Las Vegas: A Town Based on Bad Math & Gullibility
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 15, 2009
During my recent trip to Las Vegas for TAM7, as with all my previous trips to “Sin City”, I noticed the large number of people gambling. Now there is a certain social aspect to gambling, but a lot of people play these games of chance hoping that they’ll win it big. They literally believe that, through some lucky charm or prayer, that they’ll hit the jackpot, and that’s exactly what the casinos want them to believe…
Of course, the casinos in Vegas are banking on a combination of people’s lack of critical thinking & skepticism, innumeracy (misunderstanding of math), susceptibility to the gambler’s fallacy, and basic gullibility – and based upon what I’ve seen, the casinos have been quite successful at cashing in on all of these things.
That’s because in addition to knowing basic human nature, the casinos also know the mathematical odds. They don’t say “the house always wins” for nothing, folks. Even if someone occasionally wins it big (which will eventually happen by the law of large numbers, just as when someone wins the lottery), there are way more people who are losing money. In the end, these casinos make much more money than they pay out.
Ironically, I saw the following slot machine sign while in Vegas…
In order to make this sign a more accurate reflection of reality, one of the O’s should be crossed out, because chances are that if you’re playing these games you’ll end up a loser. So, statistically speaking, how does one win in Vegas (without cheating)? The answer is simple, folks: you don’t play the game 🙂