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Undoing the damage—before it’s done

By Frank Scoblete


Many gambling writers say that emotions do not count in gambling. You cannot change the nature of a casino game because of your feelings. The RNG in a slot machine works as it was programmed to work, whether you are happy, sad, cheering, crying, clapping, or moaning.

This is quite true. The cold, hard mathematical facts about slot ma-chines cannot be changed because you desire it. The RNG is not saying, “Oh, poor Scobe, let me give him a few wins in a row to make him feel good.” The RNG doesn’t care about you.

In Shakespeare’s brilliant play The Tragedy of Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth succeed in killing King Duncan, taking over the Scottish kingdom and figuring they will live happily ever after as King and Queen. Instead, from the very moment they make their murderous decision to the moments when everything falls apart, the play chronicles these two careening downhill and finally, probably, dumping themselves into hell.

Slot players can have the exact same fall—minus the hell part. You happily await your trip to the casino, enjoying the anticipation of winning some money on your favorite machines—perhaps a lot of money; maybe a lot of a lot of money. Won’t you be happy then? Certainly, you’ll be ecstatic.

You get your money together, money you’ve been saving for your new car, but if you win as you plan to win, that new car is going to be a luxury one—a convertible. If you’re a middle-aged guy, it is going to be bright red. Oh, yeah! You see yourself tooling down the highway in your convertible, the wind blowing in your hair (or over your bald scalp) with lively music playing in the background. Oh, the joy of it all. Happiness awaits, you know it, you can feel it; and you can also feel the power; the power that boat loads of money means to a man or woman such as you. Yes, yes, the joy of it all.

You can taste it.

Your friends will envy you. They’ll pat you on the back and guffaw even at your bad jokes. You’ll be invited to parties you had never been invited to. You’ll throw parties. Celebrities will come. Your relatives will be crippled with jealousy; especially your nasty supercilious Aunt Josephine and her ugly brood of whiney children. You will stride through life, no longer just you, but a rich you; an economic giant you. Royalty!

My lord, maybe a run for the Presidency is in your future. Oh, the joy, oh the…uh-oh.

You get clobbered! One machine after another hammers you the way a good boxer hammers a bad boxer. You hope you can spin one decision that changes everything around. You can’t. Not this trip. You are staggered. All your dreams are dashed.

Car? A red convertible car? Try using that rusty old bicycle from the kid down the street. A king? A queen? The President of the United States? Aunt Josephine bowing before you? Oh, no, no, she will guffaw not at your jokes, but at you being a joke. And her lumpy kids? Those scurvy rats!

Why did you play so much money? You know the slots. You can’t really murder them, except on very rare, newspaper-worthy occasions. That didn’t happen for you. It almost never happens to anybody. Why did you dump all that money down the drain? How did you lose your discipline so fast? What the heck got into your mind?

Now with perhaps somewhat less drama, many of us have been there before. You come with great anticipation and go home miserable. A fun trip is not as much fun when you lose; it is even less fun when you lose a lot. As Lady Macbeth said, “What’s done cannot be undone.” Sadly, what she “done” could not be undone by either her or by Macbeth.

But you can “undo” for you in advance. When you have a losing trip you must be able to put it behind you and that means (quite seriously)that the loss won’t have any major or even minor consequences on your real economic life. So there are certain real, less make-believe steps you should take before conning yourself into thinking you will become royalty.

Set your budget realistically, not based on epic dreams of glory, but on the reality that it is extremely hard to win millions on the machines. Please don’t use the money that you’ve been saving for a new car or your heart operation; use money you have put aside only for gambling. Split it up based on how much time you figure you want to play. Stick to it too.

Figure how much you can afford to lose. Only bring that amount. You don’t intend to lose it but if you do, you won’t wind up like Lady Macbeth, bemoaning her fate as she sleep walks into Hades.

You see, emotions do count in gambling. They can’t change the percentages but they can change your experiences. Getting clobbered for affordable amounts is a sad thing; getting truly clobbered for big amounts is a devastating thing. Make sure you know what you can handle because “what’s done cannot be undone.”

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage Play Blackjack and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic. Available from and at your local bookstore. To celebrate his 25 years as a casino player Frank is offering a free copy of his book The Virgin Kiss. Send him an email with your name and address to

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