Can you Become a more Successful Gambler by Studying Probability and Statistics?

Posted on September 28th, 2012

We get asked questions the whole time (about casinos mostly, but not exclusively). And occasionally, we keep getting asked the same question a couple of times or more, and it’s at this point we think “Hey- let’s research this a bit more and stick it up on the blog”. That way, we can just point people there.

Well, today’s question is:

Can you become a more successful gambler by studying Probability and Statistics?

Well, first off- let’s define successful. We are assuming you mean money, so the question is really “Can you Make More Money Gambling by Studying Probability and Statistics”?

Before we commit one way or another, let’s just say that knowledge is power in most things, and we are all for coming to the tables (or machines) “pre-armed”. It is always better to understand how the games work (they are not rocket science), and with a mindset of putting yourself in the casino’s shoes from the outset, you are bound to have an upper hand over someone going in blind.

HOWEVER…..if by studying probability and statistics you are thinking that there is some magic code to break the casino and to generate guaranteed winnings, then I am afraid you are mistaken (or rather delusional). You cannot alter the fundamental odds at a casino- these are set by the physical make up of the came (how many cards in the pack, pockets in the wheel, reels on the slot) and the payout table. You can increase your odds by playing smart and with clever game selection, but you cannot reduce the house edge to zero or less than zero. That’s a fact.

Let’s look at roulette. Many players wade in with no knowledge of probability and statistics. They’ll play all manner of fancy systems thinking they can beat the wheel. People who are knowledgeable about the game’s probability and statistics know that you can beat the wheel in short bursts, but over the long run the advantage is with the casinos. So they either play short sessions, or they play it for FUN every now and then.

People who play slot machines know that the payout is often around 95%. People who play slots who know the score realise it’s like playing the lottery. You might hit the big one, just as you might hit the lottery, but then again, you probably won’t. But then many people play them for the rush they get when they do win big: the kerching, kerching moment. That’s fine as long as you are betting with your entertainment budget.

Exceptions are probably the skilled and disciplined card counters in blackjack (who from the outset have chosen one of the best games in terms of low house edge) who are smart enough to know how to gain a SLIGHT edge at the blackjack table. You’ll also find some diligent and disciplined people making a living off sports bets. These people have a rigid plan and stick to it like glue: they are the exception rather than the rule- not your typical gambler.

So YES, studying probability and statistics will help you. You’ll understand how the casino makes its money, on which games it makes most of it’s money and how to structure your play accordingly. Will it help you to win more? Well, it might, but it also might help you to lose less ;)

The Gambler’s Fallacy. Read This!!
One of the important things to get your head around is to understand the Gambler’s Fallacy- potentially the most dangerous bit of warped thinking you can have playing casinos games. Looking at roulette and craps in particular (but also slots), the past means nothing. Every spin of the wheel or roll of the dice is mutually independent of the previous spins and rolls and all future spins and rolls.

Neither the wheel, nor the craps table nor the slots machines have a memory. They are inanimate objects. They can’t think. They are as dead as Monty Python’s famous parrot.

It is highly unlikely a person will see black 10 times 7 ten times in a row at the roulette table. But it does happen. If the colour red has not come in for 10 spins of the wheel, then there is no force of nature that says the red is more likely to come up in the next spin. It’s all random. Think about it- the wheels the same. The amount of pockets are the same. You can vary the interval between the spins (hey, you could even spin the wheel the following day- would that wipe out the memory more?).

So basically- YES- study stats and probability..because…

1) You’ll know which games to play and which games not to play. (AND which bets within games are better AND which variants are better within games)
2) The games you do play, you’ll make better calls.

Another good tip is to remember that the casino is more likely to win in the long term, so keep your sessions short. Quit when you are ahead, or you will never win. Don’t chase losses (have a strict playing budget or bankroll and stop-loss).

Play for fun only, not as a way to get rich.

How I Play at a Casino
When I go into a casino for some fun here are my rules. Say my budget is £200.

I stop when one of three things happens:

  1. I am £100 up.
  2. I am £200 down.
  3. I have spent one hour at the casino.

And you know what? I have more fun that way.

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