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Marathon Madness

When my wife and I started going to Las Vegas many, many years ago we only played blackjack and we only played at $2 tables.  But, boy did we play, sometimes 20 hours a day! Food breaks were quick in and outs to buffets and then back to the tables.  Sleep!  Ha! You can sleep when you get home!

I remember going to only one show during those early years. It was a Debbie Reynolds show, which turned out to be very disappointing, but not because of Debbie Reynolds.   We ended up stuck way back in a corner of the showroom with hardly any room to move.  So much for the shows!

Over the years we tried a lot of things and “bought a lot of lights” as they say.  We learned basic strategy and would get together with my sister and her husband and practice and practice and practice.  Then we’d all go to Vegas and lose and lose and lose.  We called it our “Blackjack Marathon.”  Today I call it “Marathon Madness.”

Over those same years we made every mistake in the book.  Most of the time we made the same mistake two, three and four times, just to make sure it really was a mistake.  Even today we fall prey to some of our old mistakes, such as never play on the first and last day of a trip.  If you arrive on Friday night and leave on Sunday it’s hard to limit your play to a few sessions on Saturday.  I understand.

Have you ever gone to your room at night knowing that you were going to have to tell your wife the next morning that you had lost it all!  Before credit cards Las Vegas had these “places” that you could go write a check for a “fee.”  These places were simply a door with a sign that said “Checks Cashed.”   I remember one that had a long narrow hall and at the end of the hall was a two-way mirror, a sign and a button to push.  Push the button and someone would open a two-way mirrored window in the wall, take your check, get your ID and go away and verify everything.  If everything checked out they would return with your money … minus their fee.  That “fee”, was usually a percentage of the amount of the check you wrote; anywhere form 20%-40%.   Been there … done that.  No fun at all!

We began to read books on gambling that gave us sound advice.  Never play on the first and last day of a trip.  Don’t drink and gamble.  Take breaks.  Get out of the casino and get some fresh air.  Don’t play when you’re tired.  Don’t play with scared money.  Divide your trip money by the number of days you’re going to gamble and the number of sessions per day.  Set a loss limit for a table, a session and a day … and stick to it.  Set a win goal.

We read the books, tried card counting and were so amateurish at it that they spotted us early and would just reshuffle when we raised our bets.  But we stilled played those Marathon sessions.  After all, we were in Vegas for only a short time … and who knew when we’d be back?

Do any of the “rules” listed above sound familiar?  They are rules to live by when you gamble in Las Vegas, Atlantic City or in any casino for that matter.  That is if you want to win … consistently.  Ah, consistency is the key!   You see I have broken all of the rules and still won, but never consistently.  The more rules you break or bend because of  “your special” case, the greater chance you have to come up a loser at the tables, and for the trip.

Over the years I have learned the importance of taking breaks and not falling into the “Marathon Madness” trap.  Long periods of time at the tables DO NOT necessarily result in winning sessions.     A clear head and a high energy level are key ingredients to having a winning session.  I’ll talk about the importance of these in an upcoming article.

Learn how to become consistent with your toss.  Know your sets and which ones work best for you.  Identify your signature numbers.  Set loss limits and stick to them.  Have a realistic win goal and when you go above it never, never make bets that would take you below this win goal.   Make notes after each session and be honest with yourself.  Take breaks, review your notes and make adjustments in your play.  Recognize when it just “isn’t your day” and quit!    Have something else to do or go take a nap, but get away from the tables.

I know it’s tough to go on a short gambling trip and not just gamble.   I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the comment “I came to Vegas to gamble and have a good time and if I lose, that’s all right.”

When I looked back on my records I found out that the best trips (winning trips) were ones where I had something else to do, not just gamble during the trip.   Breaks for fine meals, shows, checking out other casinos and maintaining a high energy level all contributed to a winning trip.

Beware of Marathon Madness!

And remember, any win is better than any loss … any day.


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