About a year or so ago I happened to stop at a yard sale and noticed a copy of Casino Gambling The Smart Way, which was written by Andrew N.S. Glazer. (254p.---including glossary and index)
Some of you might recognize the name, “Andy Glazer,” and would perhaps best know him as a poker player and poker writer who would often report on the World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, in July of 2004, Andy Glazer would pass on, at the age of 48, as a result of complications from a blood clot.
I honestly would have recognized the name, “Andy Glazer,” if it had been the accreditation on this book, but because it wasn’t, I failed to make the connection...even though he does mention some of his experiences with poker in the book.
For the purpose of this review I am going to give the book two separate scores:
1.) Usefulness Today:
-It goes without saying that this book is not going to hold up in every aspect as there are different games out now as well as various information to be found, for free, on the WizardofOdds sites. There are also going to be strategy calculators and the like (also often free) that wouldn’t have existed at the time. With that, I expect some aspects of this book to be a bit dated, but it’s going to be tough to recommend a book that isn’t at all useful.
2.) Context Rating:
-The Copyright of this book is 1999 by a company called Casino Conquests International, so that’s kind of the date context of this book. The purpose context of this book is that it is meant to be a guide for recreational players and does NOT purport to be an advantage play publication.
-With that, I will rate this book also on how well I think it should have been received in 1999. My general idea for this rating is that not everyone would have the Internet, so chances are, this would be a gambling book owned by someone who went to a Barnes and Noble (or something) in advance of a Las Vegas or Atlantic City trip and only has one or two gambling books.
The next section will be chapter-by-chapter breakdowns of the book, but if you can’t decide whether or not you want to read that, feel free to skip to the, “Overall thoughts,” section and then decide.
With that, let’s get to it:
The first thing that I notice is that the title is, “Casino Gambling the Smart Way---How to Make More Money and Have More Fun in Any Game You Choose.” Naturally, the title and subtitles are meant to be catchy and appealing, but it should go without saying that this book does not purport to teach someone how to make money in every single game.
In the introduction, Glazer opens by making clear that this is a book intended for recreational players. In his opinion, other publications have been, “Written by professionals for other professionals,” and are often too math-heavy or demanding to be practically useful to recreational players. Glazer suggests that other books go too far the opposite way and are ridiculously simple, or alternatively, just contain information that is flatly wrong.
Glazer details that he wanted his book to be called, “Casino Self-Defense,” but the publisher wanted a title with a focus on winning---so they eventually went back-and-forth and reached the current compromise title. Glazer basically admits that he doesn’t love the title, but if it’s necessary to get anyone to even read the book in the first place, then it’s a necessary evil that the word, ‘Winning,’ be dropped.
One page later, Glazer points out that the House Edge is immutable and that this book will not actually make anyone a winner, but it could help people lose less over the long run. He says that following the advice in the book will turn gambling into a cost-effective hobby akin to others, such as scuba-diving. That’s actually a strange comparison because it’s not as if everyone could have hopped on Google back then to see how much scuba diving costs...seems like a bit of a niche comparison.
Glazer concludes the Introduction by discussing his only gambling background which consists of roughly thirty years of casino play, putting himself through college by playing Blackjack, making a living playing Baccarat and two years of playing poker full-time. For those who don’t know, Glazer was personal friends with Phil Hellmuth, and that helped him get his start reporting on WSOP events. At the time the book was published, Glazer had abandoned professional play to focus on gambling writing and conducting seminars.
In the preface, Glazer offers some interesting commentary on how the casinos essentially use education for the purpose of extraction when they offer the television programs (usually in-room) or live lessons (mainly meaning Table Games) to teach people how to play. Basically, Glazer suggests that the casinos teach the players just enough to get them to think they have some idea how to play properly, but the hidden purpose is to get them to ultimately lose all of their money, but just slowly enough that they believe they had a chance.
In his opinion, players might otherwise lose too quickly by making awful bets or playing games (such as Blackjack) with abysmal strategies, then as a result, will never want to gamble again.
Anyway, Glazer ultimately turns this argument into a promotion of the very book that the reader is already reading, as he says he is not sponsored or promoted in any real way by the industry itself.
Overall, I would say that Glazer’s argument is valid only to the extent that it equates to, “Take gambling advice with a grain of salt.” Ultimately, a mathematical proposition is either true or untrue, regardless of where it comes from. With that, just because a casino is offering such lessons doesn’t necessarily mean that the lessons are bad.
For example, Bob Dancer offers Video Poker lessons at the South Point and I am sure his lessons are both fantastic and mathematically 100% accurate. That doesn’t mean that everyone in there will be able to successfully apply what they are taught, (or remember all the proper strategies) but that doesn’t mean that the lessons are themselves invalid.
With that, I agree with Glazer to the extent of, “Consider the source,” but a statement is either valid or it isn’t, regardless of the source. These sites, for example, advertise for online casinos, but that doesn’t mean that anyone working for the sites would knowingly publish incorrect information on games. If nothing else, I spend a lot of time trying to convince people NOT to use betting systems, online or otherwise, unless they are doing it strictly for fun with money they can afford to lose.
Chapter 1 begins by comparing the relationship between player and casino to a boxing match featuring a champion (the casino) going up against a huge underdog (the player). In this comparison, Glazer suggests that the player should, “Bob and weave,” as the player will get knocked out if he tries to go into a toe-to-toe fight.
Ultimately, this comparison really just boils down to money management and not spending too much time trading punches with the casino. Glazer suggests, if the player hits a big win or a good series of results, take a break; and if the player loses, take a break.
He also suggests playing at a casino until a player has won or lost a particular amount and then switching casinos until that same particular amount is won or lost. There are three reasons that I don’t particularly like this advice:
- While a player should never, “Play for comps,” I also don’t think it’s advisable to play in such a way that makes getting comped in the future (or for the current trip) much less likely. If a casino is switching where they play all the time, that player still plays with a certain Average Daily Theoretical loss overall, but from each individual casino’s perspective, the player doesn’t have much of an ADT to speak of. For that reason, I would say that taking this advice might detract from the value that a player might otherwise get for his action.
- If the House Edge on the games is the same (particularly true for Table Games), then taking a break is taking a break---but when the player does go back to playing, it doesn’t matter at all where the player is playing. While taking a break (psychologically) can be a good idea and doing stuff in town other than gamble is also a good thing to do, there’s no mathematically relevant reason to play at different places.
- The House Edge relative to total action is the Expected Loss no matter how you cut it. Ultimately, this advice just boils down to, “Don’t gamble until you lose all your money and don’t necessarily spend all of your time gambling,” which is perfectly fine advice, but again, as long as you are not doing that, then it doesn’t matter where you play when you do play.
Glazer also points out that this method will enable a player to play at many different casinos without losing a lot (loss limit) at any one casino, but again, that has nothing to do with a player’s total expectation relative to his action. You can lose $100 at one table just as easily as you can lose $50 at two different tables.
The premise of Chapter 2 is to not try to impress people around you by making big bets as it just exposes more money to the House Edge and there will usually be someone else betting bigger than you can afford, anyway.
Glazer says that trying to impress the dealer is pointless because the dealer probably mostly won’t notice, doesn’t care and has almost certainly seen bigger action than yours.
He says that there’s no reason to try to impress other players, whether you know them or not, as unknown players will only be impressed with you if you win, anyway. He also indicates that they might often be people of the opposite sex that you might not want to attract---basically, he’s skirting around saying that you’re going to largely be attracting prostitutes, or people who will feign interest to try to get to some of your money.
Finally, he says that a player should not bet big to impress himself or herself.
Obviously, I agree with all of this advice, but consider it mostly pointless. My view is simply mathematical in that, if you’re playing a negative expectation game to begin with, then you should bet as low as you can tolerate...if your concern is expected loss.
Chapter 3 is mainly just about trying to do very little or no gambling if that is not the primary purpose of your vacation, such as a visit to Lake Tahoe (his example), or something. He says that sustaining a massive loss on a vacation that didn’t even have the primary purpose of gambling can ruin the entire vacation. If the primary purpose is gambling, then Glazer still suggests (even more so in future chapters) to stick to a daily or session loss limit.
In Chapter 4, Glazer suggests not adopting a losing attitude by thinking of a daily or trip bankroll as, “Money that you brought to lose.” While Glazer favors setting daily or trip loss limits, he suggests that players shouldn’t think of it as money that they, “Brought to lose,” and should instead favor the bets that give them the best chance to win. I don’t have a big objection to this section, though I don’t think that anyone goes to Vegas (or any casino) with a certain bankroll and literally plans for the only result to be losing that entire amount.
Chapter 5 begins by discussing when a player should begin playing when arriving in town or at the casino. Glazer states that players only coming for a day, or for a few hours, are pretty much stuck playing right away...but for those on a vacation of multiple days, he says that they should make sure they are well-rested and sharp. I have no real problem with this advice, though I will say that not everyone is going to be tired by virtue of having just arrived...just in general, it’s not a good idea for recreational players to play when they are too tired, or drunk, as it lends itself to chasing losses and perhaps playing worse when it comes to games with Optimal Strategies.
Interestingly, Glazer suggests that this advice doesn’t apply to slot players, quoting from Page 44:
If you’re a slot player, this warning isn’t quite as important, because slot play doesn’t lend itself to sudden plunges, foolish bets, or mistakes in play, but I like the idea of reminding yourself that you can stop or start anytime you want.
I feel like this is written from the perspective of someone who has never played slots and never really spent any time talking to, or observing, slot players. Of course there are sudden plunges!!! The variance of most slot games (even back then) is off the charts compared to, say, making a Pass Line bet at Craps. Slot players can often find themselves in, “The Zone,” where they are seemingly transfixed and almost seem not to care about losses; finally, slot players may attempt to recoup losses, “Chasing,” by moving to higher denominations than they can afford.
Anyway, I don’t know where he gets the idea that this advice wouldn’t apply to slot players. I think it would almost apply to slot players more than anyone.
Chapter 6 is dedicated to tearing apart the Martingale, and my only disagreement with this chapter is he refers to it as, “...one of the oldest and worst betting systems known to man or woman…,” with my disagreement being that the Martingale is built around achieving a specific goal (high probability of success in an individual trial) and that, relative to house edge, the system is no better or worse than any other.
The main downside to the Martingale is the high amount of risk (per trial) for a small potential reward, but it certainly doesn’t change the House Edge, or anything. The remaining arguments against the Martingale in this chapter are standard fare.
Chapter 7 relates to an Uncle of Glazer’s who felt that he had an unbeatable system, but it turned out that his, “System,” was simply Pass Line and Continuous Come-Betting with full odds. That’s obviously the best way to play in terms of Expected Loss relative to total action (or nearly the best, anyway), but it’s not a system, per se. The uncle claimed to have twenty consecutive winning trips with total winnings of over 50k.
Ultimately, the uncle would go on to lose all of that (and a lot more) over the next three years. The uncle was surprised by this development, though Glazer was not. Basically, Chapter 7 could be summed up with the old saying, “Losing is only the second-worst thing that can happen to a first-time gambler.”
Glazer also makes an excellent observation that playing using a system is not necessarily a problem, but believing that the system is a winning one is the real problem. So far, I consider this Chapter the most useful in the entire book as the first five were just on Money Management...and I don’t think his advice on playing at a bunch of different casinos is even good advice.
Chapter 8 contains a few interesting personal anecdotes, but nothing particularly useful, in my opinion.
Chapter 9 offers some more anecdotes that are geared towards educating people on the concept of trials of a particular thing being independent and past results being in no way indicative of future results. After the anecdotes unrelated to gambling, Glazer gives a good example of two Roulette players---one who waits for three consecutive red results and bets on the streak to continue and the other player who bets on Black expecting the streak to not go to four. Glazer notes that both players are committing the same logical fallacy, despite the fact that it causes them to do things that are totally opposite each other.
He should have pointed out, as I will, that a 0 or 00 (or even a 000 these days) will still cause both players to lose!
He then gives a few examples of, “Dependent,” streaks, such as a salesman who continues to have good days because he is more at ease...or a baseball team on a hot streak who has a lot of confidence. I don’t think the baseball example is that great because the team on the winning streak could simply be playing subpar teams, or teams where the pitchers matchup against the opposing batters particularly well. I’d consider a baseball team’s winning streak only semi-dependent, if at all.
Either way, I think bringing, “Dependent,” streaks into the equation at all, which, by necessity, don’t really relate to gambling games...kind of clouds the issue for those who aren’t naturally inclined to be logically-minded. I think it would be best if this section just explained the concept of trials being independent without trying to get too creative about it.
He also suggests never making huge bets or changing the amount of the bets being made during a losing streak expecting the streak to turn around. While I agree with him that, “Breaking the streak,” is not a good reason for making such a bet...perhaps a player considers it a worthy risk to try to get back to even in one hand (or a few hands) as opposed to continuing to flat bet; in that instance, there’s no reason not to increase the bet other than the fact that it’s a negative expectation game in the first place.
In other words, if a player is flat-betting $10 on Red or Black on Roulette and is currently down $100, and wants to get back to even in one outcome, the player can’t do that by continuing to flat bet $10. Now, I grant that the player should not increase the bet counting on a streak to break, but there might be other reasons that the player wants to increase the bet.
This section will begin with Chapter Ten as that starts Part Three of the book subtitled, “Know Thyself.”
Chapter 10 focuses on the concept of, “Rationalizations,” and contains a few anecdotes related to people rationalizing that they are, “Winning,” gamblers as opposed to losing ones. These might include such things as, “If you don’t count the night that I was drunk,” or, “If you don’t count that one really bad session,” and things like that.
I agree with Glazer, of course, that your net results are just your net results and that’s why it’s good to keep an honest accounting of them---that way you’re not convincing yourself that you’re a winning gambler when the opposite is true. That said, it doesn’t escape my attention that we’re more than 25% of the way through the text and Glazer hasn’t even begun to meaningfully discuss strategies for any casino games yet.
My concern with this is that some readers of this book might have, by now, given up on actually learning anything about playing the games.
Chapter 11 involves a test that has to do with risk tolerance, but I’m not going to go into detail on it because this review should at least leave something for you to have to read on your own. Interestingly, I see this test as good only for maybe assessing whether you are too risk-averse as an advantage player and don’t see what practical function it has for recreational gamblers. If you’re gambling at a negative expectation to begin with, then in my opinion, the more risk-averse you are, the better.
Chapter 12 begins by discussing the relativity of money (or the perception of relativity) and compares the cost difference of a new home of $400 as being seen as insignificant compared to a price range of $0.50-$400.50 for a pack of chewing gum. Obviously, that difference in home prices would often be seen as negligible whereas a $400.50 pack of chewing gum seems objectively ridiculous. Of course, that also has something to do with value perception, not just relativity of money.
However, Glazer follows this comparison by introducing the BEST CONCEPT IN THIS ENTIRE BOOK, which he calls, “Misery Indifference.”
Essentially, Glazer uses, “Misery Indifference,” to refer to a state of mind in which the player is down so much that the player no longer cares what happens. Glazer suggests that this is how many players either bust out, or at a minimum, lose a lot more money than they were even planning to risk on a particular casino visit or trip. In other words, Glazer suggests that losses can eventually reach such a point that the player simply doesn’t care if he loses even more money.
Obviously, the answer that Glazer offers is to simply recognize those feelings and choose to discontinue gambling until you’re in a clearer mind state.
Personally, I consider that to be pretty strong advice as there is no reason for a player to allow a bad situation to become even worse. When in doubt, take a break. He suggests as little as ten minutes, but in my opinion, if you can’t get the notion of, “Getting my money back,” off your mind, then you should probably stop gambling for the remainder of that trip. Recreational players, in my opinion, should never approach a game with the mindset that they must win or recoup a particular amount of money, and if circumstances do have you thinking that way, then the best thing you can do is just stop.
Chapter 13 is also heavily focused on money management and promotes setting daily win and loss goals. The first notion presented is to set win goals of $100/day, otherwise, loss limits for a day of $200/day. His reasoning is that it is mathematically more likely that you will win $100 (or be ahead) more often than losing $200, so you will leave more sessions having achieved your goal than failed.
In my opinion, I’m not a huge fan of setting win limits or loss limits for an individual day (unless you have no personal discipline whatsoever, but if that’s the case, you should simply never gamble at all) because that’s really not much different than having a money management system. If you’re ahead and want to go enjoy some of your winnings elsewhere, then you should stop playing for the time being. If you’re losing (while I do agree with having a, “Stop Loss,” for a day or trip) and aren’t having fun anymore, then similarly, you should quit.
If you’re disciplined, then whether you’re ahead of behind, you’ll be able to stop playing for a time simply because you don’t feel like playing anymore.
Alternatively, one thing that I might be able to get behind is, in addition to a loss limit, set a finite time limit that you will spend gambling in a day and stick to that.
Why a time limit? The first reason is that, while I do think recreational players should set a, “Stop Loss,” I see no reason that players should confine themselves to a binary of WIN X or LOSE Y in the first place. If you set a, “Win Goal,” of $500, but are only up $200 and don’t really feel like playing anymore, then just stop playing. Even if you don’t hit your time limit for the day and feel like quitting, then just go ahead and quit.
Essentially, I don’t think that recreational players should create a hard cap on winnings for a, “Session,” or any sort of amount that they must win in order to be, “Allowed,” to quit. If you’re playing a negative expectation game, then losing is what you expect to happen and ANY winning session is perfectly fine if you have had your fun and don’t feel like playing anymore.
Chapter 14 is the first mathematically substantive chapter in the entire book...and we’re already well over a third of the way through. This chapter is devoted to discussing the, “Whittle down,” effect and describes how the House Edge plays out in the long run.
Glazer goes on to explain the relationship between house edge, average bet and number of rounds played and how those things work together to result in an expected loss. Glazer explains that you will almost never lose precisely to the tune of mathematical expectation and how (using Roulette as an example) it is impossible to do so in a single trial.
Chapter 15 gets back into more subjective territory and includes a little quiz by which players can purportedly identify their main reasons for taking the trip, their gambling goals and how they can come up with a plan to best maximize their trip.
Interestingly, Glazer suggests playing slots if a player’s goal is to try for a big win, even though he preaches, “House Edge,” throughout most of the book. While systems do not change the probabilities or mathematical expectation of a bet, I’m surprised not to see Glazer instead advocate for a Reverse Martingale (or some other pressing strategy) on a lower House Edge Table Game as opposed to playing slots. Glazer also suggests Live Keno for fantasizing about a huge potential win for its slow rate of play, despite the fact that he acknowledges the very high House Edge.
Chapter 16 advises players to be wary of, “Day Trips,” to casinos as it is Glazer’s apparent opinion that people will have more difficulty quitting during a losing session if they know they won’t be gambling again for awhile. In Las Vegas, Glazer contends, it’s easier for players to quit because they can, “Get them the next day.”
In my opinion, this advice is patently nonsensical. Why would what Glazer is saying about day trips to casinos NOT apply to the last night of a Las Vegas trip? He includes a personal anecdote of getting slaughtered during a poker session that he didn’t want to leave as it would be a long drive back and he wouldn’t have felt he got his, “Money’s worth,” which seems like a problem that has more to do with him individually than anything else.
The one piece of advice I like for day trips is to have a backup plan for something else in the area to do if the gambling isn’t going entirely well. I like this advice simply because a player should quit anytime that the player is no longer having fun.
I don’t think it matters where you are or how long you’re there---if you are miserable, I think you’re simply more likely to gamble recklessly. Your instinct should always be to walk away as soon as you aren’t enjoying your experience.
Chapter 17 begins Part 4, “A Winning Frame of Mind,” which already seems like what every other Chapter of the book (barring Chapter 14) has already been talking about. Chapter 17 basically starts out by talking about how, “The Lottery Sucks,” and how, even though players are (theoretically) betting only small amounts on each outcome, that it adds up over time.
Chapter 18 moves on to describe what it considers, “Realistic longshots,” and again, Glazer starts advocating for Keno and explains how buying a 10 spot ticket with a big jackpot is better than buying one where a player must hit 14 of 15.
Interestingly enough, Glazer discusses how unlikely hitting an 18,000,000 to 1 shot is, but somehow doesn’t realize that hitting a 10 out of 10 in Keno is not that much more likely. Specifically, using this calculator, you’ll see that the odds are more than 8.9 million to one against...personally, I don’t think that’s meaningfully more likely than a lottery jackpot.
While Live Keno has a lower House Edge than the lottery, it also plays faster than the lottery. Players playing Live Keno for only a few hours (based on twenty draws per hour) will face the same expected ($$$) loss as playing the lottery for several weeks assuming they only buy one ticket per week.
With that, Glazer returns the discussion to slot machines as well as playing in Casino Tournaments. Again, whether or not this is a good idea would depend on how much the casino is raking from the tournament entries, so I don’t like this as blanket advice. The one good point that Glazer makes is that the amount to be lost is at least fixed, of course, a disciplined player can fix his loss to whatever he wants to at any game.
Only at the end of this Chapter does Glazer get into ways to hit the, “Big Score,” that have the lowest House Edge and highest probability of achieving a certain result---pressing winnings or, as he says, “Letting it ride,” which is really just the Reverse Martingale. While we obviously don’t recommend that as a gambling system (because we don’t recommend ANY gambling system) that’s usually going to be one of your more likely means of achieving a huge score with a high probability of losing and low probability of profit on any given trial.
I don’t even mind him talking about Keno so much, except there should be an aside where Glazer explains to players how they can avoid some of the worst casino games. Even in 1999, the tools needed to calculate the house edge for a straight Keno game were available, so it’s just multiply probability x by return y and then add them all together and subtract from one.
Chapter 19 basically amounts to, “Don’t play for comps,” but he does say something interesting on Page 115 with, “If you’re going to play anyway, then accepting comps makes a lot of sense…” which is true, but that’s also why switching casinos a ton doesn’t make sense...which is what he advocates for earlier in the book.
In other words, I agree that players shouldn’t, “Play for comps,” but that doesn’t mean that player should play in a way that might reduce the comps that they are going to be offered. Remember, from your perspective, your ADT is just your expected loss on your total in action, but from the casino’s perspective, it’s only your expected loss at their casino (or, sometimes, group of casinos)...for obvious reasons. MGM doesn’t care what you lost at CET.
Chapter 20 is mostly about planning gambling trips and trying to decide gambling budgets. In this chapter, Glazer looks at other entertainment options that have a known cost and suggests that a trip that is going to include gambling should work the same way. In this chapter, Glazer also questions whether or not taking a gambling trip is worth it for a person---but chances are (in the context of 1999) people are buying this book to read in-flight and are already on their way to Las Vegas.
Chapter 21 just takes a long time to say that casinos in highly competitive areas will often have better odds, promotions and offers than casinos with no competition. Not that Glazer could have known it at the time, but with so many Mega-Casino corporations out there now, that’s not even always true anymore. For one thing, at least the local casinos with hotels around me don’t charge a Resort Fee.
Chapter 22, in my opinion, is really weird. Basically, Glazer looks at a hypothetical player who wins $5,000 during six trips of the year and loses $5,000 during the other six trips. Correctly, Glazer states that the player is even on gambling for the year.
Where Glazer’s analysis goes totally off the rails is that he then states that a player who goes out and spends some of the winnings, for the purpose of an example he uses $2,000 each time, hasn’t actually broken even...but has rather lost $12,000 for the year.
Anyway, this analysis is simply terrible. If a player has decided that he/she has a gambling budget of $5,000, per trip, then returning on any trip with more money than they left with is a good trip. The main reason that this analysis is terrible is because money won gambling is money won gambling and money lost gambling is just money lost gambling---spending your winnings doesn’t mean that you have now, “Lost,” that money.
Here’s a really funny paragraph:
Although there are many different kinds of expensive goods and services available in Las Vegas, the easiest and most common way to blow those winnings is with more gambling. Big winners tend to make less discriminating bets than players up or down a little. A solid Craps player starts betting all the Hardways. A blackjack-only player starts experimenting with Caribbean Stud. A $1 slot player decides to try the Roulette Tables. It happens.
This is another of many times in this book that Glazer promotes $1 slots as being this great game in terms of return...and it makes no goddamn sense. Even if $1 denomination slots returned better in 1999, that’s no reason to believe that every individual $1 slot machine returns particularly well, as legally, they can return as low as 75% in Las Vegas.
He makes it sound like Roulette has an automatically worse House Edge than whatever slot machine the player was playing...and that’s simply not automatically true. It’s especially not true if we are talking about single-zero Roulette, but even double-zero may well be better than a randomly selected $1 slot machine.
Chapter 23 focuses on using one’s intuition for decisions that don’t mathematically matter. I don’t really feel like breaking this chapter down, so I’ll borrow this paragraph:
What kind of situations? I’m okay with using intuition for picking the right Blackjack table, making a decision in the complete absence of data or deciding when to leave a casino. I think we all take in a lot of information at a subconscious level, and where our science fails us, our subconscious might be able to help.
Well...no. The first thing to consider is that the two Blackjack tables might have different rules, so that’s the first thing that a player will want to know before picking a Blackjack table. If a player knows that the rules and limits are the same, then sure, intuition away.
“Making a decision in the complete absence of data,” must be what he is doing when he advocates for $1 denomination slot machines so frequently in this book. His data might be referring to average slot returns at that particular denomination, but that doesn’t tell him jack S^%& about what an individual machine is set at.
As far as leaving a casino, it’s funny he should say that, because he spent nearly the first 25% of this book advocating for win and loss limits at one casino and then switching to a different one. Which one is it?
Mercifully, Chapter 24 begins Part 5, “Advice for Specific Situations and Games,” which we are only now getting into more than halfway through the book. I would think that many of the individuals to purchase this book skipped directly to this section, or if not, probably did so by Chapter 3, or so.
Chapter 24 begins with some general slot machine analysis and discusses the difference (remember, 1999) of what I call machines with, “Perfectly-graduated payouts,” per coin bet and machine where a substantially greater jackpot (relative to bet) can be had by betting max coins. Other than that, just some stuff that machines with high jackpots (such as Megabucks) generally have worse overall returns and that, all else being apparently equal, players should play progressive machines (if at all) choosing the one with the highest jackpot.
Chapter 25 continues focusing on slot machines and discusses the differences between that and Video Poker. Glazer suggests that Video Poker is better overall (generally correct) and that a player can become competent with 2-3 hours of study...the latter claim I consider a bit shaky. I think it takes at least 2-3 hours to become proficient at a specific paytable for a game that you already have the basics down for. This is where I’d also usually want to see a few VP holding strategies as I think they were available, even in the late-90’s.
Glazer suggests considering bankroll when choosing a denomination, which is reasonably good advice. True House Edge purists might take a $1,000 bankroll and play a 99% slot at $500/spin rather than a dollar denomination machines that returns 95% at $3 per spin...but I tend to think casino visitors won’t have a great time should they happen to lose their entire gambling budget for the trip in two decisions.
Besides that, the Expected Loss on a $500 spin for a slot machine that has a House Edge of 1% is $5, which is more than you’re even betting in a spin on the $1 (assuming single-line) machine.
Later on in the chapter, Glazer discusses where slot machines (physically within a casino) tend to be set lower or higher. It’s important to note that isn’t always true and probably doesn’t even apply so much now. In my experience, the most visually impressive (and expensive, both money and often House Edge) slot machines tend to be close to entrances just because they are visually stunning. That didn’t really come into play so much in 1999.
Glazer talks about maybe being able to pick a seat and sell it to someone else because you happen to be sitting next to an attractive woman? I have no idea. While I am sure that Glazer witnessed someone offer money for someone’s seat, at some point, I very much doubt that was the reason why. I also don’t think it was because the buyer was superstitious, though the buyer might have been pretending he wanted it out of superstition.
Chapter 26 discusses that players should play slot machines as slowly as they can stand, because even those with a relatively low house edge will grind you down to nothing because of the fast rate of play. Examples for this book include an average SPH of 300, which would absolutely be crawling these days, so imagine how quickly people are losing now!
Chapter 26 details an advantage player friend of Glazer’s called, “Pinky,” and describes how a player can, “Clock the slots,” to get an idea of the expected return based on symbol frequency. While this information is true, it is 100% useless to most casual gamblers because not only will they likely not be able to do it well, but for those just on a Las Vegas visit, they also won’t have adequate time to get a meaningful sample, in all likelihood.
Pinky also discusses how one machine with a base pay of 95% was once sitting directly beside a machine with the same theme, but with a base pay of 85%...which is exactly why this book shouldn’t have blindly recommended $1 slots so many times!!! I hope that the people who were led to believe $1 slots are just the bee’s knees read this far.
Glazer hints that there are correct Video Poker strategies to optimize return and describes them as, “A subject for another book,” which is unfortunate, because this book effectively ignores Video Poker. What he could have done was at least publish a Basic Strategy for 9/6 Jacks or Better, or something….even if it was just in the appendix.
Glazer then recommends, if a player is going to play Video Poker at all, that a non-progressive machine will be better than a progressive one given the low probability of hitting a Royal Flush and the fact that the player won’t be playing optimal strategy, or making optimal strategy adjustments, anyway.
Glazer’s advice is just totally bizarre, in this instance. If two Video Poker machines exist and one is a progressive, but the other isn’t, and the two paytables are otherwise exactly the same...even without altering strategy, it makes more sense to play the progressive one.
For Chapter 27, Glazer returns to, “Money Management,” a phrase that the reader probably detests by now. Glazer does offer an interesting example of marginal utility by saying that two-to-one on a coin toss is something that a player would jump on if a player only had to bet $10, but would shy away from even two-to-one if the player had to bet his entire net worth on the outcome.
Anyway, that’s a good example of risk management, but I don’t know what that has to do with the majority of recreational gambling.
Advice in this chapter is otherwise fine: Avoid ATM’s, keep records, treat money (winnings) with respect, avoid misery indifference, bet sizing (preferably small, which is says is to avoid bad streaks) and that life is one long session anyway. The only one I disagree with is the one where he says to always keep bets small, if a player decides that, “Taking a shot,” to make a comeback is worth it to him, and that player can afford it if he loses, I really don’t see what difference it makes.
Besides, Glazer even admits that himself in an earlier chapter when he says that the easiest way to double up is to bet the entire amount at once on a game with a low house edge, and with smaller bets, the house edge is more likely to grind a gambler down...so which one is it!?
Chapter 28 begins by advocating that Blackjack players learn basic strategy as he suggests that players playing without will, “Lose faster than at any other game,” which isn’t necessarily true. While any sub-optimal decisions will increase the effective house edge, someone playing a 0.5% House Edge Blackjack game (assuming Basic Strategy) would have to be playing terribly before they get into Double-Zero Roulette House Edge territory.
With that, Glazer offers an even simpler than Basic Strategy strategy, which is a two-sentence strategy that will result in a player at least playing borderline competently. Still not ideal. Glazer should just advise players to take a Basic Strategy chart to the table...there’s even one in this book!
Chapter 29 focuses on the best games to play which get the House Edge reasonably close to 1%. The Table Games suspects that you would expect to be there are, but then Glazer also offers (once again) $1 slots as a great paying game. Just a few chapters ago he acknowledged that a machine that returns 95% can sit right next to one that returns 85%...so how can he now suggest slots as though someone is going to just automatically pick a machine that returns 98%!!!??? It just doesn’t make any sense!
Chapter 30 is basically a continuation of Chapter 29, though Glazer does recommend picking up the Las Vegas Advisor, which I imagine had deals that were even better back then.
Chapter 31 basically just amounts to casinos usually don’t cheat.
Chapter 32 discusses how to avoid pickpockets, chip thieves and jackpot claimers on machines. The next session discusses, “Partnership play,” ay the poker table and how to look out for it.
Chapter 33 discusses the Craps Odds Bet and how it changes the House Edge (or expected loss) relative to the total amount that the player is putting in action.
Chapter 34 focuses on tournament play (not as common these days, poker aside) and advocates it as a way to take a shot at a big win whilst having a fixed loss. Glazer does point out that the casino holds anywhere from 0-20% of Entry Fees, but doesn’t mention anything about how figures could figure out the hold and avoid high hold tournaments.
Chapter 35 discusses Table Games that were new at the time and suggests that, even without player mistakes, new Table Games are just about universally bad. That might have been largely true back then, but it’s a shame that Glazer wouldn’t live long enough to see Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, which, in my opinion, is the BEST all-around table game that exists if a player is willing to learn near-optimal strategy.
Chapter 36 discusses the Vig in Sports Betting and seems to mostly try to dissuade people from betting sports completely, despite the fact that the House Edge (vig) on vanilla bets is relatively low and such bets, at least in my opinion, offer great value in terms of the time it takes for them to resolve.
Chapter 37 begins a section of the book called, “Closing Thoughts,” so we will be breezing through these chapters. Chapter 37 is just an anecdote of a casino event that he created to host his friends where they had an advantage. He also discusses how he doesn’t want to encourage anyone to go to Vegas who isn’t already going to go anyway.
Chapter 38 is weird because Glazer discusses a, “Boom-Boom,” playing style at the end of the trip by which, if a player is either up or down a small amount, the player can make a large bet and try to win twice in a row. The example in the book is being down $160 and then making a $100 bet and letting it ride to try to win twice in a row for a net profit of $140. If a loss, then the player leaves down $260.
For someone who spent the ENTIRE book preaching money management and disciplined gambling, this is just weird. If you’re down $160 and satisfied with your trip results and consider the $160 well-worth the entertainment you enjoyed, then just stop. I think that making such a huge bet all at the end to get ahead (or to get ahead more) is just silly. If you’re already happy with your trip, then just go home happy with your trip.
Chapter 39 is something of a semi-indictment against Professional Play, but that’s just because Glazer feels that anyone with the necessary tools to gamble professionally can do something much better with those same tools. Unfortunately, Glazer did depart the world much sooner than expected, but it’s impossible not to note that everything else he would do professionally in life related back to gambling in some way.
Chapter 40 is Glazer’s Ten Basic Rules of Gambling, which I won’t reproduce. If you want to know what they are, then you can buy the book here: Similarly, Chapter 41 is Glazer’s Top Ten list of gambling mistakes. Chapter 42 is just a little wrap-up and summary.
The area where I give Glazer a ton of credit is that he’s obviously writing this book from a good place. The clear objective is to help players gamble reasonably, cautiously and to enjoy their gambling trip. He gives plenty of warnings about the potential pratfalls of gambling at all and mostly just wants to ensure that players don’t have a bad trip by virtue of losing more than they planned to or could afford.
That said, Glazer did say (in his defense) that the book wasn’t going to get too technical...and he definitely kept that promise. From a mathematical standpoint, this book is borderline useless. He said that professional players wouldn’t get much out of it, but honestly, anyone with any comprehension of the odds isn’t going to get much out of it.
Over half of the book was focused on Money Management...which I don’t hate seeing him discuss, (some people think it’s more useful than others) but nothing about that is going to help players when it comes to actually winning.
Specifically, Glazer likes to spend a lot of time talking about, “Stop Wins,” and, “Stop Losses,” and while I think having a trip bankroll and sticking to it (not losing more than you can afford) is very important, I don’t find his, “Session stop win,” advice particularly useful.
It’s not that I don’t think it’s theoretically useful, I just know that people aren’t robots. For every one person who can honestly say, I hit my win goal and quit there are probably fifty who will end up saying, I hit my win goal, and that’s when I should have quit.
Advantage play (particularly on machines) is a little bit different because the stop loss and stop win is built in---you play until you don’t have an advantage anymore.
Personally, I would say don’t gamble more than you can afford and try not to play (if you’re playing recreationally) beyond a certain amount of time. What gets players ultimately is the expected loss catches up to them and that happens based on the house edge, average bet amount and how many outcomes are played. It’s a good idea to take breaks from time-to-time, but not necessarily because you are winning, but rather, just to go do some other activity.
Like any other trip, vacationers will generally have activities planned that take a finite amount of time. Playing a round of golf takes a certain range of time, if you book a tennis court for two hours, then you’re going to play for about two hours...if you book three hours of horseback riding, then that’s how long you’re going to be doing that.
There’s no reason that casino gambling can’t be the same way. Besides, if a player hasn’t hit his, “Win Goal,” or, “Loss Goal,” that’s no reason to keep playing if he doesn’t feel like playing anymore. If you’re frustrated, angry or bored, then you should always quit for the time being.
I think other advice for recreational players would be to schedule other activities throughout the day, or make dinner reservations for a certain time. Basically, just something that causes you to have to take a break from the tables or machines.
Other than not losing more than the maximum amount you planned to lose on a trip, I don’t really promote the other aspects of casino money management. Life is one big session.
Unfortunately, some advice in this book was just flatly bad. Glazer recommend that players play $1 denomination slots at least half a dozen times, despite the fact that there’s no possible way that someone could just randomly pick a slot and know it returns 98%. Oddly enough, Glazer briefly acknowledged that fact in another section of the book, but continued to recommend slots, and even listed them alongside Blackjack, Craps and Baccarat as the best games to play. YIKES!!!
Glazer also recommends Keno as a game giving a player a realistic chance to win a huge jackpot and specifically cites playing ten-spots. Weeklong Vegas trip, hitting ten out of ten on Live Keno? Almost certainly not going to happen. Glazer also doesn’t seem to know, or at least does not acknowledge, that some Live Keno games have better returns than others. The only positive thing about Live Keno is that it can sometimes have a low expected loss per hour just based on how slow it plays....but some games are still better in that regard.
Other bad advice was his notion to switch around casinos all the time and only win or lose a particular amount in each---as if that makes one iota of difference to the House Edge. The only thing following that advice will accomplish is making being offered comps less likely. While you should never, “Play for comps,” that doesn’t mean that it’s wise to hurt your chances of them being offered to you. If you want to play in many casinos because you think checking out a bunch of places is more fun (which I do in the rare event that I gamble recreationally), then that’s fine.
I will give credit to Glazer for his creation of the term, “Misery Indifference,” which is a concept that is to be avoided and I think might sometimes apply to players. They lose a particular amount that was well over what they planned and then think, “It doesn’t matter anymore,” and just keep going. You shouldn’t gamble with money you can’t afford to lose anyway and I can also promise that it will matter when you’re comparing digging out of a $1,000 hole to a $10,000 one if you take it that far.
Glazer seems like he was a very nice fellow and his anecdotes are particularly enjoyable, as well as his sense of humor. For that reason, I would love nothing more than to score this book very favorably, but unfortunately, I don’t see how this one is going to be of any great use to anyone. I could almost forgive how little it has in the way of practical gambling value (it doesn’t even include a Basic Strategy chart for any video poker game) if it wasn’t for the fact that a few points of advice are just flatly bad.
By today’s standards, this book offers absolutely nothing that you won’t find on Wizard of Odds and, in terms of hardcopy, The Wizard’s Gambling 102 is a much better book if you actually want to learn about gambling and games. The anecdotes are fun, but that’s where it begins and ends, so I would score this book a 3 out of 10.
By 1999 standards, many people might not have even had the Internet, so this book is...well...better than nothing. A visitor to Las Vegas could certainly do worse than this, but other than Pass Line and Odds at Craps (which the book doesn’t even describe how a player physically makes an odds bet, or if it does, I missed it) and Blackjack Basic Strategy (with only one chart as opposed to multiple charts based on rules and number of decks!) this book still offers somewhat little when it comes to actually playing the games well.
By 1999 standards, this book certainly would have been better than some of the garbage that was out there promoting gambling systems, and what not, so I am going to give it a perfectly average 5 out of 10 based on the standards at the time and what else was available.
Glazer would even review his own book on Amazon (link to book above) and had this to say:
I'm Andy Glazer, the author of Casino Gambling the Smart Way. You can read what I wrote in 1999 about this book elsewhere on the site.
It's two years later now, and I have a somewhat different perspective. Casino Gambing the Smart Way is a good but not great book. The good news is, I feel that way mostly because my standards have gone up. I'm quite sure it will be worth somewhere between 5-20,000 times the cover cost to most people. It's also pretty funny.
I'll be writing more books soon, a wave on poker first, actually, but this one is an excellent start into the right philosophy to take into the casino. There is also a mistake in the blackjack chart, about the proper way to play a hand of 12. The one page in the book I didn't get to proof and voila.
I'm more advanced in my craft now, but CGTSY will still be a good, easy and valuable read.
With that, even Glazer admits (just two years later) that the book is, “...Good but not great…” I tend to think that, by today’s standards, he might admit that it’s quite average if not a little below.