Don’t Play at a Casino

Underneath the glitter of flashing lights and free drinks, casinos stand on a bedrock of mathematics, engineered to slowly bleed patrons of their cash. Physicists have long tried to turn the tables by using their knowledge of probability and game theory to expose flaws in a casino’s rigged system. But the best strategy remains: don’t play.

Casinos make their money by offering games of chance, or even some with an element of skill, for which the house has a mathematical advantage, or expected value (generally negative). These advantages are known as the house edge and variance, and are calculated for each individual game by mathematicians employed by the casino and called gaming mathematicians and analysts. Casinos also collect a percentage of every bet, or rake, in games such as poker, where players bet against each other.

To calculate the house edge and variance for each game, a casino hires mathematicians and computer programmers who work in the field of gaming analysis. These professionals are used to develop software that determines how much money a player should risk on a specific game. They also monitor the actual bets placed, minute-by-minute, in a game to quickly detect any statistical deviations from the mathematical expectations of that game.

The world’s most famous casinos are found in Las Vegas, but there are many others around the globe. The Bellagio, for instance, is renowned for its fountain shows and luxurious accommodations, while the Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco and the City of Dreams in Macau are considered to be among the most spectacular.