A Head For Numbers: Gambling Smarter With Math

So much about life is a gamble – from the daily grind of giving up a parking space in the back of the lot in hopes of finding a better one, to searching for love (you don’t really have half the planet to choose from!), to investing in stocks and bonds. But whether you’re dating, making a big investment leap or just spending some time playing bingo, or just betting on horses at the track, you can improve your odds of winning big by using math to develop a strategy.

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Of course, we aren’t endorsing card counting – that will quickly get you banned from the casino – but there are plenty of other ways to use math to increase your odds of profiting when you place a bet or participate in other games of chance.

Understanding Your Environment

Gambling online or in a casino or other in-person environment are different things, and it’s important to tailor your strategy to suit the space. Online games, for example, rely on algorithms even when they aim to create the impression of randomness, such as in BINGO or roulette.

The problem with online games is that if you aren’t brilliant at game theory (and most of us aren’t), you’ll be forever taking your chances against number wizards who can see right through those digital calculations. This is why you’re better off gambling in person – a real roulette wheel doesn’t run an algorithm.

Considering Probability

The most valuable math concept to know when developing a gaming strategy is probability – the likelihood that an event will occur. In roulette, for example, there’s an equal likelihood of rolling red or black; it’s when picking individual numbers that things really get chancy.

In blackjack, however, you’re most likely to pull a card worth 10 points to your hand, while each other individual value is less likely. Luckily, nothing other than aces is worth more than 10 points (or you can claim them as 1 point), so your odds are good of coming in under 21 when your hand is still low. It’s when the numbers get higher that each hit becomes riskier.

Knowing Where To Break

Most gamblers assume they just need to collect on 50% of their bets to break even, so with those odds, you shouldn’t lose too badly, right? In fact, you typically need to collect on 52.4% of your bets, not 50% so you’ll have to play smarter. These numbers are determined by a few factors, including the fact that you should be tipping the staff when betting with a bookie. This may seem like a strange practice, but you’ll find yourself working in a more amenable environment if you do.

Whatever your preferred gambling environment, it’s important to stop thinking of the entire endeavor as a game of chance. Rather, it would be more accurate to think about these undertakings as heavily weighted by strategy. Learn a little math and play your hand right, and you’ll be rolling in dough.

Carlos Evans
Carlos Evans

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