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Risk of Ruin - E. Clifton Davis


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"Risk of ruin" is a phrase coined by BJ Card Counting book writers and gurus 30 years ago. It has since been used by virtually all BJ and Baccarat system developers.

Card counters need that phrase because their risk of ruin is real - in fact, inevitable. The longer they play, well it is just a question of time. Risk of ruin was real 30 years ago when card counting was developed. But new BJ rules make the risk far greater today. Among others, the "must bet every hand rule".

25 years ago, card counters could simply bet when there was an excess of tens in the remaining cards and not bet when there wasn't. That was bad enough because nobody knew who might get dealt those excess tens. Sure, it might be you. But the dealer has just as good a chance of getting them. And if she merely gets a first card ten, the table has virtually no chance because they MUST hit to 17 or better and thereby greatly risk breaking. So the overall card counting advantage, when and if it does appear, is far smaller than movies and books and gurus would have you believe.

But today, card counters must bet every hand. (They don't mention this in the books or the movies). This means that the counter must bet whether he has an advantage or not. Overall he is going to lose 57% of the hands. To make up for this he must bet a huge "spread" (The difference between his low and high bet.) Card counters need at least a 10 to 1 spread to have any chance at all. Many casinos confound card counters altogether by putting an unwritten limit on the amount of spread allowed. I was ejected in Vegas for using a mere 3 to 1 spread.

So given his necessary spread together with other ridiculous things the counter is taught, like:

It doesn't matter how old the cards are

It doesn't matter when or where you play

It doesn't matter which table you play

It doesn't matter which seat you take and

It doesn't matter how many players are in your game

All totally wrong!

It is just a question of time before the card counter hits his risk of ruin.

Kenny Uston, in his book, talks about the time he lost 20 high bets in a row, all made in a good plus count, exactly when he was supposed to have the advantage. What the hell kind of advantage is that???

While that might be rare, losing 10 in a row isn't.

Take a card counter who plays at a $100 table to get the spread he needs. What if he loses 10 $1000 bets in a row 3 shoes in a row? That is how it usually happens. The vast majoity of counters just hit their risk of ruin - most, long before that.

See what I mean - It is just a question of time.

Counters NEED the term risk of ruin.

But so do most Baccarat players!

Most of the Bac systems taught/sold involve a lengthy progression - perhaps 10 bets long or even 20. Often a Fibonaci or Martingale. Yet every player who has played the game any length of time has lost 10 hands in a row and 20 is just a question of time. That is why our progressions are only 4 bets long max, and usually only 3.

It is no wonder that Bac teachers have also adopted the term risk of ruin. The way they play, they need that term.

Take Lee Evans for instance: His progressions are so long that he needs to buy in for 1500 units! By comparison, we buy in for 8 units. Why? To avoid risk of ruin altogether. Lee MUST win every shoe he plays because he risks ruin in every shoe he plays. I call that white knuckle Baccarat.

I have a totally different gambling philosophy:

Look at us in comparison. We have a max stop loss of -8 units. But your losing shoes are not going to average -8. They will average about -4 or -5. Why? Because if we are at -5 and our next bet is 4, we quit with -5, DON'T WE. Plus, you are going to inevitably get some -1 and -2 shoes that help your losing average. We could lose half our shoes (the same average as flipping a coin) and still be way ahead of the game. Our losing shoes are not catastrophic. They are all in a days work.

Risk of ruin: It is just a term somebody needed for THEIR way of playing. It is NOT inevitable and it is easily avoided altogether. We don't want any part of that do we. Let's let the other players take those kinds of risks - but not us!

So what is a Fibonaci? It's an accident looking for a place to happen. That's all you need to know about it.

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Ellis, lots of very thoughtful insights in here. Thank you.

You mention our progressions are only 4 bets long, max. But that is not the case with NOR+ U1D2. It seems to me our protection against "risk of ruin" using U1D2 is by keeping a -8 stop loss, and capturing profit when already up in a shoe. That being the case, would we EVER reach a 6 bet in the progression? After losing the 5 bet we have experienced a 15 unit drawdown. Lets say we were up 19 units when that pregression started (presumably we would have quit if we got to 20 units). So now we are +4 units and considering a 6 unit bet -- which we would not make in order to avoid going from +19 to a losing shoe.

It is not that rare to experience 5 loosing hands in a row. Is it possible that U1D2 may not be as "safe" as it appears as the only way to continue the progression past 5 units is to take on a significant risk of a very large loss?

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Correct, with the U1D2 it is up to us to keep it under control. Again this is why I don't teach it to new guys. Also U1D2 should only be used under known good conditions like when a table has been producing a certain shoe type for several shoes or when we are playing new cards where we are familiar with what the prep produces.

I sometimes go to the 7 bet but only if I already have several winning shoes at that table. This can only happen late in the shoe. And correct, you are probably usually better off to quit with a small win. It is a judgement call.

On the other hand, in a great situation, I'm quick to go to U1D1. But with winning bets of 5 or more I go down 2 and winning bets of 6 or more I go down 3. You win so much more while your bets are 4 or less that you can usually afford a 6 or a 7. Here I'm shooting for 30 or 40 units and sometimes more.

With U1D1 look at the situation where you always lose your 1,2 but win your 3,2. In the first 20 bets you are already up +10 even though you lost half your bets. It is the same situation if you always lose your 123 but win your 432. Or if you lose all your 1s and win all your 2s. Now if you can get your hit rate up a little you are looking at a rather easy +40.

But you can't be betting that way all the time. Save it for easy shoes where you are consistently winning more than half your bets. Remember, winning half your bets is the normal odds of the game. But with the skills I have taught you you should usually be beating a 50% hit rate.

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