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Deal Me In - Mark Pilarski Column

Making Money Music

You mentioned in a recent column setting loss limits and win goals. By “win goals” you stated, “realistic win goals, like a 50-100% return on your original $100 stake.” Being an investor in the stock market, I use something similar, a stop-loss method when losing. What are your thoughts on my approach? Kenny S.

Kenny, even though the casino has the edge against every player on each pull of the handle, on every hand of cards and on all rolls of the dice, the supervening advantage the player has against the house is the ability to walk, or, as in investing, sell. Selling, or walking, is vital to being a successful investor/gambler, and probably the most crucial element of anyone’s money management plan.

Whether playing blackjack or any other casino game, there is nothing wrong with using the stop-loss method as your money management, profit-taking system.

With a stop-loss order, a Wall Street investor would buy a stock, then sell a stock once the price of the stock reaches a specified price, known as the stop price. For example, you buy a stock at $40 a share, watch it move to $60, and subsequently, if it drops to its stop price of $50, a stop order becomes a market order.

You can do the same thing with your winnings at gambling. Whether it is blackjack, craps, roulette, or even slots, similar principle applies. For example, you start with $250, you’re having a good day, and it gets to $500. You continue to play, but you set your stop loss at $400. This tactic allows you to leave with a profit instead of giving it all back to the house.

Is the table game War a good bet? Seems simple enough, and played exactly the way we played it as kids. Dave R.

You’re right, Dave, the casino version of War is pretty straightforward, but it is not exactly the same version that you played against siblings at your kitchen table.

The game begins with both you and the dealer each receiving one card and the higher card wins. If the cards tie, you must double your initial bet, and two more cards are dealt. Again, the higher card wins; however, you win only your original bet. The casino profits mightily from this one advantage. One rule change becomes a wallet buster to the tune of a 7.14% house edge.

Another way that War is played is that if you have a tie with the dealer, you have this choice:  surrender and lose half your wager, or go to war with the dealer. If you choose to go to war, you must put up an additional bet equal to your original wager. If your card has a greater value than the dealer’s, or ties the dealer’s card for a second time, you win even money on your added bet, and your initial wager is returned. If the dealer’s card is higher, you would lose both of your bets. The proper strategy for this variation of War is to do battle. By your not surrendering, the casino has a 2.88% edge. If you do surrender, the house has an edge of 3.7%.

Warning: There is a tie bet that can be made when playing casino War. You are betting that your card will tie the dealer’s. If you win, you get paid 10 to 1 for your bet. Never make this wager. It carries a high house edge of 18.65%.

Charles Lamb once said, “Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.” Well, the table game War isn’t sport with a 7.14% house edge, it’s a slaughter, Dave.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “If you cannot afford to lose big, do not bet big; and if you cannot afford to lose, do not play.” —Sanford Wong, Professional