Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vegas Part 2 - The Weak Law of Casinos

The Weak Law of Casinos is my way of estimating how much the odds of winning a particular game are tilted towards the house. And it is thus:

The probability of you winning a game of chance at a casino is inversely proportional to how many tables of that game the casino has set up.


In other words, you don't need to calculate the odds of winning each game - you can instead assume that the casino has calculated the odds, and is trying to push you towards the games that work in its favour. Implicitly this rule says that demand for particular types of games is not a big factor in the equilibrium quantity, and that people are sheep who can be nudged towards playing many different games. This isn't literally true, but lets see how far our weak law will get us.

Look around any casino - there's walls and walls of poker machines. They have awful odds. Truly awful. That's why they try so hard to get you to play them. My strong presumption is that you'd have to have rocks in your head to let your odds be determined by a black box electronic program written by the casino. At least with physical games of chance, you know in advance how you get screwed.

The second highest frequency is blackjack. This is actually an exception to the rule, as basic strategy gives only a  small edge to the house. On the other hand, basic strategy may be basic, but it's very hard to remember the whole thing, and the vast majority of people play using inferior strategies. In other words, the casino estimates that the way you actually play blackjack has a low chance of winning.

Roulette has about a 3% edge, and there's a reasonable number of them.

Craps is slightly lower, and they have some of them for the vibe, but not as many

Baccarat has a low edge, and there's not many of them. Usually very few.

Poker, the casino makes @#$% all - not because their edge is tiny, but because a single table lasts so damn long. They only have it there to get you in the door, but they don't like it.

Like I said, it's not a hard and fast rule.

But it checks out pretty damn well with the actual odds.

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