How does the gambling game “The Numbers” work?

How does the gambling game “The Numbers” work?

G ambling is a numbers game. For casinos, it has nothing to do with luck, although on any given table at any given time, it looks as if luck predominates. At least gamblers are convinced the casinos rely on luck too. For casinos, luck isn’t an operant condition, because they have enough tables and machines to be in the long run in a very, very short time. The long-run favors the math, and a very “short” long-run means the casinos can confidently go to the bank, oh, like tomorrow or the day after.

Casino gamblers fervently believe in luck—short-term luck, long-term luck, luck today, luck tomorrow, luck for a week, a month, a lifetime—and these casino gamblers firmly believe that such luck will dominate over time, either for good or bad. The sad truth is that it’s almost always for the bad. Casinos know how in love gamblers are with luck, so they play up the concept that you will have good luck all the time by using deceptive advertising: pictures and billboards showing happy winners, radio and television advertisements depicting people smiling, and applauding at table games and slot machines, etc.

When referring to a casino’s edge, it means a mathematical edge, not an edge in luck. On the Pass Line in craps, for example, the casino’s edge is about 1.41 percent. That means the casino will win $1.41 for every $100 wagered. It translates easily: the casino wins 251 bets on the Pass Line, while the player wins 244 bets. That seven-bet difference gives the casino a mathematical edge on the bet.

If a casino player plays the Pass Line day in and day out for years and years, that player is most probably cursed to be a loser, and the casino is blessed to be a winner. That seven-number edge is all the casino needs to make a nice chunk of change from a craps player. And that’s a good craps player, not the poppies who make foolish bets.

The bottom line is that the longer a player plays, the worse his or her prospects will be. That’s a fact because that is the math of the game. Those sad poppy players think they can overcome randomness by discovering patterns in such randomness—patterns that are predictable and therefore bet table, making the game beatable. They can’t; they are merely deluded in this regard, although they are quite strong in their declarations that their losing trend-betting systems are actually the way to play. I think it was Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That’s the typical casino gambler.

The casino obviously wants as many decisions as it can get, to allow the mathematical probabilities to work themselves out. If the player won a stupid bet with a high house edge and never played again, the math of the game would not have time to work itself out to guarantee the casino a real monetary win.

But let’s take one million players across the country all making just one bet on a proposition: red coming up in roulette. What happens then? Even if the number of the reds comes up exactly as probability indicates, even if the number of players winning comes up exactly as probability indicates, the players—as a group—will lose 5.26 percent of all the money wagered on this proposition.

Even a single shooter at a craps table getting the dice back every 30 seconds can roll the dice 120 times. The more bets, the more decisions, the better the chance the casino will be ahead in a relatively short time. Yes, when a monster roll at craps is going on, the number of rolls will decrease, but the number of decisions will rise and rise as the players bet more and more types of wagers. Keep this in mind: it doesn’t matter if the casino wins or loses a given decision, the total number of decisions will allow probability to work itself out to the casino’s benefit.

That’s the be-all and end-all of the house’s mathematical edge over the player still adamantly relying on luck to win. The casino has the right idea; the player has the wrong one. The casino lives in the real world of fact; the casino gambler lives in the fantasy world of hope

Lastly Comment

For advantage players, the road is up and down, down and up, but over time, the advantage player should be ahead. It’s the reverse for a no advantage player—it’s up and down, down and up, but the thrust is a steady down over time. It’s a numbers game, pure and simple. Whoever has the edge wins over time; whoever faces that edge is ultimately knocked out.

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