Do The Math If You Want To Succeed At Gambling

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There once was a time when casino and other forms of gambling were seen to be a casual leisure pursuit. Players relied on the turn of the card or the spin of the wheel, hoping that Lady Luck would smile on them. It was considered that trying too hard to predict the outcome was a little unseemly. But the world has changed in a great many ways since the old days. Everything’s more serious now and is open to far greater analysis and scrutiny. Naturally, this also includes gambling.

These days anyone with any serious ambitions to make money from gambling, whether they’re poker players, blackjack aces or roulette aficionados, need to have at least a basic understanding of the math that underlies their game. That’s because it enables them to make critical decisions that are based on fact rather than hunches and rely on logic that can be demonstrated using a few basic principles.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a college-level knowledge of the subject, nor does it mean that winning is guaranteed. But by understanding a few basic principles you can put yourself at an advantage over either the casino or other players, however marginal that advantage would be.


Understanding probability

In every single kind of gambling, you are wagering money on just how likely it will be for a particular event to occur. This might be having a better poker hand than your opponents, a given combination of symbols appearing in a slots game or the ball on a roulette wheel landing on your choice of colour or number. Every one of these events is dictated by the law of probability. In a nutshell, this is the likelihood that, of all the possible outcomes that may occur, one, in particular, will happen. If we’re tossing a two-sided coin the chance that it will land on heads the probability is 1:2. Or if we’re hoping to draw the ace of spades from a standard 52 card pack, then the chance is 1:52.

Given this information, it’s then up to a player’s individual judgment as to whether they’re willing to take the risk of that event actually occurring.

At this point, it’s also worth mentioning that the potential winnings you can expect in certain casino games, and roulette in particular, are directly linked to the probability of an event occurring. So, if you bet on red or black or odd or even numbers the odds are evens and you’ll double your stake money if you win. But if you go for the far more unlikely possibility that it will land on your chosen single number the odds are 35/1. So just understanding this basic principle will help.

You may well be thinking that this is all very well with simple examples like these, but what about more complex situations?

Admittedly, the calculations you need to do before committing to any move are much more involved, but they all follow the same basic principle. That’s why anyone developing a poker strategy would be very well advised to take on board some of the math behind the game as well.


Developing a winning strategy

In the game, there are two distinct elements of the play: the cards in your hand and the amount of money you’re willing to put in the pot. Math is essential in being able to work out your strategy. Firstly, as the game progresses you need to be able to work out the probability that the card, or cards, that you’re going to need to get a winning hand will be dealt. Secondly, you need to work out what return you’re likely to get on any money you put into the pot. It is complicated, and that’s why there are so many books written just on the subject of poker math. But one thing is for certain – no poker professional ever makes it without a thorough understanding of it as well as the ability to do lightning-fast mental calculations as they play.


Learning the numbers

If you fancy your chances at blackjack instead of poker you’ll be pleased to hear that the math behind that particular game has been made considerably easier for players thanks to something called “the basic strategy”. This was devised by four math experts in the 1960s long before computers were available to help work out all the permutations. The result is a chart that gives advice about whether to stick or take another card in any given situation. Anyone serious about winning at blackjack would do well to spend a few hours memorising the chart and getting their basic strategy spot on. Most people will find it’s so much easier once all the hard calculations have already been done for them.

Another mathematical principle that it’s important to understand is “variance”. This is the fact probability will only ever play itself out over a period of time so this needs to also be factored into any decision making. At its simplest, this means that although there is an equal chance of a coin landing on either heads or tails there may be long sequences in which it just lands on one side. But, over time, it will be a 50/50 split. Yes, this is an added complication to decision making. But like everything behind the math of gambling, it’s one you’ll have to understand if you want to succeed.