Calculating mathematical probabilities is not something everyone can do. This doesn’t mean they are hard to use. We do it without even knowing it, and call it “intuition”, or “gut feeling”. But mathematical probabilities have even more practical uses, often referred to as games of chance. And all these games in one place form an industry built upon probabilities that generates billions of dollars in profits each year.
Why beating games of chance is hard
Games of chance are fair: they give players a 50% chance to win – and an equal chance to lose – every round. This applies to everything from a simple coin toss to the most elaborate pokie game. But, as you might expect, things are never this simple. When it comes to the gaming industry, simply winning a round doesn’t guarantee profits in the long run.
Players having some online pokies fun at their gaming destination of choice might have the 50% chance to win on their side, but the large variance of symbol combinations makes sure the operator is the one that always wins in the long run. If you take a look at the specs of any pokie, you’ll see a metric called the “RTP” (Return to Player) expressed as a percentage. This shows how profitable a game is in the long run. Most pokies have RTPs between 95 and 99 percent, meaning that no matter how lucky a player is, he will only win up to $99 on an investment of $100.
But pokies were never meant to be profit-making machines. They are meant to entertain – and they are very good at that.
When skill has a word to say
Pokies are not the only games you can play for money. And the rest of the games available rely less on chance, and more on skill – which inclines their odds in the player’s favor. Card games, for example, are random within a much more limited range (one or more decks of cards, for example), which makes them more predictable. Besides, applying certain strategies can help players beat the odds, and turn the games into more profitable ones in the long run, while still keeping them as entertaining as possible.
Blackjack is one of the best examples for such a game. While the order of the cards in a shoe (the device that contains all the decks used, mixed together) is random, their number is limited. When six decks are used, there are always 24 aces, 24 tens, or even deuces, in the shoe. This makes it possible to predict not the order, but the number of cards remaining in the shoe, and the probability of winning a hand. This is a technique called “card counting”, and while it’s not illegal, it’s not very welcome in land-based casinos.
Skill can often tilt the odds in favor of the player, turning the time spent with online entertainment into a profitable one in the long run.