Not Everybody Will Understand – Gambling With An Edge

Bonnie and I sometimes shop at Sprouts Farmers Market, which is a cross between a regular grocery store and a health food store. In my weekly email, I saw an announcement that between March 18 and March 31, any Sprouts purchase earns you a coupon (on the bottom of your register receipt), entitling you to $10 off of a $75 purchase between April 1 and April 30.

Since we spend a couple of hundred dollars there every month, these coupons are valuable. I might take some jockeying in a single trip to get at least $75, but not too much over, so the next week we can do it again — but I’m up to that task. And I’ll make sure to get three or four of these coupons before the end of March.

There’s a Sprouts less than a mile from the South Point and it can be on the way between our house and the casino. It’s also close to the gym I frequent. At 7:15 a.m. on March 18, the first day of the promotion, I went by Sprouts and bought two navel oranges for about $1.50. Any purchase will get you the coupon.

The receipt didn’t have the coupon at the bottom. I asked the cashier, and he didn’t know anything about it. I asked to speak to the manager, and I showed her my email from Sprouts discussing the promotion. 

She concluded that I was correct. She’d have to call up corporate and ask them how she was supposed to honor that commitment when the coupon wasn’t automatically printing at the bottom of the receipt. She didn’t want me to have to wait while she did all of that, so she created and gave me a $10 Sprouts gift card! Basically $10 cash on a $1.50 purchase. And you can bet that I’ll still collect at least three of these coupons before the end of the month.

There are 10 or so Sprouts markets in greater Las Vegas, but they are too far apart, and I was too busy to be interested in visiting additional ones the same day to see if I could collect again. For $50 apiece I wouldn’t have been too busy. For $10, I was. 

At South Point that day, I lost about $750. No big deal. Normal swing.

When I later explained to Bonnie about my $10 win at Sprouts, she was dutifully impressed. Then I told her I felt great about that $10 win while the $750 loss immediately afterwards didn’t bother me at all.

Bonnie’s comment was, “Your thinking is so messed up!”

She wasn’t upset. She was just bemused. We keep our finances separate so she’s really insulated from my gambling swings and doesn’t pay a lot of attention to them. But my thought processes are very different from hers.

I guess most people feel that their own way of thinking makes sense, and I’m no exception to this. My gambling score will take care of itself. I’m playing with an advantage for relatively small stakes. That will all work out. If not at the South Point this year, then somewhere else. If not this year, then next year, and the year after.

I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m very confident that if I keep playing games where I have the edge, eventually the odds will work themselves out in my favor. It’s relatively simple math. The swings along the way don’t matter very much to me as they are small relative to my bankroll.

The Sprouts $10, however, was “found money.” It was close to being a trivial amount, but far more satisfying than finding an abandoned quarter on the ground. I was only there because of their promotion, and I recognized when it wasn’t being honored. I was able to explain it clearly enough and politely enough that they honored it in a way that was far more beneficial to me than the way the coupon was written.

The fact that the $10 win and $750 loss were on the same day was just a meaningless coincidence. Players who care about today’s score won’t agree with my logic at all. Players who are concerned with long term results just might find my logic makes sense to them as well.

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