Let's roll some dice, watch some movies, or generally just geek out. New posts at 6:30 pm ET but only if I have something to say. Menu at the top. email@example.com on Mastodon and @gsllc on Twitter.
I’m headed to Vegas on Monday. This will be my first time staying at Mandalay Bay. It’s my preferred gambling spot, but for the past decade or so, I’ve stayed at either the Luxor or the Excalibur. I’ve always enjoyed a ton of success at the Excalibur tables, so I’ll probably make a stop there as well.
Since Columbus Day weekend of this year, I’ve visited a local casino four times to practice my blackjack and have won (after tips, gas, etc.) $3,375. This means that my entire trip has already been financed by gambling winnings even if I lose $2,000 or so (which I won’t; I expect more of the same success). So, for only the second time in my life, I decided to upgrade to first class (for my return trip).
Why? First, it cost only $399 to upgrade, keeping me well within “the trip is already paid for” budget. (I probably paid too much for my coach ticket, so most of the additional expense has already been paid.) Second, the plane is a #Boeing 777-200. This means that first class has “lie flat” seating. This is important b/c my plane leaves at 11:45 pm PT and lands at 7 am ET. Sleeping on a plane will never have been so easy for me. Perfection will be if there’s a socket to plug in my C-PAP. If not, that’s as much the other passengers’ problem as it is my own. 🙂
I go to Vegas in September or October each year on what’s essentially a blackjack trip. I also make my annual sports bets. Most of them are silly “homer” bets (e.g., the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, Maryland Terps to win the basketball and football championships) regardless of the odds. A few are legitimate bets based on who I think will actually win (e.g., Buffalo winning the Super Bowl). Last Thursday was the start of the NFL season, and because my Vegas trip is delayed until December, I decided to do all my sports betting via MGM’s online betting portal. I never do this sort of thing because it risks gambling addiction, betting your mortgage money, etc. In fact, I don’t even visit the MGM casino in nearby Maryland for the same reason. If I’m going to bet, I do so only if I take a week off from work, invest money in a plane ticket, and invest time on a 5-day trip. It’s a good way to control the process. This is the only reason I didn’t place money on Usman to lose his UFC title a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to place the bet but didn’t, and it cost me some money. In the big picture, that’s smart.
When I entered the portal, I saw that I had a free $5 credit to bet. MGM does that for people to encourage them to bet. On a whim, I decided to bet that $5 on a crazy parlay on the game that night (Bills at Rams). If I lost, I’d make a deposit and place all my bets for the year. If I won, however, I’d be able to make all my bets with the winnings, still banking about $300.
First, I selected the Bills to win by 2.5 points or more. That’s reasonable. After all, they’re my pick to win the Super Bowl. Next, I picked the total points scored to be less than 47.5. That was a bit risky. It relied on one of the two teams to get manhandled. No one expected that, but I went for it. Third, I picked Cooper Kupp to score a touchdown. That was my safety valve. After that, I picked Stefan Diggs to get a touchdown. Again, I think that’s risky based on my fantasy football experience with the guy. Teams always focus on shutting him down, so he’s hot and cold. However, he’s also a fellow Good Counsel High School Falcon and a fellow University of Maryland Terrapin, so I trust him.
This brought me to odds of +2000. If I won, my $10 would turn into $200. That seems good, but on a hunch, I thought Bills quarterback Josh Allen was going to run in a touchdown. Is that a smart pick? Nope, but I’m betting with house money. The potential reward of a larger payout justified the risk of losing someone else’s money, so I added it, doubling the odds to +4000. The bet was now set: A $10 bet pays $400.
I could describe in great detail the drama of the game with respect to this crazy parlay, but I’ll save you that and just say I was on the edge of my seat until the last 30 seconds or so of the game. Even after Allen somehow got a touchdown run, I was two minutes and 15 yards away from a Rams touchdown and extra point that would have lost it for me. Von Miller came through, and I made $390.
The Smart Play
The smartest gambler makes sure he sets a floor to his losses, and a winning gambler makes sure that floor is a positive number. I immediately transferred $300 to my bank account leaving $96 in my account after a processing fee. That was plenty of money to make my annual picks, so I expected to make my picks and then make another small transfer to my account. However, after I had made all my bets (e.g., $5 on the Washington Wizards to win the NBA championship pays $1,255), I had $35 left. I noticed another promotion for a UFC bet — adds a bit to your payoff if you win — so I made a crazy parlay on three underdogs to win their fights Saturday night. A $10 bet would pay $296.10 if all three fighters won. I then looked at some other bets. I picked Maryland to cover the 27.5 point spread against Charlotte. Maryland won 56-21. Winner! I took that $5 win and picked Hawaii to beat #4 Michigan at Michigan. Sure, there’s no chance that will happen, but a $5 bet it pays $225.50. I was on the fence between that pick and instead picking Georgia Southern to beat Nebraska, but Hawaii being the crazier bet had a bigger payout.
They weren’t all stupid bets. I bet $5 on the Washington Commanders to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by 3 points because Washington is my home team, and bet $5 on a parlay that pays $21 if the Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals, and Eagles all win in week 1.
In any other context, this looks like addiction and/or desperation, but remember, I’m playing with house money. I have nothing to lose, and in fact have already banked $301 and used some of the house money to place bets I would be paying out of pocket if I hadn’t won Thursday night. No matter how stupid these bets are, I’ve already won, and that won’t change because I won’t deposit any more money into the account.
The Weekend’s Results
As I said, Maryland beat their spread, which just led to an insane bet for Hawaii to beat a top 5 team on their that team’s home field. It was 21-0 Michigan at the end of the 1st quarter.
A questionable decision on the first of my 3 UFC fights killed my parlay as quickly as it began, so I did what an addict would do and placed a new bet. I wanted to bet on Kevin Holland, but as soon as Li lost, the betting for Holland’s fight closed (even though the fight hadn’t started), so I was forced to be on Nate Diaz. The payout would be less, but based on a $9.55 bet on Diaz, I’d get back that $10 I lost on the parlay plus another $1.49. (This definitely looks like addictive behavior, but remember: house money!) Diaz won, so I did indeed get my money back, and Holland lost badly so that bet would have screwed me. Hooray for technicalities! I end Saturday night with $41.49 of house money in my account.
On Sunday, due to Cincinnati’s best efforts to lose their game to Pittsburgh, I lost my 1 pm parlay when Miami, Philadelphia, and Baltimore came away with wins, but Cincy lost in overtime. That $5 bet would have paid only $21, so I’m over it. The real question of the day was my homemade parlay. I bet $15 to win $203.77, which required Tennessee (-5.5), Minnesota (-1), Las Vegas (+3.5), and Denver (-6.5) to cover their spreads. As of the end of Sunday games, I had already lost 2 games, leaving last night’s Denver/Seattle game. Because I had already lost that parlay, I spent $10 on a new one. It was complex, having five requirements. I came close, but Denver failing to win by 7 killed it. I now have $15.00 left for next weekend, but because I’ll do stupid things bound to fail, that will probably evaporate, and my sports betting will be done for the year.
Well, not really. My Vegas trip will be the week before Christmas. I fly home on Christmas Eve. I’ll have only one full day before my friends arrive, so I’ll have only about 15 hours to gamble before they pull me away towards fattening foods and goofy shows. Honestly, it’s about time I do that sort of thing again. Maybe I can convince them to zipline or ride the Stratosphere rides. Every year I plan to see Penn & Teller but never do. Perhaps I’ll finally see them.
As of today, I’m officially vaccinated, as in two shots plus two weeks. I’m still wearing my mask to reduce contact points for those that aren’t vaccinated. Why? Well, why not? My masks are cool.
Anyhoo, because I’m good-to-go on that front, I’m resuming my annual trip to Las Vegas this year, which will be in mid-September instead of the typical Columbus Day week. I fly out on September 11th.
The timing is a shame because a coworker is flying out Columbus Day week to renew her wedding vows in a DC-comics inspired wedding. Her husband is currently choosing between Batman and Catwoman being married by the Joker, or the Joker and Harley Quinn being married by Batman. But that’s another tangent.
I take blackjack very seriously, and since developing a regular system, I always come back a winner. Part of my success is that, whereas your credit card may earn you free gas or airfare, my credit card that I use for everything earns me gambling comps with MGM hotels. (I should be paid for that link.) I’m going to enjoy fine dining every night and pay only for tax and tip. I win automatically just for paying my phone bill or filling my car’s gas tank. A more on-point part of my success is practice, so I’ve brought out the gambling set to start practicing. I’ll be using this to train the aforementioned coworker as well.
The system is progressive betting (not card counting), and the trick is a difficult combination of patience and discipline. If you look up progressive betting online, the definition changes depending on who you ask. Many conveniently use the term to refer exclusively to regressive betting, which is the exact opposite of what I do. They do so because they’re card counters trying to sell you their system, and they can easily prove that regressive betting is a big loser. I increase my bet while winning, and my maximum bet per hand is capped. Despite the criticism, its only genuine downside is that it cuts against human nature. That’s where the discipline come in. Without it, you’ll lose. Stick with the plan for the long haul, and you’ll likely win. My personal experience, both long-term and short-term, is too one-sided in my favor to worry about what those blackjack entrepreneurs say. Here’s my greatest war story.
Trial by Fire
My favorite gambling spot is Mandalay Bay. Three trips ago, I showed up with a $3,000 bankroll, but I was playing as if I had only $2,500 ($25 base bet). That gave me a $500 cushion. The first day, there were no $25 tables on the floor, so they opened one in the high-roller room for me. After 4 hours, I was up about $400, and they moved me out of the high-roller room. Normally, I play between 10-15 hours a day with only one break to eat, but the casino had forced me to stop, so I took the opportunity to get some lunch. It wrecked my rhythm. I then went back to the grind. After another 10 hours of gambling, I lost about $2,200, so I was $1,800 down (out of $3,000). I didn’t panic, but it forced me to readjust my routine.
The next day, I head over to Excalibur, which always likes to hand me money. I spent about 12 hours on the table betting as if my bankroll was $1,000 (which makes sense; I had $1,200 left), and for the last hour I was by myself. I was already up quite a bit at that point, but it was rapid fire. The dealer and I were on a freaking roll, but I was killing her, departing from the system and betting over $100 a hand at times. When all was said and done, I won $1,900, so I was $100 up over all (even factoring huge tips to the dealer).
How do you think I reacted to that?
I wasn’t satisfied. I don’t care that I was up $100. I don’t care that both casinos were part of the MGM network. I wanted my $1,800 back from Mandalay Bay, dammit! So, for my last day of gambling, that’s where I ended the day. (I beat up Luxor before heading there.) It was the longest day of gambling I ever had: over 16 hours. Obviously, people come and go over that period, but every table makeup was filled with people who knew what they were doing (like my now-Facebook friend, Kaia) or wanted to learn. The table was perfect for almost every minute of those 16+ hours. By 3 am, I was up only $650. If I didn’t have to fly out fairly early the next morning, I would have kept going. With all the comped food, I ended up about $1,100 (40% of my betting bankroll) for the trip.
Of course, no one believes any of this until I actually show them, but those that have seen it never doubt me again. And if you doubt me, I don’t care. My winnings have paid for a Surface Pro 3 and a laptop, and almost every year it pays for my hotel for my other regular vacation in February. Believe me or don’t believe me; I don’t give a shit. Unlike the card counters trying to sell you something, I don’t make money if you believe me.
BTW, card counting absolutely works and is the best system if you can pull it off. I used it successfully when I first started my trips, but a good betting strategy is more relaxing and far less prone to fatal mistakes. I’ll occasionally do it as a mental exercise but rarely base my bets on the card count.
Are you kidding? I’m wiring my gambling money to Mandalay Bay ahead of time, and as soon as I’m checked into my hotel, I’m heading downstairs to win that remaining $1,150 back! Okay, not really. I’ve already done that in past trips, thought New York, New York is still up on me. I do need a new laptop, and sure, I can afford to buy one, but I’d rather have MGM pay for it. 🙂 However, I raise an issue for those heading to Vegas. Some casinos will accept wires ahead of time. Mandalay Bay is one of them even if you aren’t staying there. Whatever money you want to apply to gambling, wire it to them. Otherwise, you have to find a branch of your bank off-Strip that’s open, or you’ll have to carry a bunch of cash on your flights to and from there. That money is earmarked for gambling only, and after your trip, they wire whatever’s left back to the account from which you wired it. The only money you can withdraw from those funds as cash are winnings. For Mandalay Bay, you can transfer the money to any MGM casino if you want a change of scenery. They have a lot of properties in Vegas.
N.b., no system is fool proof. Always go into a casino being fully prepared to bottom out, which means you should never bet your rent money. You can spot people doing that all the time, and it’s sad. Pit bosses and dealers are always impressed with my calm demeanor and sense of humor, even in the face of big losses. If you can’t afford to lose everything, or you don’t appreciate that losses are part of the game (it’s just math), don’t play. Period.