Seal Makes a Million

by SealWyf, HSM Editor

Patience is the key to successful gambling. That’s because, in gambling, you’re fighting probability. It can’t be shoved along, coerced, or bribed with lucky charms. It is what it is, a force of nature.

All you can do is set up the proper conditions — pick a good game, secure an adequate bankroll, master the rules of play, and find enough willpower not to bet the family farm just because you’re “due”. You settle in and wait for the wins to come, like shy deer sidling up to a hunter’s blind. And they’ll come, but you can’t force them. Patience is the key.

But every so often, you let it all go — patience, will-power, budget and common sense, and dive headlong into the stream of chance. That’s why they call it gambling. And it’s why gambling is, or can be, a genuine addiction. I’ve been there, most recently in the Home casino.

I’ve known the Penthouse apartment was coming for several months now. And I knew it would take a million points in total winnings to earn it. Fortunately, I learned about it at the same time that video poker arrived at Paradise Springs. Video poker is my game of choice in real casinos — a perfect hypnotic blend of skill and chance, with a good pay-table and reasonable volatility. Over the years, I’ve racked up my share of major wins, in amounts that required hand-pays and tax forms, and secured me genuine real-world bragging rights.

Sincere thanks to Superlatives

I figured, with my skill at video poker, that I could earn the Penthouse with several months of concentrated play. So I settled in for the long haul, trying to fit a serious gambling session into every evening. My total winnings crept up slowly but steadily, by three to five thousand points each night. By mid-October, I had passed half a million points, and had just started my second twenty-dollar buy-in.

Then the Penthouse was officially announced for the content update of October 24. Suddenly, it seemed like everyone I knew was a millionaire. They were all going to get this on the release date, and I was still looking at earning it sometime in early 2013, if I was lucky. And I was overwhelmed by what I’ve dubbed the Veruca Salt Emotion — extreme jealousy, with cries of “I want it now!”, accompanied by whining and stamping of feet.

Was there any way I could hurry this along? My friend and fellow poker enthusiast DarthGranny told me that Casino champion Superlatives had posted a winning strategy on the Forums. DarthGranny had used it, and she had won her million in just four days of concentrated play.

This was hopeful. I figured if one little old lady could gallop to a million, so could another. And I trusted Superlatives. I’ve known him since the days of the EA Sports poker rooms, which he totally ruled with his gracious, friendly, respectful attitude and killer poker skills. He still rules Home gambling, as the top player of Paradise Springs’ first season. His avatar photo is posted in the stairs of the VIP Room as NA Home champion. I figured if Superlatives was handing out tips-and-tricks for gambling, they were worth following.

This is your destination

I located the forum thread, a discussion of the upcoming Penthouse Suite. Superlatives and Mermaid-KT had both described their strategies for hitting the top tier in a hurry. There were no real surprises here — the route to gambling success is no mystery. You need a good game, the skills to play it, and a bankroll that will carry you through the inevitable swings of fortune.

And you need a game where you can bet big. There are two reasons for this. First, and most obviously, it saves time. Even in real casinos, where you are playing in part for perks based on total play, you can get a lot more “coin through” per hour if you are playing for dollars instead of nickels.

The second reason for maximizing your bet size is more subtle. Remember that you are dealing with probability. And probability takes its tax on each and every bet, not the grand total aggregate of them. The tax isn’t paid each time — that’s why it’s gambling, and not a defective ATM. But on the average, you can expect to pay part of each wager to the casino.

Look around your average high-end casino, such as the Borgata in Atlantic City. There’s a lot of blinking light bulbs, and fancy carpet, and polished marble, and exclusive Chihuly glass sculptures, all managed by well-paid gentlemen in suits. If this were an apartment building, you couldn’t afford to live here. Casino decor is a tribute to the effectiveness of probability.

This is your game

Since probability operates on the individual bet, it’s best to minimize the number of bets you have to place. And that means making the largest bets that are compatible with your bankroll and the volatility of the game you are playing. In Paradise Springs Casino, that means you’re headed to the VIP room. Which means you’ll be playing poker, roulette or blackjack.

Poker is a great game, and I love it dearly. But for our purposes — racking up a million points of total win in the shortest possible time — it’s not a good choice. The games take too long to play out, and you are battling other players, not just the laws of chance. You may be good, but so are lots of other people. And, unless you are really, well, superlative, you may find yourself struggling.

So, it’s down to roulette and blackjack. Mermaid-KT favors roulette, and that’s where I started. But soon found that the game wasn’t working for me. I quickly dropped through a significant part of my bankroll. And it was boring. Roulette is one baby step up from slots in terms of player engagement. Instead of pulling the lever, watching reels spin and seeing if you won anything, you place a bet, watch a wheel spin, and see if you won anything. And the house edge of 5.26% is much higher than that of the really good casino games such as craps, blackjack and good pay-table video poker.

Max bet

We don’t have craps and video poker in the VIP room yet, so that leaves blackjack. And the largest bet you can make in Paradise Springs is the maximum bet at the VIP Room’s Single Deck Blackjack table — an impressive 1,600 credits. So get your bankroll in order, review your Basic Strategy chart, and take a seat. This is where the action is, if you’re going for a million in a hurry.

For your bankroll, I suggest investing $20 in the 40,000 chip bundle. It gives you a lot of breathing room for swings of luck, and the discount is substantial. Some players have earned their million with smaller stakes, but it’s difficult. Before you complain that you don’t want to spend $20 on a personal space, remember that you are also buying all the tier rewards you’ll win along the way, and, above all, status. Plus, Digital Leisure will throw in a free pair of attractive “Diamond Earrings” for everyone who wins the Penthouse Suite. How awesome is that?

I mentioned the Basic Strategy chart. This is something you need to memorize if you are going to play blackjack in a real-life casino. However, in Home, nobody will notice if you play with a chart on the couch beside you. You can easily find them online — just Google “blackjack basic strategy”. It looks complex, but the principles are very simple.

In blackjack (as you know, or should know if you are attempting to play it), the dealer receives two cards, of which you see one. You also are dealt two cards. You then have to decide whether you should take another card (“hit”) or go with what you have (“stand”), to get closer to 21 points than the dealer, without going over (“bust”). So how you play depends not only on your own cards, but on what the dealer is showing. That’s why there’s a strategy chart. And it’s why blackjack is fun — much more interesting than slots or roulette, or any other casino game except poker and video poker. It’s also a good game in terms of expectation — the casino edge is a modest 0.5% — and the volatility is reasonably low. You’ll get swings of fortune, but they won’t run you off a cliff.

I decided to start my run for the million on Tuesday, October 23. At that time, I had already accumulated over 600,000 points. So just I needed 400k more to win the Penthouse. At a reasonable rate of play, this would take four nights.

And now the fun begins

I decided to do it in two.

Remember, I was totally channeling my inner Veruca Salt. This was no longer about patience, or even reasonable behavior. The Penthouse was coming out tomorrow, and damn it, I wanted it! I wanted it enough that I was willing to experience some serious discomfort and sleep disruption to win it.

The first night went reasonably well. After deciding that roulette was not the key to riches, I spent some time on video poker, recovered my composure and some of my losses, and moved on to the regular blackjack tables. It had been years since I had played serious blackjack. My memory of basic strategy was rusty, and I needed to refresh my feel for the rhythms of the game. After I felt a bit more secure, I moved up to the VIP room and took my first serious shot at the Single Deck table with the maximum bet.

It was a surprisingly comfortable experience. Blackjack really is a good game. And luck was with me — by the end of the evening, I had turned my surviving 30k bankroll into over 70k. More important, I had racked up well over 100k on my total win statistic. I had sailed past all the blackjack tier levels likes stops on a Metro line, and won the total play Tier 8 Hot Tub. It had been a very productive evening.

This is our reward

Then came October 24 — content update day. The Penthouse was now officially out. Soon it would be mine — there was no question of that. I could do this sensibly, play a little each night, and win it sometime during the weekend.

Or I could be a wild-eyed idiot, ruin my sleep schedule on a work night, and try to finish this in one excessive Vegas-style all-nighter.

You already know the choice I made. I walked into it with my eyes open, knowing what it would cost me. And I decided the prize was worth the cost — not only the apartment, but the sheer chest-beating bragging rights. I got it the first day! In the words of a Vietnamese friend, I decided to “jump the parachute”, a phrase that apparently means to exit the plane mid-flight, without one.

For it while it really felt like the universe was conspiring against me. Before I could even log into Home, I had to wrestle with router problems. And then the blackjack table kept freezing. This was happening to other people too — there was a lot of conversation about it.

Because that was another issue — that table was crowded. It seemed like everyone else in Home had gotten the same idea. They all wanted that million, and the prize that came with it, on the first day. And they all descended on VIP Room Single Deck Blackjack to get it. One of my fellow players had been there for nine hours straight, and was only up to 700k. At least I was ahead of him, I thought. And my luck was holding.

It’s Vegas, baby!

But then my luck turned sour, and my bankroll dropped from 80k to less than 40k in a matter of minutes. Nothing seemed to work. If I had 20, the dealer got Blackjack. If I doubled down on an 11, I drew a five. I must have lost 20 hands in a row. There were several times I looked at the clock and thought, “A sensible adult would put this aside, and finish it later.” And then I had extensive conversations with myself, about whether I still qualified for the rank of “sensible adult”, while I played hand after losing hand, and my inner Veruca Salt kept whining and kicking her heels on the carpet and screaming, “I want it now! NOW!

And, eventually, I got it. My luck re-stabilized. My bankroll returned to a steady state at 40k points. And, well after midnight on October 25, the casino said ka-ching, and the final congratulatory announcement appeared above the table. I was now officially a millionaire, and I had the Penthouse Suite to prove it.

And I could finally go to bed. But of course I had to go look at the Penthouse first.

It’s nice. That’s all I’ll say about it now. I’ll save the rest for another article. Because this one isn’t about the Penthouse Suite — it’s about the winning of it.

The real prize here wasn’t an apartment. I have plenty of those, and I rarely use them. It was the status, the bragging rights, the entry into a verifiably rare and exclusive club. With my million-and-chump-change, I ranked number 219 on the Casino leaderboard. That’s not an impressive statistic, compared to the 34 million sitting in first place. But it’s the highest I’ve ever gotten, and I find it strangely satisfying. And that’s probably the subject for a third article.

Sleep at last!

That’s what Home gives us, ultimately. Not virtual apartments, not minigames. Not even leaderboard positions. It gives us an extension of life, real life, a set of memories and experiences and emotions we don’t find in the world of rocks and tables, daily jobs and family worries. Home is a place where I can sit up half the night at a blackjack table without leaving the comfort of my living room, jonesing for a virtual apartment. It’s a place where I can examine my own relationship with greed and addiction and getting caught up in the thrill of the moment — a thrill that will fade as each week moves on to its own hot topic. But the memory will stay, and some of the satisfaction will linger.

I did it. I won my million. I got my Penthouse, and I did it the night it was released. And now, I am writing about it. And you are reading, and remembering your own emotions at winning it, or resolving to win one of your own. And that’s why Home is as real as that other world, the one most people call “real life.”

Because, emotionally, we live here.

October 29th, 2012 by | 3 comments
SealWyf is a museum database programmer, who has been active in online communities since before the Internet, and in console gaming since the PS1. In games, she prefers the beautiful and quirky, and anything with a strong storyline. She is obsessed with creating new aesthetic experiences in PlayStation Home.

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3 Responses to “Seal Makes a Million”

  1. chelada says:

    Great read! I’m in the same boat. I MUST have that apt. Unfortunately due to the death of my second ps3 I’m also downloading games onto my 3rd ps3. I do plan on having the space in a few days and thanks to the strategy shared with me, I know I will!

  2. There’s a bridge in Home Tycoon I am willing to sell you a deed for. Sorry to say the exit is blocked but it is still a good bridge with a potential future in it for those willing to take a chance.

    Congratulations on earning the Penthouse. I enjoyable the article.

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