The often unbearable art of gambling math, and how to survive it unscathed and unbroken.
Think back for a
moment to your adolescent years. What was your least favorite subject
in school? If you said mathematics, or any derivative thereof, I’m
going to assume you’re not a professional gambler. But that doesn’t
mean you don’t want to be, or that you can’t be.
Gambling is meant
to be fun; an entertaining pastime in which we get our moneys worth
in enjoyment, with a chance to win back some cash – perhaps even
more than we spent. Math wasn’t exactly built for entertainment
purposes, but it doesn’t have to be a bore, or a veritable pain in
the ass. In fact, with just a little insight into the mechanics of
casino games, the concept behind gambling mathematics doesn’t have to
be hard at all.
Survival Guide to Gambling Math
There are only
three basic things you need to know in order to survive the often
unbearable art of doing math in gambling. First, rounding is your
friend! Second, why do the same work that’s already been done? And
third, you’re not just paranoid – everyone really is out to get
#1 Rounding is your best friend.
If someone asked
you on the spot to calculate 51 * 1.22, how difficult would that be?
Unless you’re a human calculator, it would take a little time to do
that, especially in your head. But what if we change it to something
easier? Close, but much simpler to solve? Something like 50 * 12 = ?
Third grade math
tells us 5 * 12 = 60. Add the 0, and 50 * 12 = 600. Put your decimal
back in place, and 50 * 1.2 takes us right back to 60.
With a calculator
we’ll find that 51 * 1.22 = 62.22. However, with some simple
rounding, we’ve managed to conclude that a relatively tough problem
like that is going to be very close to 60; a little over. And it was
something easy a third grader could do it.
#2 Pete and Repeat were in a boat…
that joke! What I hate even worse is doing the same work that’s been
done time and time again by other people. For almost any casino game
you can find, the mathematics of gambling has already been done. You
can look up perfect strategy charts for any blackjack game.
You can get the odds and probabilities of every wager in American, European or French Roulette. Baccarat, Craps, Caribbean Stud, Casino Hold’em War, Red Dog, video poker… You name it, someone has done all the math for every possible scenario, wrapped it up in a nice little mobile app package, neatly decorated with ribbons and bows. Unless you’re going deep into PvP poker, demanding expected values and pot odds on the spot, you do not need to do all that math anyway.
#3 The edge belongs to the casino; no math will change that.
No matter what game you play, or how precisely you work your numbers, no gambling math is ever going to slide the edge into your favor. Yes, you can use a strategy chart (see #2) and keep a count of the cards (in land-based casinos only), but it isn’t the math that’s going to help you. It’s a prefabricated strategy chart and your ability to count on one hand; adding and subtracting by 1 or 2 at a time.
Casinos know they
have the advantage. They will always have the advantage. In the long
term, you are going to lose more than you win, and they know it.
You’re not just paranoid. They are out to get you. The best way to
get them back is to be responsible, bet wisely, never overreach your
budget, and remember to enjoy the games for what they are –
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