The Math of Gambling


Gambling and mathematics have always been closely linked together.  A new article from New Scientist explores some interesting examples of how using math can help you beat the odds at the Casino.  Here are some of the highlights.

Roulette Odds and Chances of Winning

Remember that guy that sold all of his possessions and put everything he owned on one spin of the roulette wheel?  Well, this is sort of like that.  The article advocates what I would call a “chase” system.  Basically, you pick one color and bet it with $10, for example.  If the bet wins, great, bet $10 again. However, if the bet loses, double your bet to $20. If that one loses, double that bet to $40, and on and on until you win your original bet back.

The idea is that you have about a 50 percent chance of winning on each spin (slightly less if the wheel has a zero and/or double zero), and that probability says, so long as you have deep enough pockets, you’ll always eventually win your initial bet back.  I would keep in mind that most casinos have table limits to try to guard against this to an extent, but it isn’t a terrible idea, anyway.

Blackjack Odds and Counting Cards

According to the article, using basic card counting can increase your odds to win at blackjack by up to 5 percent.  The strategy is pretty straightforward.  Start at 0, then add 1 when you see a low card (2-6) and subtract 1 when you see a high card (10s, face cards, and aces), and don’t add or subtract anything on 7-9.  When your total gets high, you increase your bets, likewise, when your total falls to the low end, you’ll want to decrease your bets or find another table.   The idea is that you will increase your probability of receiving high cards when your total is highest, increasing your chances to win.

Winning The Lottery

This idea isn’t so much to increase your chances of winning the lottery, but to maximize your winnings if you should be so lucky as to hit the lottery.  The concept here is that you want to pick numbers that aren’t commonly used.  The number 7, for example, is a no-no because it is so common.  The article also suggests staying away from numbers between 1-31 because people often pick the numbers in their birthday for the lottery.  The purpose of this is to avoid sharing your winnings if you do win the lottery.  You’re odds aren’t very at winning to begin with, so why not make sure you are the only one getting paid if you do win?

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