My First Lucky Streak – could this happen to you?
by Janet Steinberg, for Great Bridge Links © 2016
Links last updated Feb 2018
As a child, being “on vacation” always meant the same thing. Being in Las Vegas.
I was about 10 and on vacation with my parents and older brother in Las Vegas when my first lucky streak hit. At the time, I didn’t know what a lucky streak was but that didn’t matter because I was so nervous when it happened that I couldn’t enjoy it.
Being “on vacation” always meant the same thing. Being in Las Vegas. My parents were gamblers. Although I didn’t know they were gamblers. I just thought they liked playing cards.
My house was home to weekly poker parties with laughing friends and almost nightly gin rummy and pinochle games with my great uncle Charlie. Bridge didn’t enter the house with any regularity until I was much older.
My grandmother taught me solitaire and gin rummy and casino by the time I was four. She mostly let me win. When I was about five and my dad was certain I knew how to add, he taught me black jack. There was no “letting me win” with him so mostly I lost. Later, he taught me how to “count” cards so I could almost predict when to and when not to take a hit in my quest for 21.
So here we were in Vegas staying at the Sahara Hotel. My brother and I were getting ready to leave the pool after a perfect day of horseback riding, playing pinball and swimmingwhen my dad showed up. He told me to put on a T-shirt over my swimsuit and come with him into the casino to check on our dinner reservations. Before getting to the ballroom, he stopped next to an open black jack table and said, “Let’s sit down and play a couple of hands.”
“Oh no, I can’t do that,” I said. “I’m not 21 and they won’t let me. They’ll arrest me.”
He laughed, said something like of course they won’t and pulled out a chair for me. I was mortified. Mortified and frightened that I’d be going to jail for the rest of my life.
Dad told me to sit after him, on his left One of the pit bosses who knew my dad – they all knew him I found out years later – came over, smiled and told the dealer it was okay for me to “play.” The cards went back and forth, some wins, some losses with my dad betting both of our hands. Then my hand started to win. And win. And win again. With each win my dad bet my hand up. And up. And up again until he had two tall stacks of black chips, $100’s, riding on my hand. Riding on me.
“I can’t do this anymore, “ I whispered to him. “That’s too much money and you’ll be really mad at me if I lose.”
“You’re not going to lose. You’re on a lucky streak. Don’t look at the bet. Just play the cards in front of you exactly like you have been…” until the formerly smiling, now scowling pit boss interrupted and screamed, “Get her out of here!”
Three or four pit bosses appeared out of nowhere, all of them shrieking. “Get her out! She’s not allowed in here!”
My dad then stood, knocking his chair over and yelled, “She can be here as long as she wants. You let her be here. You let her play. It’s only because she’s winning that you want her out. No! She’s not leaving.”
I spotted a couple of security police men trotting towards me behind the pit bosses. With all eyes and ears on the earsplitting match with my dad, I slid out of my chair and flew out of the casino into daylight. The police didn’t even come outside to look for me.
During dinner that night before the floor show started, my dad bent down to me and whispered, “That was quite a lucky streak today. You got on board with it and let it play out. Good job. Your winnings are paying for our dinner tonight.”
That night, with those words, I learned the meaning of “lucky streak.” That night, I too became a gambler waiting for my next streak.
It turns out that lucky streaks can happen to anyone, not just 10 year olds. According to a fascinating study of online gamblers in the U.S. reported in Popular Science (not currently available) , the chances of winning or losing a hand are about even at 48% each way (4% presumably accounts for a draw or push.) The chance of winning a second hand goes up slightly to 49%. But, here’s the kicker. After a second win, the chance of winning a third time increases to 57% and after that, notching a fourth win goes to 67%. Once you’ve got a four-bet winning streak going, the chances of scoring another win increase to 72%. The probability of a sixth win goes up to 75% and, if you have the stomach for it, the likelihood of hitting a lucky No. 7 win is 76%!
Maybe my dad knew this; maybe he didn’t. Obviously, there are other studies and theories about lucky streaks and the betting systems that go with them. Many players taylor their betting to take advantage of the phenomenon of the Lucky Streak We’ll explore some of this in future pieces.
Janet Steinberg has a degree in Political Science and History and is the owner and head writer for Writing Matters. Janet was raised in a family of card players and gamblers and spent part of her life as a blackjack dealer. We look forward to more articles from Janet.