Thursday, January 06, 2005

Gambling and Faith and Superstition, Oh My

You have to love getting into work and finding that the database(s) slipped a gear last night and there's nothing to be done for the next few hours. Well, if you're a grunt monkey like me who depends on said database(s) to do the bulk of their job, that is. Not the poor slobs in charge of maintaining and fixing said database(s), who definitely aren't loving life right now.

The last few weeks have been fairly ugly, poker-wise, but last night was nice. I'd sort of forgotten what it was like to have hands hold up, and for that last crying call on the river to actually result in a pot being pushed my way. I banged out a couple hundred hands of the Empire reload, found myself about +$300, shut it down and watched Lost and the first half of Alias. Yeah, Jen, okay, you can birth my babies, just stop twisting my arm so damn hard.

The wife and I met with an Allstate guy yesterday about home and auto insurance, seeing if we can consolidate all that stuff and save a few bucks. I'd been dreading it, as while I knew it was something we needed to do, dealing with insurance folk isn't my idea of fun. This guy was like the best insurance dude ever, though, and kept crediting us with all sorts of discounts we really didn't qualify for. Plus his name was Harley. It was fairly ridiculous as the total bill, for exactly the same coverage (actually slightly better on the car side) was less than half what we're paying now. Sure, sign me up.

I'm still running insanely well on the casino side. Insanely well. I hesitate to post about it in general because it's an abnormality and the sticky casino bonuses I'm doing are high-risk, high variance, yada yada yada. But the last few weeks have been crazy, as far as hitting big on nearly every casino bonus I go after, turning piddly little $5 monthly bonuses into $475, etc.

Which brings us to the lovely intersection of gambling and supersititon and luck and faith. And despite wrangling with those often conflicting issues, I still have no idea what I really think.

I'm not the most spiritual of people. I'm just not. If I can't observe a phenomenon (or observe it second-hand via a qualified, trusted source) I don't put much stock in it. That's not to say I don't trust quantum physics; I do, despite not being able to tell a gluon from a meson. But ghosts, mediums, psychics; naw, dawg.

But I do believe in luck, to a large extent. I'll never claim that luck > math, as far as your expected return from wagering money in a -EV or +EV situation, but I do believe that we all undergo extended periods in which our results are consistently, surprisingly good (and bad). Granted, that's not really at odds with what statistics whispers in our ears. If anything, it supports the underpining maths, as it'd be much more unusual if we didn't encounter hot and cold streaks. So yeah, sign me up for some of that there luck.

Faith is trickier for me, though. Yes, faith is part of the gambling equation for me, as far as trusting my read on situations and trusting my abilities. I put faith into my ability to extract profits from the money that I wager. But at the same time I also realize that gambling is gambling, and that we're all just one bet away from hitting that statistical brick wall, in which we encounter the 0.01% likely losing streak that wipes us out. That despite our abilities and placing ourselves in generally +EV situations there always lurks the mother of all downturns that can wipe us out.

Is that true faith, then? I don't think so, when you get down to the nitty gritty. Most classic definitions of faith also involve the concepts of redemption and ultimate trust. If you give yourself up completely, and completely and utterly hold faith in something, you shall be saved and/or redeemed. Not so with gambling, though. Yeah, you could get even more kooky and existential and claim that busting out might be your real redemption, that you'd turn to a different, more fruitful life where you built houses for poor families in Equador, blah blah blah, but I think that's ridiculous. By and large, busting out is busting out. A bankruptcy of faith. No soup for you.

I'm fairly superstitious. Not Wade Boggs superstitious but if I find a routine that seems to work, I stick with it. My wife has assorted stuffed animals in our guest bedroom, from when she was a wee one, and we have a running joke about me being a bad influence and teaching them to gamble, etc. For some reason, the stuffed moose became addicted to blackjack. This joke coincided with my crazy run of late at the blackjack tables, so I started grabbing the stuffed moose everytime I sat down to chase a casino bonus, putting him on the desk beside my monitor, so he can stare intently at the monitor with his stuffed moose eyes. While I realize this is completely and utterly irrational behavior, and can defend it in absolutely no way, you better believe that I won't play a single hand of blackjack these days without the damn moose right there beside me.

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