Q: Can math and science make you better at gambling?

Physicist: Yes.

Don’t gamble (mathematically speaking).

Mathematician: Gambling (at casinos, in lotteries, and in most other instances) is expected value negative, even when you play optimally. That means that the average amount of money you will make per play is negative (i.e. you will lose money, on average). It also implies (via the Central Limit Theorem) that when you play many times, there will be a greater than 50% chance that you lose money overall.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Card counting in games like blackjack can be expected value positive if you are very good at it and increase your bet sizes at the right times, but casinos are savvy and make this difficult (e.g. by shuffling many decks of cards together). Plus, if you get caught, you will get banned, or worse. Betting against friends can also be expected value positive if you can be sure you’re really a better gambler than they are. Poker at casinos (where you play against other gamblers) can also be expected value positive if you’re very good, but since the casino charges you to play, even if you’re better than the other players you may not (on average) come out positive.

A good rule of thumb is this: If you don’t enjoy gambling, then simply don’t do it since (on average) it will just waste your money. If you do enjoy it, then think of it as a recreational activity, not as a way to make money. Before starting, decide how much money you are willing to lose, and if you use that money up, quit immediately. If you assume that you are going to lose then you won’t be disappointed.

All of this being said, if you do decide to gamble, you’d better study up on your probability! It’s important to know what the best course of action is (probabilistically speaking) at each decision point in the game.

This entry was posted in -- By the Mathematician, -- By the Physicist, Probability. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Q: Can math and science make you better at gambling?

  1. Jim Ward says:

    Shouldn’t you gamble in large lotteries, like PowerBall, when the odds are in you favor?

  2. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    The odds are never in your favor.

  3. Gellardo says:

    Hi guys, have you ever tried marco collo roulette system ? Poeple on forums say that they bank money using this system, i found it in google for free, is it possible that free system works ? Just search in google for marco collo roulette system and let me know

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