract, if the parties allow the license to expire, other companies are free to negotiate for the rights.
We’ve seen the same thing happen with other titles, such as I Love Lucy — a IGT slot in the 1990s but with a license now held by WMS/Scientific Games. WMS also had Game of Life slots several years after Atronic Gaming. A game may reach the end of its shelf life with a manufacturer, but others still see elements they think would be fun for players. So, new licenses are negotiated.