In our previous Introduction to Advantage Play article, we discussed some aspects of the, "Must-Hit," slot machines, and it occurred to me that I might be getting a bit ahead of myself with all of these articles.
The first thing that someone should do, when deciding whether or not to pursue Advantage Play, is a realistic self-appraisal of whether or not he/she should, in fact, even be an Advantage Player. This appraisal should be done regardless of whether one aspires to be a Professional Advantage Player, or a Recreational Advantage Player, but is doubtlessly more important for someone with full-time aspirations.
The first, and most important question to ask yourself, is whether or not you have the ability to walk away. The second, and closely related question, is whether or not you have a tendency to walk away too often.
Finishing Down, but Sticking Around...
There are really two cases when a failure to walk away when a play is finished can become a serious issue. The first case is when a play fails to come to fruition, or alternatively, is profitable, but not to such a degree that mathematical expectations (whether real or estimated) are met. Of course, this can involve both plays where one finishes ahead (but not as much as one would like) and where one finishes down. This can lead people to seeking out more marginal (or non-existent) advantages, or playing at a negative expectation to try to meet a win goal.
If you ask any Blackjack card counter worth his salt, he'll tell you that there should be no such thing as a, "Win goal," but rather, an, "Expected Value," goal. In other words, very few Blackjack players can guarantee that they'll have winning sessions, weeks, months, or even a winning year. Obviously, as the player continues to play at an advantage, and to bet with his advantage, the probability of winning becomes greater with the greater amount of time played and $$$'s in Expected Value gained.
This is really no different for slot AP's or any other type of AP. An AP has to realize that the purpose of Advantage Play is to go after positive Expected Value and to do so within bankroll limitations. Once you have lost, even at an advantage, if you revert to playing a negative expectation game in order to recoup, you're simply chasing bad money with good...but more importantly...you're reducing the positive expectation on your overall body of work.
That's where you really get hurt because, if you do that enough times, you may even go from an overall expectation of winning to an overall expectation of losing...and if you REALLY go nuts with it, the Odds will swing against you such that you may arrive at an overall NEAR CERTAINTY of losing.
Playing for fun at a negative expectation is a different matter altogether, I like Craps and Video Keno (for nickels) myself, but you have to, "Separate work from pleasure," in the sense that you are not using, "Just screwing around for some fun," as a justification for, "Chasing losses because my play didn't go well."
In fact, very few, if any players, are immune to Psychology. There is a certain degree of mental toughness that one must inherently possess to be successful at Advantage Play, to even an infinitesimal degree, but the Psychological impact of gambling will lead those who are weak of will to chase bigger wins, chase losses or gamble outside of the parameters of their bankroll.
This is meant to be a Warning, not a judgment. If I said I have never tried to chase losses or chase bigger wins at a negative expectation game, that would probably be the single biggest lie I've ever told in my life. However, I am cognizant of the fact that I can recognize and stop such behavior before it becomes a problem.
The easiest way, as I've said, is not to mix business with pleasure. Unless I happen across a play that would be, "Stupid for me not to take," I usually don't actively look for good slot plays if my original intention was just to have fun. Alternatively, after a positive play within my bankroll is over, if I am there for AP purposes, whether I've won or lost, I realize it is important to stop if there are no more good plays within my bankroll.
...But, Sometimes You Should Play Longer
One potential shortfall of someone aspiring to be an Advantage Player, which perhaps is not as devastating as chasing, is not, "Finishing the job," if I may.
A failure to finish a job can take a variety of forms, for example, let's consider a theoretical Advantage Play on a Video Poker or other Progressive:
Imagine that you have a Progressive play in which your expected profit, in $$$ terms, is $112 and it relies on hitting a result that pays $11xx.xx. These numbers are purely theoretical, illustrative, and are not based on any game in particular. If you have the bankroll for the play, then you should go after the play, but there is often a risk-averse tendency to walk away when a player is DOWN more than the amount that is to be hit even if the player gets the Progressive.
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT A SITUATION IN WHICH YOU SHOULD WALK AWAY!!!!
If you have the bankroll to continue playing, and there is not a better opportunity to be readily found, then you should absolutely continue playing! The Expected Value of any given play also includes the possibility of losing overall, however, what it does not include is not finishing the job because you would essentially then be playing a losing game by not achieving the Expected Value.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that you have likely added money to the Progressive in question, so even though you theoretically cannot profit on this particular play, you've actually INCREASED the value of continuing to play!!!
Another possibility is the player who is too eager to, "Leave ahead." Let's consider a must-hit slot machine in which a player is targeting a Minor that he finds at $49.22 and strongly believes to be positive:
Our theoretical player hits for a $200 win on some Bonus Games and he thinks to himself, "Shoot, I just won more than FOUR TIMES as much as my Expected Profit on the play, do I really want to finish this out for $50 when I could lose?"
Of course he should!!!
If it was an Advantage Play before he stuck any money in the machine, it's certainly an Advantage Play now. Furthermore, the overall return of the machine is such that the possibility of going up $200 courtesy of some Bonus Games is inherently calculated into the percentage. If the player were to leave now, then he leaves without REALIZING the Expected Value of the part of the play that MAKES it positive, and essentially, has done nothing more than win playing under what are, effectively, Negative Expectation parameters.
In short, "If it's good enough to play, it's good enough to stay."
And, again, these are things that I remind myself of routinely, and that's just as a Recreational Advantage Player. That slot machine situation is virtually the same as a situation I encountered. It's true that I ended up, "Giving back," $10 on that because I lost about $60 of that $200 and then hit the Minor Must-Hit at $49.7x, but staying was the correct decision.
I learned a decade ago that I don't have the mindset for No Limit Texas Hold 'Em cash games, unless I'm just doing it to have fun. To be brief and direct, Bad Beats pi$$ me right off...if I may be so bold. When I suffer a bad beat, I have a tendency of (internally) losing my temper, when I lose my temper, I have a tendency to stop playing. When I stop playing, it's usually at a table I thought I could beat.
Why is that?
The reason is because if you're getting people all-in mostly in situations in which you have the superior hand, generally speaking, you're playing superior poker. In contrast, if I am losing all-ins that I am mathematically expected to lose, then I am going all-in with a weaker hand than my opponent, and he is probably playing superior poker. Again, generally speaking.
Of course, losing with a worse hand doesn't bother me because that is what is expected to happen in that situation.
Unfortunately, the combination of getting steamed about losing with superior hands and being apathetic about losing with worse hands results in walking away from tables that I should be able to beat and sticking around at tables that should beat me.
In other words, a negative expectation game.
As any good Advantage Player will tell you, short-term results are irrelevant and Expectation is only Expected to approach actuality in the long-run. Sessions, weeks, months and even years are subject to fluctuations.
Some people are predisposed to overstaying their welcome, for one reason or another, while some people are predisposed to leaving the party too early. I would suggest that most people are predisposed to one thing or another.
Do you have the will to realize that Expectation is just that and to overcome Psychological predispositions combined with the Psychological rush you get from gambling?
If Expected Value were anything greater than Expected, it would be called Certainty. I expect to wake up tomorrow, I think any doctor would say he expects that I should wake up tomorrow, but it doesn't mean I absolutely will.