Starting with almost nothing, I made almost $500,000 gambling with Bitcoin. I then lost it all in about 60 seconds. I am now $50k in debt and will most likely lose my job, my visa status, my fiancee. AMA.
EDIT: Thank you all for taking the time to read this. The overwhelming majority of your responses have been very supportive, and I feel that I got a lot of perspective. I am in tears right now, because in my self-loathing state I really did not expect so much positive feedback. I need to come clean to my fiancee, because that is the one variable that I can control.
This is a story of luck, hope, greed, despair, stupidity. Over the past 10 days I have gone one a rollercoaster ride of the full spectrum of human emotion. I am trying to live down what happened, and maybe this AMA will help me. I feel this can work both ways too, and I am grateful for any advice I receive. Hopefully also it will help you!
I say that I hope my story will help you and I really mean that any of you, because let me start off by saying that I am not a gambler, and I have never even exhibited gambling tendencies before. I am a risktaker and I enjoy new experiences, but I have always considered myself responsible and I have a sound understanding of the maths behind gambling. I know that the house always wins. But after what happened to me, how quickly I got sucked in, how much money I made, and how it all ended just days later, I honestly do not feel that I was fully in control of my actions. If it happened to me, it can happen to you too, and I sincerely hope that after reading this, it never will.
Let me give some more specific details, so that you have a more complete picture. I will fill in the rest in response to your questions.
EDIT: I ran out of space for proof, please see comments.
- My name is Bob. I am a grad student in math, living in California1 .
- I got into Bitcoin as an investment. The last 15 days or so have been extremely tempestuous for Bitcoin, and the events of this AMA coincided with the biggest crash in Bitcoin's history.
- Around late march I started learning how to play blackjack, just as a fun hobby. I am a multi-faceted person with many interests, and this was just another mini-hobby that I took up. I was very interested in basic strategy, and was hoping to use it at a casino on our 2-year anniversary with my fiancee. She loves to "gamble" in a very innocent sense of the word: she and her girlfriends will go to a casino, have some drinks and have fun losing a bunch of $25 promotional vouchers. I wanted to come with her and impress her by scraping a small profit with basic strategy2 .
- I then discovered bitZino (www.bitzino.com), and I realized that the best way to learn basic strategy is to have a small financial stake to motivate me. I played for small stakes, made some money, then took a couple of bad beats. I lost most of my investment profits and was down to about $4,000. Then I switched to roulette3 . I quickly recouped my losses, and began to lose myself. This was the beginning of the end.
- On April 1, Bitcoin broke $100 for the first time. I played more and more, and the value of my winnings increased more and more. I was suddenly into big money.
- By April 10, I had worked my way up to almost $500,000. I realized how lucky I was to have this amount of money. It was Bitcoin, but it was one click away from being in my bank account: this was real money.
- That morning, the crash began. I kept playing. On April 10 I lost all my profits. (I don't want to clutter the summary with specific details, but if you are interested, I posted them below.)
- At this point I was in full-tilt mode. Mt.Gox was closed for a 24-hour cooldown following the crash, but even this 24-hour period was not enough for me. A part of me just shut off, and this was when I made the Really Big Mistake. I dipped into my student tuition loan (around $50,000). I turned into an animal, and I lost everything.
- I literally went almost mad at this point. Out of grief I contacted bitzino and exchanged some pitiful emails. They were very supportive, emotionally4 . I am not even sure what I hoped to achieve (I did not sleep for 2 days, drank and took a lot of anti-anxiety meds, which can make you act in weird ways).
- My fiancee knew I was upset, and I owned up that I lost a lot of money. I said it was due to the crash (which did happen on the same day). She could see the charts so she believed me, but she does not know that I lost every single cent. Lies, but I felt that I did what I had to do (her dad had a major gambling and alcohol problem, so I really could not break her heart like that.)
- The money that I lost is for tuition. It's just under $50k as I already said. The most immediate payment is due end of May, which is around $5k (the remainder of this academic year). The rest ($40k) is due over the following academic year (13/14). If I can pay off the $5k I will at least survive until the summer and maybe nobody will notice. I have not told anybody what happened, except my flatmate who I have known since high school and am pretty close with.
- The reality is I will most likely be forced to withdraw from the program, because the payments are due September and Christmas and my visa status does not permit me to work part-time. I will have to return home to England and I will lose my fiancee (who is also on a student visa).
So this is pretty much my story. I meant for this to be short, but I now I'm almost at the word limit. I hope there is still room for questions!
I realize that there are a lot of people who will say that I had it coming, and I fully accept that. The truth is that I am a bad person, and it was not even some conflict of good and bad, this was just all bad. I lose as a human being, and I deserve nothing but the worst of what life has to offer me in the future. And if I sound incongruently cheerful, it's probably because the gravity of the situation has not fully sunk in yet. Trust me, I am not cheerful. I have literally lost everything, I am suicidal, and there is literally no silver lining here. So please reserve your judgment; I will be judged to the fullest extent over however long a time I have left to live.
By April 10, I had gambled my way up to almost $500,000. That morning, the crash began. I foresaw the crash, but like most speculators, I did not know where the top was going to be. It was at $266. I put in a sell when the price went below $230, which was my stop, but Mt.Gox (the main Bitcoin exchange) was lagged so badly that my order would not go through.
Not being able to sell, I got greedy and decided to "top up" one more time with roulette. I felt justified in this somehow because it was Mt.Gox's fault that I could not cash out my ridiculous profits. I started with a $100 bet I believe. I bet on red. What followed was a run of about 20 occurences of black5 . There must have been two reds in between the stream of blacks. After hitting the max bet I just kept hitting red, and it kept turning black. Once you hit the max bet, the martingale essentially turns into a random walk. So a single red does not save you. Instead you rely on more red than blacks, within a certain safety margin. I failed both the martingale and the random walk. I lost ~1800 BTC (~$380,000 and depreciating quickly) in less than 1 minute.
I still had $50,000 left in USD. After the crash died down, I immediately bought in BTC to make up the losses. I kept betting red, and hit another run of about 12-15 black5 . I lost the $50,000 the same way.
April 12: at this point I was in full-tilt mode. I figured if I can just double up, then I can at least make up for the previous bullet point, if not the one before that. I kept betting on red, as a matter of stubborn principle (surely not again). And I swear you could not make this shit up: another run of 10+ black5 . I lost it all.
1 Some of the names and places may be fictitious.
2 I was never a gambler, but I do have a degree in math: there's around a 90% chance that you will top up by 10% if you combine basic strategy with martingale. The inherent variance, 3/2 payouts and doubling makes the whole process very confusing to an untrained eye, and it's not that obvious that you are using a cheap and flawed betting system. Scraping a small profit is very easy and fun. I guess I just wanted to impress my fiancee and her friends.
3 The bad beats with Blackjack were mainly due to variance. The problem with Blackjack is that the house edge is calculated by considering a large number of hands with the same starting bet. But with martingales, getting a 3/2 payout is more beneficial with higher bets; likewise having to split/double is good with higher bets, but not good if you're up against the max bet. So the luck further compounded by variance of the bet amount with respect to the starting hand. In roulette the house edge is worse, the but game is a lot more homogeneous.
4 I gave bitZino about 6 months of their earnings from last year in just under one minute: http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/01/bitcoin-based-casino-rakes-in-over-500000-profit-in-six-months/
5 The probability of a run of 7 black is just under 1%, which is a number that we can relate to, it's 1 in 100. Pretty unlikely. If your luck sucks you might hit it a few times. The probability of 10 blacks is just under 0.1%. So if you hit one of the above, then only count is 1 in 10 times. Your luck has got to really suck to hit that more than once. The probability of an initial run of 12 black is around 0.02%, which is just ridiculously low. The probability of 20 black is about 0.0001% which is astronomically low. Disregarding the 2 reds, since I hit the max limit, so not really a fair account, but still. This is almost impossible.