When my daughter first began playing board games, her favorite was Chutes and Ladders. I quickly grew tired of this game of chance. That was probably due to the fact that I was sick of losing. I was determined to steer her towards “real” games that had skill involved. This way I might actually have a chance to win. By the age of four, I was desperately attempting to teach her Chess so we could play the ultimate game of skill. Finally, I found a board game I could beat her at!
Casinos want you to believe you are playing Chutes and Ladders. They don’t want you to think of the games in a casino as games that you have any control over. The next time you are at the casino I want you to count how many times you hear the words “Good Luck.” Whether you are checking into your room, cashing in some chips, or simply getting a drink, you will be pleasantly told, “Good Luck.”
There are a couple of reasons casinos do this.
- First, they want you to believe they are on your side. They are rooting for you. In a way they are. If you go to their casino and lose every time, they know eventually you will stop returning. They want you to win from time to time to keep you coming back. Saying, “Good Luck”, and cheering when you win, are their ways of trying to convince you they’re on your team.
- The second reason for their use of these two words is a bit more deceptive. The average gambler believes you must be lucky to be a good gambler. The casino is more than happy to perpetuate this myth. They WANT you to believe your gambling success is determined by some mystical force not the choices you make. When you lose, they don’t want you to feel culpable. They want you to believe it was simply bad luck. Maybe you will have better luck next time. That way the responsibility is off the gambler and is much easier to accept.
The truth is casinos rely on math, not luck. They want YOU to rely on luck because they know that in the end math will win the day. Every game in the casino is mathematically based. There is a mathematical formula that guarantees the house will win. What they don’t want gamblers to understand is that mathematics and skill can increase the chances of a gambler’s success. In fact, advantage gamblers turn the tables and have the mathematics in their favor. Casinos really don’t like when that happens! Luck determines short term success. Math dictates success over the long haul. If you go to a casino once a week, play for four hours on a slot machine with a 90% payback (10% house advantage), for the next twenty years, the math dictates that you will lose money. No matter how lucky you are. There is no way to overcome the 10% disadvantage over that period of time. Now, if you go to a casino once a year and play the same machine for four hours, you might be ahead after ten years. In the first example, you will be playing a total of 4160 hours which is large enough to guarantee the casino success. In the second example, you are only playing for 40 hours which isn’t large enough mathematically to dictate that you will lose. Gambling is alluring because every time you step foot into the casino there is the possibility you will win. However, if you are a frequent gambler who plays a negative expectation game you will eventually lose. Negative expectation means the house has the advantage. Over the long term you can expect to lose money. You have three choices:
- Accept the fact that you are going to lose and gamble freely.
- Learn how to decrease the house edge and significantly reduce your losses and increase the frequency of your wins.
- Only play games where you have the advantage.
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If you choose the third option, it will limit the games you can play. There are very few games in the casino where the player can actually get an advantage. However, if you choose option two, you will be able to play any games you want but do it in a much more intelligent way. If the first option is your choice, I will simply say, “Good Luck.”