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 confirm deftly 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 fi rely 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. In casinos’ pitches to players, you won’t see commercials where a player is cursing and foaming at the mouth or kicking the slot machine in a mad rage.
Besides the true-life pictures of dazzled winners, the commercials show the beautiful people, usually drinking out of martini glasses with the whitest of white teeth gleaming in the glow of the slot machines. You won’t see one of these beautiful people being dragged out of the casino by security guards for improper conduct. Smart players know that luck is almost always bad over time for casino gamblers who are not playing with an edge and who have to go up against the house edge on the games they play. Gamblers are almost all losers over almost any prolonged series of decisions.
Casinos, on the other hand, are almost always winners over any such prolonged period of time. Indeed, casinos—with all their tables, all their machines, and all their decisions per hour—are almost always winners right now. 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. So what about the bad craps players, who are legion in the casinos? It isn’t pretty.