There is evidence of people making wagers and bets since the beginning of written history. Archaeological digs have unearthed evidence of gaming devices similar to our modern day dice that date back even further. This evidence, which is found across all cultures and regions, suggests that placing bets is a part of human nature.
Humans are competitive, which is one possible reason that placing bets is such a common part of our history. This theory is supported by the evidence that the pastime is popular without regard to social status or the wealth.
Another reason, perhaps, is mankind’s active imagination. Gambling lore is filled with examples that provide material for our active imagination. While most people that visit casinos or place bets do not realistically believe that they can go on a run like Archie Karas – who turned $50 into $40 million at the famed Binion’s Gambling Hall – there is always the chance of smaller, but just as enticing, results.
Storytelling is also an important part of our culture. All of us have heard stories from friends who have scored big wins or have been in the right spot at the right time. It is interesting to note that the stories of near misses where a Karas type run was only slightly out of reach are told with equal joy and animation.
The good news is that there are a number of games that allow for the thrill of competition, provide the possibility of fantasy fulfillment, and provide a great story with the added advantage of having the odds in your favor.
The First Step
The first step is to pick the correct games, meaning you should pick games that are “winnable”. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that games that are not in the category are not playable; they can and do deliver excellent and often spectacular results. Winnable games are those that reward the player’s skill and study. There are five of them:
Sports betting dates back centuries. Sports bettors are the masters of discipline. While they may have a favorite team, they rely on hard facts and the math to make their decisions. They spend hours doing research and choosing the events that are the most profitable.
Armed with the knowledge of what each half-point or minor money line variation is worth in terms of real money, they shop around for the best place to make their wager.
Serious sports bettors also understand the basics and pick the more standard wagers as opposed to the longshot exotic bets and parlays.
With a house edge of about .5% (depending on some variables) blackjack is the best game in the house for professionals. Players who invest a bit of time learning basic strategy along with the more advanced strategies of game selection and bet sizing, can be very successful. Taking the time to learn several different blackjack variations – and how to adapt your strategy to each – is also a smart decision for those who want to take the game seriously.
Part of the culture of blackjack is that players with consistent wins usually choose to remain anonymous. So if your fantasy involves being a flamboyant winner, you may wish to alter it just a bit in order to fit in with the other avid players.
Poker is a game of skill, period. Serious poker players spend a great deal of time studying the game. They know the math, they learn to recognize and interpret the betting patterns of their competitors, and they are experts at calculating risk versus reward.
Poker players are also experts at taking the “long view.” Being a 9 to 1 favorite to win a hand means that there is a 10% chance that you will lose. Studious players realize that the amount they win with the 90% favorites far outweighs the losses.
While players like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey are household names, there are legions of poker players, known as “grinders”, who take their seats at poker tables every day to use their skill to earn a living.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has become one of the hottest competitions in the world. DFS is the natural evolution of rotisserie baseball and local fantasy football leagues. DFS is the most visible of all of the winnable games. DFS is the largest television advertiser in America, whose ads were seen every 90 seconds leading up the start of this year’s NFL season.
Just as their counterparts in the sports betting world, DFS players spend a great deal of time doing research. They look at stats, trends, and scour news sites for information in order to put together teams with complimentary players.
The key to winning fantasy sports is spotting potential breakout players who can be added to team rosters at bargain prices.
Just as with poker, handicapping horses is a definite skill. The amount of study a professional racing handicapper puts in far outdistances the couple of minutes it takes to run a race.
Serious handicappers are masters of discipline. While most of us go to a meet and wager on every race, the professional will have only one of two races that look profitable and will readily walk away from the ticket window if the odds fall below a pre-determined threshold.
Handicappers are also masters of extrapolating data. The daily racing forms contain a daunting amount of information. Processing this data and applying it to the current event is a rewarding skill.
All of us have fantasies. One of the pluses of indulging in those involving games of chance, unlike those of going to outer space, is that with a little study and effort we have better odds of making them a reality.