Those odd odds

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I believe in your theory that each spin of the roulette ball is an independent event. So betting streaks is futile. But leaving common sense behind for just a moment, is there any minute reason to bet a streak? And if so, with it, or buck the odds? Harry C.

You know me well, Harry. You-and, I hope, most readers-recognize that no amount of past history (looking backwards from a streak) on a random, non-biased wheel predicts the outcome of the next spin. Each spin is, as you say, an independent event, and the law of averages says nothing about a single spin. (Another name for the law of averages is “the law of very large numbers”; and there’s a reason for that.) A streak is nothing more than a welcome, momentary flutter in an endless time-line which will soon be canceled by one or more unwelcome flutters. Only those who surf on a basketball should risk their money on streaks.

But okay, Harry, for interesting discussion’s sake, and with your pistol at my temple, I will confess that I would bet with a streak, not against one.

Why? Any gambler who’s racked up some playing time knows that the improbable can and will happen on any game, on any given night. I have personally seen red appear more than 20 times in a row, and I once dealt to a lady who won 32 straight hands at blackjack (at only a deuce per hand; too bad), and on craps have witnessed players making their “point” for what seemed like eternity.

In such as these cases, if you bet the streak and are wrong, you lose only that bet. But if you bet consistently against a streak, you’re heading for tapped out and home for the holidays. That is why, in my right mind, I wouldn’t buck the odds.

I have never hit a royal flush. Figuring that at the age of 78 I may never get a royal, do you know of any systems that can give me an edge without ever hitting one? Charlie B.

Sorry, Charlie, there is no video poker system that gives you an edge against the house without hitting a royal. Keen play will cut your losses between royal flushes, but even that will not give your play an even chance against the casino. Without that elusive royal flush, Charlie, your expectation is to lose, and no system can change that.

Will the Lottery make prize payments to a living trust of a winner who receives annual installment payments? Maggie F.

Each state, Maggie, has different regulations, but in California, where you live, the answer is yes, provided you survive the required bureaucratic tangles: file the appropriate form with the Lottery Investments Office. That form, Declaration and Assignment of Lottery Prize to Revocable Living Trust, can be requested through the Lottery, to make payments to a living trust, as long as the prize winner is the person funding the trust and is a beneficiary of the trust.

Hopefully, Maggie, you will live another score of years and spend a good chunk of your winnings while still kicking. Then, after your demise, the remaining annual payments will be made to the surviving trustee(s) or beneficiary (ies).

Gambling quote of the week: “The sad truth is that many players view the casino as an adult theme park, with their gambling stake being the price they pay to be taken for a ride.” Marvin Karlins Ph.D.

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