Posts Tagged ‘responsible gambling’

Drinking and Gambling

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Drinking and gambling seem to go together, but that doesn’t mean they should. While doing some casual drinking while playing is fine, you should keep in mind that drinking too much impairs you judgment, and that includes at the blackjack table.

A quick search on Google News gave me the reminder I needed. The first blackjack story I found was about a man who was taken to detox after thinking a police station was a casino. The man had left a football game and then walked into the University of Nebraska-Lincoln police station, thinking it was a casino. He asked the front desk for some chips and they said they weren’t a casino, so he left. He later returned and tried again. The second time, some police offers questioned him and realized that he was drunk. The man blew a .273 on a Breathalyzer test. To put that into perspective, you’re legally impaired at 0.08. The man was taken into protective custody to detox but was not arrested.

This is a humorous example, but it’s a good reminder. The man is actually lucky that he didn’t walk into a casino. If he was visibly drunk, the casino likely would have turned him away, but if they couldn’t tell then he could have lost a lot of money there by making poor decisions.

If you visit a casino and are hitting the blackjack tables, the cocktail waitresses will bring you free drinks. That’s not out of the kindness of their hearts. It is because free drinks make you happy, which will keep you playing, and because drinking inhibits your decision-making ability. If you have had too many drinks, it becomes more likely that you will ditch basic strategy or flat betting and try something crazy, like drastically increasing your bet on a hunch.

The same thing can happen at home while playing at an online casino, though. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have a Breathalyzer there. For that reason, I advocate abstaining from drinking alcohol while you gamble. If you can’t do that, limit to a number of drinks that you know you can have while still being in total control.

Blackjack Safest Casino Game

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

There are a number of reasons that blackjack is my game of choice. It is fun, provides strategy without being as complicated as poker, and has good odds. In fact, it has the best odds in the casino if you adhere to basic strategy. If you count cards, you can even tilt the odds in your favor. Now, however, there is another reason to favor blackjack over other casino games: it is safer.

A recent study conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Sydney found that blackjack is the game least likely to lead to problem gambling. Gambling addiction, problem gambling, or whatever you want to call it, is a major issue and although it only affects a small number of gamblers, it is a large enough problem that it needs to be addressed. People with gambling problems can lose their jobs, their homes, their families and more.

According to the study, though, blackjack players are the least likely casino gamblers to develop a gambling problem. The study interviewed patients at gambling rehabilitation centers about what forms of gambling they engage in, among other factors. The results of the study are that fewer than 1% of those who were getting treatment for gambling addiction cite blackjack as their game of choice. No-limit poker games and sports betting were the most represented, with both totaling 85%, indicating that they are the forms of gambling most prone to develop into a problem.

The study also found a correlation between alcohol and drug use and problem gambling. This may not come as a surprise, but the problem gamblers reported that most of their irresponsible betting was done while under the influence. The study found that intoxication while gambling makes the player 15,000% more likely to engage in behavior that leads to financial problems.

Based on the results of this study, it seems that the moral of the story is this: Don’t gamble while intoxicated. Stick to blackjack.

Pennsylvania bans negligent parents from casinos

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

In what has become a disturbing and ridiculous problem, the state of Pennsylvania has banned two more negligent parents from its state’s casinos. Fajiao Sun and Xin Li were both arrested on the same day, at different times, for leaving their children unattended while they played virtual blackjack at the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Now the state has banned both of them from all casinos within the state.

Back on February 14, 2010, Sun was arrested for leaving his 10-year-old daughter at the entrance for the parking lot while he played virtual blackjack at the casino. Later that same day, in an unrelated incident, Li was arrested for leaving two sons, one five and one six years of age, at the parking lot entrance. Authorities say that in both cases, the children were abandoned for in excess of 45 minutes.

Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has placed both of them on the involuntary casino exclusion list, which means that there are not legally allowed to set foot in any casino located in the state. Li and Sun now make a total of 10 adults who have been banned from the casinos, including two men who allegedly committed the same crime.

On December 17, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board banned Donald Waige and Paul Gargas. Waige was arrested in June 2010 for leaving his 15-month-old son in the car while he played casino games. Gargas was arrested in August for leaving his two sons, ages seven and 12, in the car while he played at the casino.

When people think about responsible gambling, they usually are referring to money management, but as these cases show, being responsible also means putting parenting before your enjoyment of casino games. Players in Pennsylvania will either have to be responsible on their own or be barred from the casinos by the state.

Blackjack Strategy: Your Bankroll

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Playing blackjack or any casino game should be looked at as a fun activity. Like any leisure activity, a certain cost is involved. You can’t go to the movies, ride roller coasters, watch a baseball game or go out to a fine dinner for free. All of them have a cost involved and before you go, you have to decide how much you will need to spend that night and whether or not you can afford it (and if you can’t afford it, you don’t do it).

For some reason, people don’t seem to think the same way about playing casino games. I guess it’s because when you play at a casino, there is a possibility of winning money. However, even with blackjack, which has the casino’s lowest house edge, the odds are not in favor of that happening. The other thing that makes playing casino games different is people think “Well, I don’t know how much money it’s going to cost.”

And that is where they’re wrong. Just like any other leisure activity, you can control how much money you spend. How quickly that money is spent is another issue, but you have full control over how much money you use at the casino. That applies to an online casino as well as the brick and mortar variety. Here is what you do.

Before playing blackjack or any other casino game, you should decide on your bankroll in advance. How much money are you comfortable spending during your time at the casino? Once you have decided on an amount, set that aside. If you’re playing at an online casino, deposit exactly that amount, unless you already have an account balance, in which case you would deposit the difference between the two amounts. If you are visiting a brick and mortar casino, you should withdraw that amount in cash and as soon as you enter the casino exchange that cash for chips.

Once you start playing, only wager with that money that you set aside. Any money that you win should be separate and should not be bet. For example, if you decide that you want to spend $200 at the casino that night, get $200 worth of chips when you enter the casino. Then let’s say you go to the blackjack table, bet $10 on the first hand, and draw a winning blackjack, which would pay you $15. In that case, you have $215 dollars to bet with, right?

Wrong. In this case, you would still have $200 to bet with because, by winning, you get to keep your original wager of $10. The $15 you won should be kept separate with your winnings. That way, you won’t lose all of your money and you will at least have something to show for your time at the casino. Some people say that you should bet the $15 right away (letting it ride) because it’s the house’s money. That’s exactly what the house wants you to do. If you always expose your winnings to the house edge, the house will simply take more of your money.

Even if you decide to bet your winnings instead of keeping it, which I do not advise, the most important thing is that once your bankroll goes down to $0, you call it a night. It can be very tempting to simply get more money and keep playing. If you were on a winning streak, you think there is more money to be had. If you were on a losing streak, you might think your luck is due to change and you want to win your money back. In both cases, it’s the worst thing you could do, which is why I say to decide how much money you want to spend before you start playing. If you come up with an amount and make a rule to always stick with it, you will come out much better in the end. Remember that if you gamble irresponsibly, blackjack can be a very harmful game. For that reason, it is best to manage your money wisely and play smart with your bankroll.

School Financial Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Another Dumb Crook News segment. Folks, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’m going to say it again. Blackjack and other gambling games should be done in your leisure time with money that you have to spend on leisure. In other words, if you don’t have enough disposable income to justify gambling, you shouldn’t do it. You don’t need a lot of money to play blackjack, but if you don’t have the money, don’t play. How do you know if you don’t have enough? Well, if you have to steal money to play, that is a good indication. Such is the case here.

Susan Thanh Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzling $279,000 from a technology school in Alexandria, Virginia. Litwin, 37, was the financial technician for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology when she withdrew $279,000 in student funds. Most of the money she spent playing blackjack at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Her attorney said that she had a gambling addiction, which may be true or just a convenient excuse. In either case, it doesn’t excuse stealing money from children to fund a gambling habit. Litwin resigned from her position with the school, having worked there for 18 years, once her embezzlement was discovered.

This morning, Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzlement and will be sentenced in July. Since the school she worked for receives federal funding, her embezzlement was treated as a federal crime. She faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines in addition to restitution. Taking steps to pay back the money, Litwin has relinquished ownership of a house in Florida and will forfeit her retirement savings, which amount to approximately $60,000.

Pleading for leniency in front of the judge, Litwin said “I love the kids. Working with them… it’s my passion.” She then added, “I just love playing blackjack more, so I decided to take money from the kids. Besides, I assumed that I’d win money, in which case I could have paid it back.” Okay, I made up that last quote.

Not much more needs to be said here, but it’s disturbing how many cases of embezzlement I’ve seen where the funds have been used as blackjack gambling money. Here’s hoping Ms. Litwin never sets foot in a casino again.

Bank Robber Arrested at Casino

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I’m thinking of starting a Dumb Crook News subsection of my blackjack blog. It seems like at least every month there is a new entry for it. Today the dumb (alleged) crook is Joseph Baer.

Baer was the suspected robber of three banks in Philadelphia. He had a previous bank robbery conviction and was known to have a compulsive gambling problem, so the FBI suspected that he was stealing the money and then heading straight over to casinos to use it.

They were right. Baer was caught while playing blackjack at the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A security guard at the casino recognized him and notified a state trooper, who held him until the FBI arrived to charge him with the federal crimes of bank robbery.

Back in 2004, Baer was convicted of two bank robberies and spent six years in prison. Earlier this year, he was released to a halfway house. Obviously, he wasn’t rehabilitated, because he promptly fled the halfway house and then immediately started robbing banks again.

Wait, do I have to say allegedly? I mean, he was caught on camera doing it! On April 13, the same day he had fled the halfway house, he showed up at a PNC Bank and was captured by surveillance cameras wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey and robbing the bank. That’s two crimes in one, right? If Baer had known about the surveillance cameras, which he should have learned about in court in 2004, I imagine he would have covered his face or at least not been seen wearing a McNabb jersey. That’s just embarrassing.

A few days later, security footage shows Baer robbing a TruMark Financial Credit Union while wearing a John Lennon T-shirt. Well, at least this time he wore something cool. So it seems that he learned his lesson and figured that if he’s going to be seen robbing banks, at least he should look cool while doing it.

Or not. A few days later he was again caught on surveillance video robbing a Citizens Bank, this time wearing an Iron Man shirt. Okay, so this guy’s an idiot and a nerd. I get it.

Baer will face charges for three bank robberies and fleeing a halfway house, so this man should be behind bars for quite some time. Maybe this time while he’s in there he’ll think about the consequences of robbing banks. Because his game of choice is my game of choice, and probably the game of choice of my readers, I feel a need to say something about problem gambling. If you have a gambling problem, you should seek help. Gamblers Anonymous can help you, as can many other groups. You should always gamble responsibly and only wager money that you can afford to lose.

To help you out, here’s a little quiz. You know you have a gambling problem if:
a.    The FBI believes you’re a compulsive gambler
b.    You need to rob banks to pay for your gambling habit
c.    Even while on the run from the law you can’t resist hitting the blackjack tables
d.    All of the above

A Word on Blackjack Cheats

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I don’t know how many times I’ve come across an article online about how to cheat at blackjack. They’re all over the place and it gets me mad every time I see it. Those articles usually start with a disclaimer that says they don’t condone cheating or that you can get in trouble if you’re caught cheating, but then they give you all of the information you need to go out there and do it.

We would never tell you to cheat at blackjack and think it’s wrong to cheat, but if you wanted to do it, here’s how! Simply follow our step-by-step guide and you will be an expert blackjack cheat in no time!

It is irresponsible for blackjack guides to tell people how to cheat and it pains me that so many of my competitors do that. I will never advocate or give you information that will help you cheat in blackjack.

There are two reasons not to be a blackjack cheat. The first is that cheating is wrong. There are many justifications that people have for cheating at casinos and I have written extensively about the psychology behind cheating. However, what it comes down to is that the game of blackjack is either a fair game or it is not. If it’s not fair then why are you playing it at all? Cheating in order to “make the game more fair” is just an excuse, because blackjack already has the lowest house edge in the casino. When you use proper basic strategy it can be lowered to 0.5%. If you also count cards, which isn’t cheating, then the player can actually gain an advantage over the house.

So if the game is already fair, why would it be okay for you to not play by the rules? Those rules are good enough for everyone else. Besides, when you enter a casino and sit at a table, you are in essence agreeing to the terms of that table and promising to play by the rules. Think of it as an unwritten contract.

Not only that, but blackjack cheating actually hurts other players as well. Think about it. Unless you’ve been living in a cave (and if you have, how are you reading this?) then you know that most of the world has been in a recession. As a result, companies all across the globe are losing money. The hardest-hit industries have been those of leisure and luxury, which would include casinos. Gambling isn’t a necessity, so trips to the casino are one of the first things people do away with when cutting back on expenses. As a result, casinos across the world are losing money.

Casinos don’t like losing money. Therefore, when the money they’re losing gets out of hand, they tend to make changes to make more money. Those changes can come in the form of getting rid of some of their comps, raising the rates for their rooms, and of course changing the rules in their games to increase the house edge. When that happens, you and other blackjack players suffer. So if you cheat in order to “break the casino” or whatever you’re trying to do, don’t think of the casino as an evil corporation that wants to take your money. Think of it as a business that provides you and other blackjack players entertainment and if they lose too much money, they will either provide less entertainment or may go out of business altogether.

So that is one reason not to be a blackjack cheat. The other reason is much more simple and easy to understand: There are severe consequences if you are caught. If you’re caught cheating, you will be banned from the casino, possibly every casino in that chain, and maybe even from gambling in that city again. Not only that, you will most likely face criminal charges (felony fraud, most likely) and could end up spending years behind bars, aside from having to pay a fine and restitution to the casino. Cheating isn’t worth risking all of that.

So I repeat: Do not cheat at blackjack. And you online casino writers out there, don’t tell people how to do it. For those who do, shame on you.

Don’t Be Like This Guy: Antoine Walker

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Every now and then I like to point out people who are the antithesis of a role model, those players who do everything wrong. I’ve discussed players with gambling addiction, players who throw temper tantrums, players who sue the casino after losing, players who cheat, players who steal to fund their blackjack bankroll and more. Today I want to discuss Antoine Walker.

Walker played 13 seasons in the NBA and made $110 million over that time, not including endorsement contracts like he had with adidas. Now not only is he broke, he is in dept and facing felony charges of fraud for writing bad checks to Las Vegas casinos.

Walker was a talented player who had his best years with the Boston Celtics, but it seems that the only thing he enjoyed more than hoisting up a three-pointer was wasting his money. Even by NBA standards, Walker’s extravagance is the stuff of legend. Even today, in all of the trouble he is facing, which includes possible jail time and a debt in the millions, he doesn’t seem to get it.

Walker seems remorseful about squandering his vast fortune, but still doesn’t seem to understand. In an interview with ESPN, he said that he thought spending all of that money was his “calling” and that his “job is to give back.” By giving back, he doesn’t mean donating to charity or helping in the community. Instead, he means taking his wife and teammates to fancy dinners, buying his family and friends (and himself) collections of Hummers, Bentleys and Benzes, and buying himself and his family luxurious mansions.

He also loved to gamble, spending “a couple thousand dollars a hand playing blackjack.” His gambling problems seem to come from hanging out with Michael Jordan in 2001, who was a known high-stakes gambler and also happened to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. As someone Walker looked up to, Jordan would hit the blackjack tables and bet thousands on each hand. If he lost, no big deal. After all, it’s only money.

Betting that much money on blackjack, of course, is stupid. You don’t need to bet high to have fun. The amount of the wagers, though, isn’t the biggest problem. That came when Walker established a credit line and began betting with money he didn’t actually have on him at the time. I have cautioned against that time and time again. It is too easy to lose track on how much you’re spending. Eventually, Walker was betting money he didn’t even have in an account and when he needed more, he wrote checks to the casinos. Of course, if you write someone a check knowing there’s no money in your account to cover it, that is not only stupid, it’s also a crime.

As a result of his poor decisions, Antoine Walker, the man who was once one of the most popular players in Beantown, is now facing a court battle over his debts, a different court battle over fraud, a different court battle over child support and a court battle over property he owns in Chicago (turns out he’s not a great landlord, either). So let me say this as clearly as I can: Do not be like Antoine Walker. Use your finances wisely at all times, especially at the blackjack table.

Man Sues Casino for Loaning Him Money

Friday, March 5th, 2010

In my blog I make a point to discuss gambling responsibly and taking a personal responsibility for your habits and actions, so when I heard about this case I had to write about it. A Kentucky man is suing a casino in Indiana for loaning him money while he was drunk.

Jimmy L. Vance was gambling in what was then called Caesar’s Casino (now the Horseshoe Southern Indiana) back in 2004 and lost $75,000 to the casino. What’s worse is that it wasn’t Vance’s money. After presumably losing his own money at the casino (none of the news stories say), Vance took credit advances for the $75,000 in several installments. Vance says he remembers borrowing the first $20,000 but not the rest.

Vance has not paid the money he owes and is suing the casino for taking advantage of him. According to Vance, the casino loaned him money when he was clearly inebriated and, therefore, not of sound mind to make a decision to borrow money. Vance’s lawyers are arguing that if he was drunk he cannot legally enter into a contract with the casino. Therefore, the loan contract would be null and void and he would not owe the casino a thing. His lawyers also state that surveillance videos clearly show that Vance was intoxicated.

The casino argues that he was fully functional and didn’t sway or stagger. They say he seemed fine while playing blackjack, walking the casino floor and talking to the dealers and cocktail waitresses. If the casino wins this case, they could seek up to $225,000 under Indiana law, which includes what Vance currently owes, interest and legal fees.

One of the issues at question is whether the casinos can legally offer a loan to a player who is drunk. Some see that as taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable. Others believe that it is the responsibility of the player to make their own decisions, including how much to drink. Most states, however, can charge a bartender for serving alcohol to someone who is intoxicated and hold them legally liable if there is an alcohol-related incident, such as DUI. It’s not a stretch for the same concept to be applied to a casino giving out loans. Similarly, several players have sued casinos for allegedly taking advantage of their gambling addiction, but so far none have been successful.

This case is kind of a he said-she said and I don’t know the truth, but I will tell you this. You should never take a loan from a casino. Ever. If you don’t have the money to gamble with, you have no business gambling. You should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and if you need a loan to gamble, this is obviously not the case. Aside from that, the only advice I can give you is to be careful how much alcohol you consume in a casino, because the more you drink, the worse your decisions get.