Given that the highly skilled player can occasionally detect situations in which the odds are in his favor, how should he bet?

He could bet his entire bankroll. Say a player did this, and the total of his bankroll is \$5,000. Every time he gets a 20 percent advantage by, for example, determining a deck composition which gives the tie approximately this advantage, he can expect to make \$1,000 overall. In effect, he "earns" this amount, a very attractive return. But hang on a minute! The tie bet only occurs, on average, less than once in every ten deals! The tie bet, of necessity, must occur more frequently if the cardcounter detects an advantage, but even in the most favorable situations it will usually occur less than one time in five. In this example, the tie will not occur 87 percent of the time. So the gambler has an 87 percent chance of losing everything. He might well have an advantage in the long run, but that's academic-he won't be able to continue playing with no money.

Alternatively, the player could pursue the other extreme and bet the table minimum. This virtually guarantees that he will not be ruined before he gets ahead when he has the advantage, but the money he wins from the occasional favorable situation will not outweigh the considerable losses from the unfavorable bets he must place in order to stay in the games. Consequently, he is playing a losing games. Even if he watches from the sidelines and only bets when the deck is positive, he will win so slowly that working at McDonald's would seem attractive by comparison.

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Fooling Around

I'll begin by relating one cheating story that illustrates what I see as the biggest "threat" at home games. I was heads-up at the end of a little Hold'em tournament with about a \$50 first-place prize. Another player who had been eliminated agreed to shuffle and deal for us in order to speed up the game. The thought of cheating wasn't on my mind, so we allowed this player to shuffle, cut, and deal entirely on his own. For whatever reason, this guy decided to stack the deck. In one hand, I got fair starting cards and called before the flop. The flop was a jack and some rags. My opponent made a small bet and I called. The turn was another jack. Immediately, my opponent became a caricature of an amateur feigning weakness, so I folded on his bet. Disappointed at the small pot, he showed me his two pocket jacks, which gave him quad. I congratulated hand, and didn't think much more of it.