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Las Vegas Stories

A Secret Golf Course, The World Series of Poker and a Lesson 007 Should Learn
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 3)

"You must be a very lucky guy," I say.

"Nah, I had a system. A betting system." He manages to blurt out a few sentences about starting with a $100 bet, doubling his wagers and eventually reaching the table maximum before I am able to change the subject to baseball.

Anyone with even a meager knowledge of probabilities and high-school math ought to understand what every wise gambler knows from sheer instinct: betting systems (varying the size of your wager in a predetermined pattern) cannot beat casino games.

Remember that fact the next time someone urges you to place a large wager on black because the roulette wheel has come up red seven spins in a row. "Odds are it's going to come up black!" Actually, the odds are the same as they were the previous spin, the spin before that and every upcoming spin for the rest of eternity: 10 to 9 against red, 10 to 9 against black and 18 to 1 against the green zeros.

Like stock-market mutual funds, past performance does not guarantee future gains. Each spin of the wheel, each toss of the dice, is an independent event, subject to the same unbending numerical laws. Doubling your bet does not mean you've increased your wager at an opportune moment, it simply means you're gambling double (or quadruple or eight times') your previous wager on the same losing proposition.

If you had an infinite amount of money and, more important, the casinos didn't impose a limit on how much you could bet, a "betting system" might theoretically work. So, too, would "pyramid" and "ponzi" schemes or any other endeavor that relies on a constantly replenished supply of funds and dull-witted participants.

"Foolproof" betting systems, alas, are primarily utilized by fools.

The last person you would think a fool is that suave fellow James Bond. But while watching a 007 marathon on television recently, I was not so sure.

When he's not bedding a panoply of exotic beauties and foiling the world's most pernicious criminals, Bond, as you might recall, enjoys the game of punto banco, otherwise known as baccarat. And he appears to be quite good at it, too, possessing a highly refined ability to draw "nine" when his opponent pulls an "eight." Watch enough James Bond movies and you'll see him win many hundreds of thousands of francs--always, of course, in a perfectly pressed tuxedo, with a crowd of approving onlookers witnessing his triumphs.

I don't begrudge Bond his terrific record. He is, after all, our gallant hero. But, James, baccarat?


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