Two weekends ago Janeen and I took a trip to Atlantic City with a big group of friends. I have been traveling to gambling destinations with these friends for many years, but this trip was among my first as a professional gambler. And, as I’ve learned in the past year and a half, that changes things.
Typically the highlight of these short trips with friends–whether to Vegas, Atlantic City, or Connecticut–has been our time spent at the craps table, where we have a good time risking a few hundred dollars, having free drinks and loudly blurting out a bunch of strange private jokes. It’s always been fun for me. Until recently.
The problem with craps, as with all other casino table games, is that you are expected to (and eventually will) lose. As a reasonably intelligent person, I have always understood this. Long before I became a Sklansky disciple capable of calculating expected value and hourly rate of return, I innately understood that craps was a game in which these numbers were negative. When I was drawing a salary like most of the other people in the world, I viewed game’s negative expectation as a sort of entertainment cost. I learned how to mitigate the game’s negative expectation, and the fact that i was a 2% dog didn’t bother me because I was having fun gambling.
Nowadays, the concept of “having fun gambling” holds much less appeal and is amusing in its redundancy, as I already spend half my waking hours gambling. I do not draw a salary. As a matter of fact, my living is derived from continuously playing poker with a small statistical edge against my opponents. This edge, not so ironically, is almost identical to the one the casino exerts on the scores of people stupid enough to plunk their money down at the craps table (actually, it’s a lot smaller than the casino’s edge against the average craps player, who commits quick fiscal suicide through moronic bets like the “hard way” wagers). So when I choose to play craps in my leisure time, I am essentially taking time off from being a small favorite in exchange for time being a small underdog. It makes a lot less sense than it used to.
Despite losing my desire to shoot craps after becoming a professional poker player, I have nevertheless indulged in an occasional session. The reasons vary: sometimes I have played for companionship. Sometimes I have played to maintain comp status at a particular casino (they hardly rate you for poker). And sometimes I have played out of a combination convenience and sheer boredom. Throughout 2006, despite drawing almost no pleasure from the game, I was remarkably lucky at craps. However, unsurprisingly, things have changed this year. Nearly all of my sessions have been losers, including my latest foray with my buddies in Atlantic City, which was abominable. My craps playing has not grown to the level of a “leak,” but losing money at a game that you don’t even enjoy playing is… the opposite of fun.
For years, I’ve trained myself to gamble in spots where I have the edge and milk those spots for all they are worth. Being a voluntary underdog? I’m through with it. Sklansky would be proud.
That said, I’m off to the Kentucky Derby the day after tomorrow. -EV for sure, but a novel enough experience to retain its entertainment value.