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Probability and Gambling Check the Odds!


by Jerry "Jet" Whittaker

November 4, 2006

As a gambler, the word odds may not be alien to you. You would have also come across the word probability many times. But I doubt whether you would have understood the deepness of the word in the full. Then here is the article that would help you understand the relation between probability and gambling

What is probability?

Probability is basically a theoretical branch of mathematics, which studies the results of mathematical definitions. The main point is that probability deals with predicting the likelihood of future events and therein lays its relation with gambling.

It is interesting to note that modern probability theory emerged from the dice tables of France in 1654. A probabilistic when sees the dice would think Oh its a six-sided dice? Presumably each number of the dice is equally likely to land face up. Now assuming that each face comes up with probability 1/6, I can find out what my chances of winning out are.''

What is the relation between probability and gambling?

Probability is framed on the basis of formulas and can give you a few statistics to work with. A simple example would be - If the average gambler had not been treated, the estimated probability of gambling at least weekly would have been about 0.36 to 0.54.

However, probability can tell you nothing about you individual stake. For instance, you know that there are ninety tickets in a lottery and that five of them will be drawn. Thus you know all about the behavior of the complete class of tickets. But with regard to the singular tickets you do not know anything. Probability would give all tickets an equal chance.

It is thus a mistake to believe that the calculus of probability would provide the gambler with any information which could remove or lessen the risk of gambling. It however adds to his knowledge and tells him exactly what the odds are and how much he is putting at stake. Probability shows that the gambler does not improve his chances by buying two tickets instead of one of a lottery in which the total amount of the winnings is smaller than the proceeds from the sale of all tickets. So if he bought all the tickets, he would certainly lose a part of his outlay. Even then every lottery customer firmly believes that it is better to buy more tickets than less.

The casinos and slot machines never stop. They do not give a thought to the fact that, since the ruling odds usually favor the banker over the player, the outcome will more certainly result in a loss for them the longer they continue to play. Thus, the attraction of gambling consists precisely in its unpredictability and its adventurous vicissitudes. It is the distinguishing feature of gambling that it deals with the unknown, with pure chance. A gambler's hopes for succeeding are never based on substantial considerations and the game of gambling would become rather dull if one was to bank too much on probability.

The jai-alai world of our Monte Carlo simulation assumes that we decide the outcome of a point between two teams by flipping a suitably biased coin.

The non-superstitious gambler thinks: "There is a slight chance [or, in other words: 'it is not impossible'] that I may win; I am ready to put up the stake required. I know very well that in putting it up I am behaving like a fool. But the biggest fools have the most luck.

Anyway! Your simulation will compute the correct probability of each possible betting outcome. But all players are not created equal, of course. By doing a statistical study of the outcome of all the matches involving a particular player, we can determine an appropriate amount to bias the coin. But such computations only make sense if our simulated jai-alai world is a model consistent with the real world.



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Remember, you can beat the odds, but you can't beat the percentages.
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