Probability and Odds Tips

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1. Probability is a mathematical way to measure how often something will happen. To figure the probability of something happening, you just compare the number of ways that it can happen with the number of ways that it can’t happen. So the probability of rolling a 6 on a die is 1 in 6. (There’s one way to roll a 6, and 5 ways to not roll one.) Stated in odds terms, the odds of rolling a 6 are 5 to 1 against.

2. There are two kinds of odds – the odds of something happening, and the odds that a bet pays out. For example, if you’re playing roulette, and you place a bet on a single number, the odds of hitting that number is 37 to 1. (There are 37 ways to NOT hit the number, and 1 way to hit the number.) The bet pays out at 35 to 1, so if you bet $1 on a single number and hit it, you’ll win $35.

3. The difference between the odds of winning and the odds that a bet pays off is the house edge, and that’s how the casino makes money. In the roulette example if #2, there’s a difference between the odds of winning and the odds that the bet pays out. That difference is a little more than 5%, and it’s called the “house edge”. The house edge is the reason that a casino can make a profit and still have winners.

4. There is no such thing as luck. What we call luck is just a short term swing. Anything can happen in the short term. A lot of people get superstitious and think that because they won betting on red 3 times in a row at the roulette table while wearing their lucky Rolex watch, that the watch was the reason. This is an example of superstition. Winners, real winners, aren’t superstitious.

5. Odds and probability are long term concepts. Anything can happen in the short term. The casinos operate on a long term basis. We’re talking about hundreds of slot machines with hundreds of players making hundreds of spins per hour. Over that type of long term, the math is going to work out to match the odds. But in the short term, when you’re playing a single machine for 30 minutes, you can do far better or far worse.

6. Betting systems and money management techniques don’t change the laws of probability. In spite of what some money management gurus like John Patrick will tell you, raising and lowering your bets based on whether or not you’re winning don’t do anything to change the actual math behind the game. The Martingale system doesn’t work either.

7. The only games where you can tilt the odds in your favor when gambling are blackjack, video poker, sports betting, and poker. You can gain an edge in blackjack by counting cards or shuffle tracking. Some video poker games, when played with perfect strategy, and which have ideal pay tables, can have a positive edge for the player. Poker is played against other players, and the bigger the difference in your skill level and theirs, the better your edge becomes. And sports betting becomes profitable when you become smart enough to know when the line is wrong.

8. If the odds aren’t in your favor, you will lose all your money in the long term. This is a mathematical fact, like gravity or compound interest. You can’t change it by wishing, hoping, or doubling your bets when you lost.

9. Even if the odds are in your favor, you can still lose a lot of money in the short term. See Tip #5 again. ANYTHING can happen in the short term, and if you want to gamble, you need to make sure that you can deal with that eventuality.

10. The lower the house edge, the better the bet for the player, and vice versa. Blackjack, when played with perfect basic strategy, has a house edge of only 0.5% or so. Compare that with roulette, which offers a house edge of over 5%. That means you’ll lose 10 times as much over the long term playing the same number of bets on a roulette table as a blackjack table. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which game is better for the player huh?


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