Don’t Play at a Casino


Beneath the flashing lights, free cocktails and high roller tables of a casino is a system engineered to slowly bleed patrons’ money. But for years mathematically inclined minds have been trying to turn the tables on casinos using their knowledge of probability and game theory. While a few casino patrons have come close to beating the house, the majority of gamblers are destined to lose. However, there is a simple way to avoid losing big: Don’t play.

The word “casino” is believed to have been derived from the Italian word for “little house.” A casino is any gambling establishment in which gamblers place bets against each other and against the house. Casinos can be found around the world and are often associated with high rollers and exclusive luxury.

Historically, casino owners sought funds from organized crime figures, but with mob control of the gambling business waning, legitimate investors like real estate developers and hotel chains began to invest in Nevada casinos. They strove to keep the mob’s presence out of their businesses, and federal anti-corruption laws helped to make this happen.

Casinos employ an extraordinary amount of technology to monitor their games and patrons. Security personnel watch the floor and patrons for signs of cheating, from palming cards to marking dice; video cameras provide a constant eye in the sky; chips with built-in microcircuitry allow casinos to know the exact amount being wagered minute-by-minute; roulette wheels are electronically monitored to discover any statistical deviation from expected results. Computers are used for a wide variety of tasks, from counting the number of spins on a roulette wheel to comparing the odds of winning and losing hands at blackjack tables.

In addition to their reliance on technology, modern casinos use sophisticated analysis to predict the results of each game. Mathematicians and computer programmers work as gaming analysts for the casinos, helping them to predict what kind of profits they will make, based on the house edge and variance of each game. This information is then fed back into the games, helping them to stay competitive.

Aside from monitoring patrons and the games, many casinos rely on a system called comps to reward frequent players. Players earn a certain amount of points based on how much they gamble, and the casino rewards them with free goods or services such as meals, hotel rooms, tickets to shows and limousine service. This practice helps casinos attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Gambling is a popular pastime, but it’s important to set limits before you head to the casino. Start with a fixed amount of money you can afford to lose and stick to it. Also, don’t gamble for the money you need to pay your bills; it’s not designed to save people down on their luck. If you’re going to play for fun, choose a game that requires skill instead of just chance, and get a feel for the game by watching others or taking a free lesson before you spend any money.