Casino gambling can be a great hobby. Don’t let anyone tell you different. The trick is not falling prey to the human tendency of misunderstanding patterns.
Most people are biologically programmed to look for patterns in nature. It’s an evolutionary response that ensured humanity’s survival in a hostile world.
But in the casino, it leads to mistakes.
In this post, I offer several words to the wise for casino gamblers centered around the theme of false patterns.
Learn to Avoid the Gambler’s Fallacy
People tend think that the probability of something happening changes based on what’s happened previously. That sounds reasonable enough, right?
After all, if you just won the jackpot on a slot machine, the probability of winning the jackpot again on the next spin must surely be lower, right?
Most bets you place when gambling in a casino are bets on independent events. What happened on the previous bet has no bearing on the probability of what’s going to happen on the next bet.
For example, if you have a 1 in 1000 probability of hitting the jackpot on a slot machine, that’s the probability every time you spin the reels. It doesn’t go up or down based on what’s happened previously.
If you’ve had 3000 losing spins in a row, the probability of getting the jackpot on the next spin is the same as it was before—1 in 1000.
If you’ve had two winning spins in a row, the probability of getting the jackpot on the next spin is also the same as it was before—1 in 1000.
Most Casino Betting Systems Imply the Gambler’s Fallacy
The most common betting system in casino gambling is called the Martingale system. For it to work in the long run, the gambler’s fallacy must be true.
But it’s called a “fallacy” for a reason.
Here’s how the Martingale system “works,” in theory:
You double the size of your bet after losing. If you lose multiple times in a row, you double your bet multiple times in a row.
The Martingale is usually used when making even-money bets, like a bet on red in roulette.
The idea is that it’s unlikely for the ball to land on red four or five times in a row.
So, if you bet $5 on the first bet and lose, you’d bet $10 on the 2nd bet. If you win that bet, you have a $5 profit along with your original loss.
But if you lose that 2nd bet, you double the size of your bet again, to $20 this time. Now, if you win, you win back the $15 you lost on the previous two bets and have a $5 profit to show for it.
While it’s true that landing on red four or five times in a row is relatively unlikely, you’re not betting on the ball landing on red four or five times in a row.
You’re betting on the ball landing on red on the next spin.
The Martingale System Isn’t the Only Betting System to Avoid
Years ago, I read a book about beating real money slot machines by a gambler named John Patrick. I’ve seen speculation that he’s a shill for the casinos. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but he might as well be.
His gambling advice is terrible.
One piece of gambling advice he offers is related to losing spins on a slot machine game. He suggests quitting a slot machine game if you have seven “naked pulls” in a row.
(I don’t remember if seven is the magic number, or if he uses some other number. I just remember there was a limit to how many times you could lose in a row.)
The idea was that a slot machine where you spin the reels seven times in a row and doesn’t pay off is a “cold” machine and won’t pay out as much.
It might or might not be a cold machine, but seven spins is such a small sample that it’s impossible to tell what kind of hit frequency the game might have in general.
You might make 500 spins on that same machine in an hour and see 200 winning spins. That would be a 40% hit ratio.
That doesn’t mean you’re likely to win on such a game either. The payouts’ relationship with the odds of winning are what determine how profitable the game is for the casino.
The Average Gambler Can’t Overcome the House Edge
Casino games are measured by something called “the house edge.” You’ll see this referred to as the “advantage” or as “the grind.” No matter what you call it, it’s the mathematical phenomenon of not being able to beat these games in the long run.
And the house edge is a function of the math behind the games. They’re still entirely random. You just can’t win because the payouts are calculated in such a way that the casino always makes a profit.
Here’s an example of why that is:
Let’s say that you want to guarantee yourself a win on a roulette spin. It’s easy to do. Place a bet on every number on the table.
That covers 100% of the possible outcomes.
You’re guaranteed to win one of those single-number bets, which means you’ll see a 35 to 1 payout.
The problem is that there are 38 numbers total on the roulette wheel, so you’ll lose 37 of those bets.
The difference between the 37 bets you lose and the 35 to 1 payout on the bet you win is the house edge.
You have $3700 in action on the table, and you have a guaranteed win of $3,500, so you lose $200 total.
If You’re a Casual Gambler, Forget About Advantage Techniques
Most people don’t have the determination and focus to become advantage gamblers. It’s probably not worth it for most of them, anyway, as they’d almost always make more money just by getting a decent job.
Counting cards sounds like fun, and it’s easier than some people think. You’re just tracking the relative number of high cards to low cards in the deck. You don’t have to memorize which cards have been played.
When the deck is relatively rich in 10s and aces, you raise the size of your bets. The rest of the time, you bet the minimum.
Sounds easy enough, right?
The problem is that you need to pull this off without getting caught. Casinos don’t allow card counters to play blackjack — not if they’re good at it, anyway.
Imagine trying to tally all those numbers mentally without looking like you’re concentrating.
Top that off by imagining how easy it is for the casino to see that you’re raising and lowering the sizes of your bets.
Forget About Cheating the Casinos
It’s also tempting to think about trying to cheat the casinos in some way. You can find literally dozens of methods of cheating at casino games with a quick search.
Those methods are almost always easy for the casino to spot.
And the penalties for getting caught cheating in the casino are serious.
No, they won’t take you into the basement and cut off your finger or anything, but they will prosecute you. In Nevada, cheating at casino games is a felony, too.
Having a felony on your record can have serious consequences in the long run.
It’s Not Impossible to Win in the Short Term
The beauty of random events is that it is possible to win in the short term. That’s the fun of going to the casino. Sometimes, maybe 20% of the time—if you’re an average gambler—you’ll come home a winner.
That’s the magic of probability and random events. Sometimes, things that are unlikely will happen. And sometimes, they happen more often than their probability would imply that they would.
You can place a bet on red in roulette and let the money ride when you win. It’s possible to go on a winning streak and double your money several times in a row doing this.
Here’s the trick, though:
You’re playing musical chairs, and you don’t know when the music is going to stop.
If no one ever won in the casino, no one would play. In fact, the casino LOVES winners because winners are the reason people keep returning to do more business with them.
Casino gambling is a fun hobby, but it’s a lousy addiction. The main thing to remember is that the deck is stacked against you.
If it were easy to beat the casinos, they’d go out of business, and everyone would be rich.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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