kottke.org posts about Don Johnson (gambler)

How to win at blackjackApr 02 2012

Over the course of a few months last year, blackjack player Don Johnson took three Atlantic City casinos for $15 million. And he didn't do it by counting cards...he used the same techniques one might use when buying a used car.

Johnson is very good at gambling, mainly because he's less willing to gamble than most. He does not just walk into a casino and start playing, which is what roughly 99 percent of customers do. This is, in his words, tantamount to "blindly throwing away money." The rules of the game are set to give the house a significant advantage. That doesn't mean you can't win playing by the standard house rules; people do win on occasion. But the vast majority of players lose, and the longer they play, the more they lose.

Allan Benton said it and so did Robb Stark to Jamie Lanister (and I'm totally paraphrasing here): If I do it your way, you're going to win. We're not going to do it your way. (via daring fireball)

Update: Kid Dynamite asserts that the article got it wrong about the math involved.

No. That's not right at all. You're failing to use their discount against them: you're getting no value from it if you keep playing when you're "far enough ahead" !!! Let me put it this way: pretend you're up a million, and you're betting $ 50k a hand. let's just pretend that each hand is 50/50 win/lose (it's not, but indulge me for simplicity's sake). So each additional hand has no positive expected value for you (nor any negative expected value).

However, if you pick up your million dollar win, walk across the street to the other casino who will give you a 20% rebate on your losses for the session, and start to lose - say you lose $ 1MM now - you're MUCH better off. You only have to pay $ 800k to the new casino (they rebate 20% of the million dollar loss), but you won a million at the first casino - you're still up two hundred grand. On the other hand, if you stayed at the first casino and proceeded to lose back your million in winnings, you're now flat - because it's all the same session so you don't get the benefit of the loss rebate. Capiche?

And so the question still remains: how did Johnson do it? (thx, @harryh)

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