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Escaping reality can be a costly mistake

By Jerry “Stickman” Stich


If you are an average gambler on a multiple day trip to Las Vegas, you arrive at your hotel, drop your bags off in your room and immediately head to the casino. You then plop yourself down at the first open machine or at the first open spot you see at your favorite table game. From that point forward you are in a totally different world. You are in a world where time no longer is a factor. You are oblivious to whether it is day or night or whether it is sunny or raining. In short, you’re totally unaware of things going on around you. All that matters is the game you are playing. You have left the normal routine and entered a “bizarro” world where all of your normal concerns and routines are abandoned.

This is what many (if not most) patrons of casinos are looking for when they travel to a casino. They seek to forget their everyday cares. They seek to abandon all the controls and schedules inflicted upon them by their daily working lives.

It is normal for people to look for an escape from oftentimes humdrum and boring lives. Even those whose lives are anything but humdrum and boring but instead filled with enormous amounts of stress also look for a bit of a respite. And casinos are more than happy to provide everything they can to facilitate that escape from reality. From scantily clad cocktail waitresses to the absence of windows and clocks to the use of colored chips rather than actual currency to the easy complimentary alcoholic beverages, they are all carefully calculated by the casinos to provide a sense of escape.

By giving the player the sense of escape, casinos also set the trap. In a world where nothing is as it was back home, so too, are the worries about money no longer valid. After all, this is fantasyland where anything is possible and anything that used to matter no longer does matter. Unfortunately, in this environment, bad decisions tend to be made.

When a player runs out of money, to continue the fun of fantasyland, they hit their casino credit or the ATM to replenish it. No need to worry, this is all make-believe. When they begin to get tired, they brush it aside in an attempt to continue their fantasyland adventure. I have run into people who have spent more than 24 hours of marathon playing without taking a break – and they look and act like it.

When a player is so invested in maintaining the illusion that things including bankroll and sleep no longer matter, profound consequences are in the offing. When someone is so tired and drunk, they cannot make rational decisions. The decisions that are made tend to favor prolonging the experience rather than protecting oneself. Oftentimes this can lead to a total wipeout both financially and physically.

Now, I am certain that no one reading this article is that totally invested in escapism. In my opinion, however, it is better to guard against any of the pitfalls that go along with it.

How can you do that?

Obviously when you are staying and playing at a casino, it is not the same environment as when you are in your normal daily life. That does not mean that you must totally abandon all of your daily routines. Indeed, trying to stay as close as possible to your normal routine will also help you maintain your normal risk awareness. And that is what you really want to do.

Instead of immediately heading for your favorite casino game, take some time to rest up in your room. If possible try to keep all your activities on the same schedule as when you are at home. Go to bed at about the same time as home. Get up at about the same time. Have your meals at approximately the same times. Fit your gambling sessions into the times in between.

By doing this – by keeping the same schedule as is normal – you will be able to maintain the same rhythm as when you are in your normal life. Your normal routine will be carried over into the casino routine. While still being a break from the normal, maintaining the same rhythm will help keep your risk awareness intact. By maintaining your rhythm, you will make fewer bad decisions. Fewer bad decisions translates to fewer lost dollars which translates to more fun in the long run.

An escape is truly nice, but we must live with the effects of that escape. Keeping a normal rhythm will help the escape be a pleasant experience – even in the long run.


Playing a full pay Jacks or Better game (9/6) with a max bet of five quarters, you are dealt the following hand:

How would you play it? This hand has two high cards (K A) and two cards of a royal flush (K 10). You could also hold just the Ace. Would you take a shot a royal by saving the King/10, go for a high pair or more with the King/Ace, or just save the Ace and hope for the best?

Let’s take a look.

Starting from the lowest average return:

Holding just the Ace, while giving you a shot at a royal flush, returns only 2.2360 credits for the five you played.

Holding King/10 of diamonds for a shot at a royal flush returns just 2.3410 credits.

Saving the two high cards give you many possible winning hands including four-of-kinds, straights, three-of-a-kinds, two pairs, and high pairs. This hold returns 2.3716 credits.

Going for the royal flush would not cost a whole lot in this instance, just 61 cents per $100 played (.0306 credits per five played = .00612 credits per credit played). If you are really going for the thrill of a royal, this would not be too bad a save, but to get the most out of your bankroll, you should save the King/Ace.

Is that what you would have done?

Next hand. Playing the same 9/6 Jacks or Better game with five credits bet you are dealt the following hand:

This hand has two cards of a royal flush (J 10), three cards of an open straight (J Q 10), and two high cards (J Q).

Would you go for the royal flush? Maybe you take a shot at the straight. What about going for some high pairs or more by saving the two high cards?

Again, starting with the lowest return:

Holding the three cards of an open straight (J Q 10) returns 2.3728 credits on average for the five credits played. Holding the two cards of a royal flush (J 10) returns slightly more at 2.4009 on average.

However, holding the two high cards (J Q) returns 2.4900 credits on average. This is the proper hold.

Would you have played these hands properly?

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