A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. I don’t know how you can deny that streaks are real. When I win five hands in a row in blackjack, I’ve had a hot streak. When I lose five in a row, I’ve had a cold streak. Both of those things have happened to me lots of times.
The same thing happens on the slots. I’ve won a lot of money in a short time on a hot streak, and I’ve had a machine so cold I didn’t win anything until I lost too much and decided to move.
It seems to me that any talk about the games that doesn’t include hot streaks and cold streaks completely misses the boat.
A. You seem to have confused statements that streaks aren’t predictive and taken that to mean streaks aren’t real.
No one denies that hot streaks and cold streaks are real in any casino game. They happen, and they are a natural outgrowth of probability and the odds of the games.
Streaks are not only possible, they are inevitable.
However, streaks are not predictive. Hot games do not have to stay hot and cold games don’t have to stay cold.
One thing analysts say about games is that all streaks are in the past. You can say a game has been hot, but not that it IS hot, because you don’t know what’s coming next. The streak could continue, but the most likely outcome is that the game performs at normal levels going forward from any point.
Streaks are obviously real. They just don’t give us any kind of guide to how the game is likely to pay off going forward.
Q. What do you think of this craps system my father-in-law uses. He’s a Dark Side player from way back, so he bets don’t pass. Then he lays odds if the point is 4, 5, 9 or 10.
If the point is 6 or 8, then he skips the odds. He reasons that 6 and 8 are the numbers that favor the shooter, so he wants to stay off those and keep his bet to the minimum.
A. Don’t pass players are the favorites to win whenever a point is established. That includes 6 and 8.
The danger period for Dark Siders is on the comeout, where they have only three ways to win and eight ways to lose. They’re winners on the one way to make 2 and the two ways to make 3, and losers on the six ways to make 7 and two ways to make 11.
Once they get past the comeout, they’re going to win more often than not.
They win less often on 6 or 8 than on other numbers. Given three ways to make 4 and six ways to make 7, don’t pass bettors will win 67 percent of the time when 4 is the point. The same goes for 10.
With 5 or 9, don’t bettors have six ways to win and four ways to lose, so they’ll win 60 percent of the time.
The percentage drops on 6 or 8, with five ways to lose on either. On those numbers, don’t bettors win 55 percent of the time.
All that is reflected in the lay odds payoffs. On 4 or 10, laying odds means winning bets pay $1 for every $2 wagered, while payoffs are $2 for every $3 wagered on 5 or 9 and $5 per $6 wagered on 6 or 8. The result is there is no house edge on laying odds, just as there is no house edge on taking odds for “right” bettors.