The late Captain of craps, the legendary Atlantic City player I have written about in many of my books, once explained to me his theory on how much a person should bet at whatever game he wishes to play in order to experience a high degree of thrill with a low chance of having a heart attack and an even lower chance of being totally bored.
Casino gambling for the recreational player should be a “manageable thrill.” The Captain stated that a typical casino blackjack player playing for matchsticks or pennies would get bored rather quickly because no hand really means that much to him—losing has no sting, and winning has no adrenaline jolt. But if he bets $500 per hand, he might fi nd himself sweating profusely as he sees his rent money or food money going out the window on a sustained series of losses. He might, quite literally, drop dead from anxiety. In the case of the $500 bettor, the emotions would range from dread at losing to relief at not losing. Where’s the fun in that?
The Captain’s theory of a manageable thrill comes down to a simple formula: the bets you make have to be large enough to make it worth wanting to win but small enough to make losing them not cause you to think of all the things you could have bought had you not lost. That is your “thrill zone”—the range of betting that has meaning, win or lose, but is not really hurtful to your emotional or economic life.
Can I make money betting on sports?
It is possible to make money betting on sports, but that comes with some significant caveats. First, the ranks of those who continually profit year after year, season after season, are slim. It is doable, but not without a great deal of effort.
Next, it’s essential to consider the sum of all parts. Some make a big score and feel as if they’re winning bettors. However, closer inspection of what it took for them to get to that point reveals that they lost money actually.
n agony. What if I roll a seven? What if I lose? Look at all that money! There’s no doubt the average casino player is a thrill-seeker. Going up against Lady Luck is a roller-coaster ride on which your money and your emotions go up and down, up and down. For many people, going on roller coasters is a delight—but it isn’t a delight if you’ve had a big meal and become sick to your stomach. Betting too much at a casino game is the equivalent of going on a roller coaster with a full, gurgling belly. It could become a sickening experience for you and for others watching you. Then again, going on the kiddie boats that go around and around, with those little kids ringing the bells, might not be thrilling enough for you.
I once entered the sweat zone in the early 1990s when I found myself betting several thousand on two hands that I had split, pre-split, and doubled down on those respites. The sweat literally poured out of me, and one drop went right down my nose and landed on my cards as the dealer turned over a 16, hit it with a 5, and wiped me off the board. Plop, drop, and I was monetarily and emotionally soaked and stunned.
Gaming writers love to talk about strategies, house edges, and bankroll requirements, but rarely do we discuss the emotional bankroll that a person must have to bet at this or that level. A red-chip player might wish he could play at the green level, might even be able to objectively afford it, but he just can’t bring himself to do it. His hands start to tremble as he pushes out the chips. If this happens to you at a certain betting level, don’t make the bet! If you know this fact, then be content to bet within your thrill zone and don’t attempt to push the envelope. It isn’t worth the consternation, second-guessing, and safe gelation such an action would cause you.
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Some philosophers have speculated that man is composed of three parts: mind, body, and spirit. To enjoy casino gambling, all three of those components should be utilized. Your mind should tell you which are the best bets to make, your spirit should enjoy the contest, and your body will let you know when you’ve gone overboard because it will start sweating!