I was asked by a winning blackjack player what I thought was the most common mistake made by pros and semi-pros. After some thought I responded, "Not quitting when behind after 45 minutes to an hour of play". Not only is this error common, but it also has significant negative consequences. Here are the reasons:
1. It is important to allow the casinos to book periodic wins if longevity is to be preserved. Just as gambling suckers are more likely to quit if they don't book a win sometimes, so are the casinos if you win too consistently. The winning player must provide the casino with the illusion that he is a loser. The best way that I know of to do so is to quit when you are significantly stuck. These records of losses are observed by shift bosses, casino managers, hosts, and, if big enough, by casino executives. They remember your big losses and will recall them when evaluating your play. The casinos where I have had the biggest lifetime wins are those where I racked up big early losses.
2. Losses make great advertising-- When I lose I make sure everyone hears about it. I don't whine but I do casually mention my misfortune. I tell pit bosses, dealers, shift bosses, hosts-- even cocktail waitresses (you never know, their living partner may work on the floor). When they commiserate, I shrug it off: "No big deal. I'm supposed to lose, aren't I? I'm here for the entertainment and I'm just paying my dues". If I consistently played to get even, I'd lose a lot of advertising mileage. Since I've already paid for the advertising, it seems a shame not to use it. Needless to say, my wins don't require any advertising.
3. Reputation-- I want to establish a reputation as a losing gambler who at times gets lucky. Booking big losses when they happen to occur, and shrugging them off as the way things are supposed to be, supports the image I'm trying to create. Reality is a function of belief, and I want casino personnel to believe I'm a losing player. Observing and booking actual significant losses reinforces this view and builds the desired reputation.
4. Exposure-- One of the biggest negatives about extended playing sessions is exposure. The casino has a concentrated block of time to observe your play. They even have time to call in an outside consultant if they determine your play is highly suspicious. Even if you are losing, affording them this concentrated period to closely watch your play is ill-advised. If you make a huge comeback and escape at break even or better, you may find yourself unwelcome upon your return.
5. Not playing your best-- I believe that few players play at their best when playing long sessions. I know that none of us thinks that we ever make counting mistakes. But mistakes do happen. I think that there is a greater tendency to make these mistakes when the mind is clouded with feelings of frustration, disappointment, and resentment-- all too common for many players when losing. These debilitating emotions are distracting and are likely to obscure your powers of observation. This decrease in awareness may cause you to miss opportunities or, worse yet, to overlook or misread signs of suspicion from casino personnel.
6. Lack of cover-- When behind there is a tendency to abandon cover. This is often rationalized by thinking that there is little need for cover if you are losing hand after hand. This is not true. When you abandon cover you are exposed. A sharp observer in the eye will have a much easier time nailing you
7. Overbetting-- When behind it is common for players to bet more than when they are ahead. They push it, sometimes dramatically increasing their spreads in an effort to get even. Besides the obvious exposure problem, this tactic can increase the risk of ruin. More than a few players have gone broke in this manner.