Thursday, January 20, 2005

I Will Not Act Like a Donkey, I Will Not Act Like a Donkey

We’re going to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a new feature, titled Stupid Donkey Confessions. Stupid Donkey Confessions will be exactly that, an infrequent (hopefully) feature in which the brave blogger regales you with tales of acting like, you guessed it, a Stupid Donkey.

Assorted kidding aside, I think it’s actually pretty valuable to share such tales, as we all fall prey to the all-too-human tendency to gloss over the ugly and only share the shiny and happy. And that’s cool, but it really doesn’t help the unwashed poker masses reading assorted blogs, trying to improve their games, as it’s all too easy to be disappointed to see that every other poker monkey out there is crushing games and making money, while they’re still trying to turn the corner.

So, with no further ado:

Stupid Donkey Confession: January 20, 2005

I’ve been running really well lately with casino bonuses. Abnormally well. I’ve been playing the same type of bonus at assorted casinos, ones in which you deposit $100 and get a free $200 bonus, so you start at $300. The catch (and there’s always a catch) is that when you request your first cashout, the casino takes back the bonus. So it’s hard to book a profit if you wager in the normal fashion.

That said, if you bet aggressively (and do lots of bonuses like these) you can show a profit. A pretty hefty profit. But you have to be willing to bet big and to lose your entire $100 deposit more often than not. You profit by setting aggressive goals on each casino so that when you hit, you hit big.

On the last 4 of these I did, I set a goal of $800 profit, after the casino took back the bonus when I withdrew. With an aggressive goal like that, odds are that I’ll only make my goal on 1 of the 4. I went 4/4.

I’d withdrawn my winnings from all but one casino. I was about to call it a night last night, withdraw, go to bed happy, but didn’t. I was so far ahead on the group of bonuses as a whole that I thought I’d gambool a bit, and see if I could bump it up to a profit of a cool $1000. I even pulled up the cashier page to withdraw and said naah, let’s gambool, and sat down, betting $100/hand at blackjack.

And I won. Then hit a blackjack. Then another. Then I won a few, lost a few, then won, finally stopping to check the balance. Which was sitting at $1,450. Subtracting the $200 bonus, that meant I’d show a nice $1,150 profit when I cashed out. Sweet. I sat there grinning, thinking how that was a mortgage payment and a few nice steak dinners for two, all for thirty minutes of playing blackjack online. Or four or five truck payments. Or a breeding pair of miniature donkeys, when my wife and I move out to the country and have a farm.

So I cash out and go to bed, right? Right? Nay, nay. I didn’t, with donkey ears starting to sprout on my head. I was so far ahead, both overall and on this particular casino, that I thought I’d roll the bones some more, and see just how far the rush would go. It was basically a freeroll anyway, and I was running well. I’d play until I either hit $1,500 or dropped back to $1,000. Then I’d cash out.

So I kept playing. And lost a hand. And another. Then I split 99 versus a 6, and got a 2 on each 9. So I doubled on both. And lost when the dealer drew to 21. Suddenly I was below my stop loss of $1,000. Time to cash out. Right?

*Insert sound of braying donkey*

They just took my hefty profit, damnit. And I wanted it back. And it was all still a freeroll, damnit. And I was going to get it back. Damnit.

So I kept betting. Except I started betting $200/hand. And I kept losing. And losing. And ten or twelve hands later my balance showed $0.00. (Well, technically it showed $0.25 but that’s beside the point and much less dramatic.)

So what lessons can we learn from this donkified behavior? In no particular order:

1) Don’t play if you don’t feel 100% certain that that’s what you should be doing. Just shut the computer down and get up. If you’re not in the optimal state of mind then the answer is simple: wait until you are. The beauty of gambling on the Intraweb is that it’s always there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If in doubt, shut down and stand up.

2) Set goals and stick to them. More and more I believe that people who say you shouldn’t be results-oriented are full of crap. Yes, I know, it’s one long session, yes, that’s true. But the world is results-oriented and ignoring that fact and espousing some largely unattainable Zen master state is counter-productive. It’s not the setting of short-term goals that’s unproductive, it’s the setting of extremely short-term goals (e.g. I will win $5 for every 20 minutes I play) that’s unproductive. I set a goal, based on my bankroll and risk tolerance. And I hit it. Twice. But I kept playing, kept pushing, long past the point where I ceased to play smart.

3) Once you start equating winnings that you haven’t yet cashed in into tangible things such as mortgages, car payments, or Big Macs, you’ve stopped playing your best. If you do this, stop. Don’t play another hand. Cash out. You’ve actualized the winnings into something desirable, something that can be taken away from you. And once it is taken away from you, you act like any monkey would. You get pissed. You start tilting.

4) I tilted. Plain and simple. I chased my losses by increasing my bet size to a level that was dangerously ruinous, that gave me no margin for error to ride out short term streaks. And I got wrecked. You may get lucky every now and then, chasing losses, but following this path ultimately leads to doom. While you remember the positive shiny times that things turn and you save a disastrous session by chasing losses, you mentally skip over all the chips you bleed in the long run doing this.

5) It’s not your money until you cash in. That’s the most important lesson here. Those chips stacked in front of you? Ain’t yours, hoss. I don’t care if it’s a stack touching the ceiling, threatening to topple over and crush you. None of it is yours until you take them to the window and cash in. Once you start thinking of the chips as yours, of the winnings as yours, while you’re still sitting at the table, you’re in trouble. Stop. Get up. Cash out.

6) There’s no such thing as a freeroll. If you can possibly win money, it ain’t a freeroll. If your value your time, and you’re playing, it ain’t a freeroll. There’s never any situation in which you can tell yourself “It’s just a freeroll” and be correct. If you’re playing, play your best. Play smart. Play like it matters desperately.

7) Being ahead or behind don’t make the money you’re putting at risk any more or less valuable. Being way ahead doesn’t give you the license to play less than optimally, nor does being way behind. There’s absolutely no difference between those colored pixels and a crisp $100 bill crackling in your fingers. None. Fifty bucks is fifty bucks, whether it’s in a stack of 5,000 black chips or the last chip in your grubby, sweating palm.

And with that, fair readers, we end this installment of Stupid Donkey Confessions. May all your sessions be fruitful and free from donkified behavior.

5 comments:

Chris Halverson said...

That sucks. Badly. I've been there and done that though. It was a regular bonus. I had it totally cleared, am $25 short of $300 and think that it would rock to cash out $300. Next thing I know I'm busted.

All your points are exactly correct. Live and learn I guess. I know I did.

JasonSpaceman said...

Chris, I've got your loss beat my a fair bit - not Scurvydog's, though. Worst of all, I wasn't even chasing a bonus! I had deposited $100 to play BJ at Royal Vegas once last year. I spent somewhere along the line of 5 hours building up a huge stack of $900+. I started losing hands where I'd raised my bet over $25, and tried to compensate by raising my bets again. It only took about 5 minutes to erase all that effort. Talk about an empty feeling at the end of it. That was the biggest stack I've ever had at any game, before or since. I felt like a Stupid Donkey to be sure.

Human Head said...

All your points were great, but #6 was truly spot on.

Huge Junk said...

Ouch.

And I thought I had it bad when I pissed away $120 on Party the other night.

I can't even count how many times I should have walked away ahead of the game, but didn't.

Hopefully it will lead to you cashing some huge wins in the future that you might have pissed away otherwise.

Heafy said...

Yeah, great post. Where the hell was it a month ago when I could have used it?

By the way, you aint read no story about busting out at Blackjack until you read http://skitchorama.blogspot.com/2004/11/lesson-learned.html . Put me loossing a $500 bank roll way to shame.