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Best of John May

Gaming Guru

 

How Long Is The Long Run?

12 June 2000

When people learn you gamble professionally, you find people start asking you the same questions. "How much have you won this year? How often do you win? How often do you lose?"

Often people assume that an advantage player simply walks into a casino and wins as many chips as he can get away with. There are a couple of techniques where you can profit without risk, such as silver mining or arbitrage, but generally speaking it is not as simple as people fondly imagine.

It's very rare to find someone who understands the concept of fluctuation. The uninitiated never understand that a professional gambler might lose for months on end, yet still profit overall. Usually this is mistaken for compulsive gambling behaviour.

People scoff when they hear about how even the most skilled card counters can theoretically have losing years.

Part of the confusion is due to an imaginary concept most of the gambling texts refer to called the "long run". It is usually explained that a gambler who has the best of it will endure losing periods, but that overall he will end up ahead.

People then ask, how long is the long run? 1000 hands of blackjack, 100 sports bets, 5000 hands of poker?

In fact, this is just not how it works. There is no point at which the long run "kicks in".

What actually happens is this: When you make a series of bets with an advantage, you can win or lose. But the longer the series of bets, the smaller the chance that you will be behind, in the same way that a sound becomes fainter and fainter. The chance of being behind never actually vanishes. But it does become so small that over a long enough period of play, it decreases to the chance of being struck by lightning, and eventually into the realms of monkeys composing complete works of Shakespeare by bashing randomly at typewriters.

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May