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A Letter To Max Stern From

Dear Max Stern, A few days ago, I found myself perched next to a particularly exciting slot machine. This one was a real cooker: although I started out fairly shaky, by the end of the evening I’d amassed an enormously handsome sum of money.

This slot really made good on its payouts. Sure, I had a few action-less rounds, but on the whole things were on the up and up. I came to the casino with a $100 bankroll, and left at the end of the evening was close on $1000. As you can imagine, this all got me really excited.

So I decided to return to the casino the next night in the hopes of growing my winnings. I've had my eye on a beautiful pink lambswool cardigan, and what better way to fund it than by letting the casino pay for it! Ah, I do love those little lambs‌ so cute and fluffy.

In any case, to my shock and disbelief I not only didn't make any money. I actually lost all my profits from the previous night. I was distraught. I left the casino confused, and very concerned. So‌ What did I do wrong? Sincerely,


Dear Confused, I must say your letter reminded me acutely of my own experiences at the casino. I remember when I first ventured into the exciting world of slots. Using the full $50 from my father for my 18th birthday, I eagerly stepped into the slots area, almost salivating at the prospect.

I thought about that Ford Escort Sport I’d had my eye on for years. Perhaps naively, I half expected to win the Jackpot Progressive on my first few goes, and certainly long before the $50 was up. You can imagine my concern and consternation when lo and behold I lost the full $50!

I left dazed and confused, even bereft. I couldn’t believe how fast $50 could slip through my hands. In retrospect, I realize now that my ignorance was based on faulty understanding of the operation of odds. You see, all slots have a predefined payout ratio, which is programmed into the machine during its programming phase.

Unfortunately, you can't anticipate when and in what proportion the slot will actually payout. In terms of advantage, the slots, like all casino games, carries a distinct house edge. You're not meant to be able to defy this edge. So although, Ms Confused, you had an extraordinarily lucky night, over time, the casino will always trump.

It's just one of the many ways that the house is able to ensure a healthy profit in a sustainable business model. There is just no convincing or possible mathematical strategy to define how long you should stay at a machine and when you should move on. My advice? Stay at the casino for as long as you're having fun.

Once it becomes a burden – either emotional or financial – it's time to walk out and play another day. Hope this helps. Kind Regards,

A Letter To Max Stern  

A Letter To Max Stern From Dear Max Stern, A few days ago, I found myself perched next to a particularly exciting slot machine. This one was...

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