Unveiling the truth behind player theories and casino edge
By Frank Scoblete
Casino players have various theories as to what is, and what is not, happening in the games they like to play. Some of their theories are indeed correct; some are wrong; and some are oﬀ the wall.
One of the things that causes folk to foul up reality is the human desire to get a handle on the underlying principles of what is actually going on in how the casino gets its edge and why that has little to do with commonsensical commonly held ideas.
The casino gets its edge at the table games by either winning more decisions at the game or by short-changing payouts on winning bets without changing the randomness of the game. If you ﬂip a coin that is perfectly balanced, heads is expected to come up 50 percent of the time and tails is expected to come up 50 percent of the time.
So, you ﬂip the coin 100 times and it will wind up 50 heads and 50 tails, right? Probably wrong— most probably wrong—as short runs rarely equal the probabilities. Given a long enough period of decisions, you’ll see those probabilities coming close to matching the math of the game.
A single player playing long enough to get to that state of being is hard to believe but a casino with multiple players may actually get so close to the probabilities because of the immense number of players playing that game.
For the casino to get its edge, a winning bet directly on a number at roulette in a double-zero game will not pay back 37-to-1 (the true odds) but 35-to-1, the casino odds. Note that the casino shortchanges the player by keeping some of the player’s win. Enough players, enough bets, and the casino has little to fear in terms of losing its money.
The same is true of slots, except for one thing—a slot machine is run by an RNG, a random number generator that selects numbers in such a way that each selection corresponds to the symbols on the wheel. Some symbols are winners; some symbols are losers. Some symbols are big winners; most symbols are losers.
The player has little or no control over the outcomes of the game. They have to hope, pray or just enjoy the ride—perhaps all three!
Indeed, sadly, some players think that their hopes will be realized if they pray and are convinced such prayers will be answered by beating the machine. Some players really, really believe this and pray up a storm. It is possible that more prayers are said in casinos than in houses of worship!
Yes, sometimes a player will win and sometimes a player will lose. Losses for almost all players predominate, even for some players who win gigantic jackpots.
Skeptics will say that the games are ﬁxed. Such skeptics are correct. The rule is that the machines make a lot of money for the casinos, while a lucky (very, very lucky) player might be ahead for his or her slot-playing career.
Skeptics will also say “not so” to the following beliefs: “The tide must turn. If you have been losing steadily that means the tide must turn and favor you, so keep playing. Things will change and the odds will favor you and up you go. You will make money if you follow this principle. That is a fact of playing life.”
That principle is actually called the “dumb principle” and should never be employed as the key variable in your playing analysis unless you wish to support the casinos’ bottom line.
The following are all “not so” statements:
“I have psychic powers because a few times I felt I would win and I did win!” [This has happened to many people, for some people a few times no less, but there are millions of people that same day who felt the same way and were crushed by their losses.]
“I know that winning symbols repeat themselves, so I bet multiple times in a row to catch this reality. If I don’t win in 10 decisions in a row, I move to another machine to see if this principle will work there.” [Sometimes you will win here and there but overall, the casino will win because winning symbols and combinations are not designed to come up enough times to help you win and jackpot symbols rarely come up once, much less multiple times in short bursts to put a player over the top.]
“Casinos need players to win so some machines are programmed to hand out money. There is some button a casino executive presses that will make machines pay out. You just have to ﬁgure out the right time to be there. I think you see more winners during the weekends than during the weekdays.” [Not so. More players play during the weekend and thus there will be more winners and more losers.]
“If you ﬂip a coin that is perfectly balanced, heads is expected to come up 50 percent of the time and tails is expected to come up 50 percent of the time. So, you ﬂip the coin 100 times and it will wind up 50 heads and 50 tails, right? Probably wrong—most probably wrong—as short runs rarely equal the probabilities.”
As a casino player of any type, keep your head on straight and enjoy the thrill of playing but don’t fall for nonsense.
All the best in and out of the casinos!
Frank Scoblete’s website is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.