House “edge” and “hold” are not the same

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I take exception to one of your gambling theories: that the house edge is near nil when playing blackjack for the basic strategy player. Though I don’t use the strategy, both friends and dealers have called my play average. My quarrel with your theory is that when I go to a casino with $100, I come home empty-handed. Based on what you write, I should at least have $90 plus. Brad M.

Brad, without challenging your quality of play, I think you confirm my theory. You leave the casino financially exhausted because you don’t get up after 20 hands. Casinos have long realized that there is no torrent like greed to wash money out of wallets, the basic notion behind the casino vernacularism, “hold.” You, Brad, are confusing house edge with hold.

The “house edge” is a predetermined percentage of each bet that the house takes as payment for letting you play. Casino operators like to call the house edge their “entertainment tax” for allowing you to use their facilities and bathroom.The casino’s “hold,” on the other hand, is the share of the chips the player bought ($100 in your case), that are won back by the casino (also $100 in your case). That’s how the house’s 5% edge can result in a 100% hold.

Allow me to clarify. If, as you stated, Brad, your playing ability is average, the casino would have about a 5% edge on each hand you play. Consequently, after 20 hands, based on perpetual play, you should mathematically have $95 remaining. But if crazy glue or Jack Daniels or just rapacious greed has you stuck to your stool, the more you play the more you lose. Without discipline, you are most likely going to bet the remaining $95, slowly but surely expanding your losses until your entire $100 bankroll is depleted, giving the house a highly desired 100% hold.

The way you combat this empty pocket syndrome is to improve your blackjack play by learning basic strategy. You must drop the casino advantage down to under one percent. Correspondingly, discipline is not only a significant characteristic of being a successful gambler, but probably the most important element of money management. You must set loss limits and win goals. If you are going to sit there until your entire $100 is smilingly accepted by your friendly dealer, expect to go home tapped out.

I play the following lottery ticket each week (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). My husband thinks I’m crazy, because he read somewhere that this ticket combination is one of the most popular played. He states that if we ever won, I would have to share my winnings with too many other players. Is he correct? Beverly G.

Yes he is, Beverly. The most commonly played lottery number combination is 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, and 06. In your state, California, you could have as many as 50,000 players playing just those numbers on any given Wednesday or Saturday night. If that combination were to be drawn with a jackpot of $15 million, for example, your pay-off with that many winners would be about $200 after taxes.

The good news is that you would be paid in one lump sum, and the State would not spread the payments out over 20 years.

Gambling thought of the week: “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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