Math has no detours in the casino
March 03, 2015 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
There are many aspects to our lives to which people apply the notion of the importance of having a strategy. Very few of us actually use them for all aspects of our lives.
We tend to focus on some important part and then formulate a strategy. Maybe you do it for getting out of debt, or for paying for your kids’ education. Perhaps you’re the type of small businessman who makes sure he has a strategy to make his business a success. We all know there are tons of strategies for how to lose weight.
For these and many other aspects of life, I’m guessing we can find people who have been successful both by utilizing a detailed strategy and by just going with a gut feel. Similarly, we can probably find people who have failed using both methods, too. This is probably true for casino gambling as well.
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Although, unlike many of these other areas, there is a more finite strategy for gambling. We can tinker a little bit, but some strategies simply are doomed to fail and others are far more likely to deliver what they promise.
Of course, first we need to understand that in most cases no gambling strategy can guarantee you will win. There are only two games that realistically give you an opportunity to win over the long run.
The first is blackjack, if you are a card counter. It’s a challenge, but if properly disciplined, well bankrolled and perhaps a little lucky – both in the cards and in not being discovered – you might win over time.
The second is certain versions of video poker that pay over 100%. Learning the right strategy and playing disciplined, you can win over time. This is not me telling you how to make money in real estate. This is me telling you math will behave as such over time. It’s not possible for it to do anything else.
This is the very essence of what my father called Expert Strategy. Video poker and table games are controlled completely by known math. There are no unknowns over time with these games.
If you start with two fair dice, I can tell you with absolute certainty the probability of the next roll being a 7. The next roll might be a 2 (it’s more likely to not be a 7). Over time, these probabilities will prove themselves to be true. Will it happen over 100 rolls? Probably not. 1,000 rolls? Getting warmer. 10,000 rolls? We’re going to see the actual probabilities start to very closely approximate the theoretical ones.
It is with these probabilities we can calculate the payback of every wager in the casino. With this, we can tell you which ones are worth playing and those that should be avoided.
For blackjack, it allows us to tell you when to hit and when to stick. It is not a guessing game. It is a mathematical formula that takes into account every imaginable combination. On any one hand, anything can happen. Over time, what will happen is quite known.
You’ll note they are called Expert Strategies and not “Perfect.” The computer can play perfectly all the time. This is not always the case for a human. Never mind the occasional human error that will occur by not recognizing the proper play at any point in time. The strategy itself needs to be simple enough to allow a human to play it properly.
Sometimes, Expert Strategy is perfect as is the case with Three Card Poker. But, in the case of Ultimate Texas Hold’em, it would be impossible to put down every imaginable scenario and expect a human to be able to follow it. Here, the strategy has been simplified to allow a human to play it.
The exact amount of payback given up depends on the game. Most of the time it is minimal. Even in cases, where it might be more significant, this has to be balanced out against providing a more complex strategy, but with a higher expectation of human error.
Every table game has a strategy that should be utilized to maximize the payback. Barring being in a tournament, this is generally a player’s goal. Maximizing payback means minimizing the loss or maximizing the gain. If you’re playing video poker trying to maximize the probability of a Royal, or playing blackjack and trying to win as many double downs as possible, then Expert Strategy is not right for you.
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Go to my website at gambatria.com and click on the “Catalog” link; you’ll be able to see all the books and booklets we sell on table games and video poker. If you find any errors or have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail.
Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at ElliotFrome@GamingToday.com.