4 Ways to Create Positive Expectation When You Gamble

Man Holding Money While Giving a Thumbs Up With Poker Cards on Right

Most gamblers don’t have any idea what positive expectation is. It’s costly when you don’t know what positive expectation is because if you don’t gamble with positive expectation, you can’t win in the long run.

If you’re losing when you gamble, the good news is that you can learn precisely what positive expectation is and how to use it.

And that’s what this post is about.

You’re going to learn how to use positive expectation in every area of gambling. When you know these things, you’re going to start seeing better results immediately. And you’re going to be able to continue using and creating positive expectation for as long as you continue gambling.

What Is Positive Expectation?

Positive expectation can be hard to understand because it’s not always cut and dried. In a few areas, it’s straightforward, but in other areas, you’re working with a limited number of facts.

Your expectation is how much you can expect to lose or win in any gambling situation. When you can mathematically expect to win, you have a positive expectation. When you mathematically can expect to lose, you have a negative expectation.

The majority of gamblers never make wagers with a positive expectation, which is why most gamblers lose. Gamblers who win consistently make more wagers with a positive expectation than bets with a negative expectation.

The best way to get an understanding of how positive expectation works is to use an example.

But keep in mind that this example is only one way that positive expectation works.

If you flip a coin and win $4 every time it lands on heads and lose $4 every time it lands on tails, your expectation is zero. It’s neither positive nor negative because, over time, the coin will land on heads an equal number of times as it lands on tails.

If you win $4 on heads but only lose $3 on tails, you have a positive expectation. To determine your positive expectation, see what happens if you flip the coin 100 times and it lands on heads 50 times.

You win $200 and lose $150, so you have a profit of $50. Divide this by 100, and your average expectation is 50 cents. So your positive expectation is 50 cents per coin flip.

If you lose $4 on every tail and only win $3 on every head, you have a negative expectation of 50 cents per flip.

As you can see, when you create or find a positive expectation situation, you’re going to win more than you lose in the long run.

Positive Expectation for Poker Players

You can use positive expectation when you play poker. And it’s best to use positive expectation for every decision you make when playing poker.

Poker players have to make a lot of decisions. These decisions start with choosing where to play and include choosing which starting hands to play, whether to bet, call, check, raise, and how much they should bet. It also includes deciding when to bluff or check and fold.

With so many decisions that you need to make, it’s easy to make mistakes. It also makes it challenging to determine if you have a positive or negative expectation in some situations.

All you can do is use the information that you have available, math, and experience. The truth is that sometimes you will make a mistake when you try to determine your expectation. But you’re going to get better at it as you gain experience. But you’re not going to get better if you don’t think about it and start using it.

Poker Dealer Dealing Cards

For example, when you’re looking for a poker table to play at, your expectations vary based on the competition. A table with many good players has a lower expectation than a table with many bad players.

When you decide to enter the pot with a hand, you have to consider which position you’re in at the table and the strength of the hand. You can play a pair of aces or kings from any position, and you should fold a hand with two seven from any position. The key is determining the expectation of hands like jack 10 suited.

When you get involved with a hand, you can start using pot odds and hand odds to narrow down your expectation to determine how to play the hand.

Positive Expectation for Sports Bettors

Sports gamblers create positive expectations differently from poker players, but it’s still an important concept to understand. Sports bettors create positive expectations by handicapping sports contests and finding betting lines that give them value.

You can also increase your expectation by paying lower vig or finding opportunities where you can place bets that have no vig.

Betting on sporting events is a long-term gamble. You win or lose a single game at a time, but in the long run, you make a profit or loss based on every game on which you bet.

For example, if you bet $55 to win $50 on 40 games and win 20 of them, you lose $2.50 per game on average. In other words, you have a negative expectation of $2.50.

If you win 22 games and lose 18 games, you have a positive expectation of $2.75 on each game.

To be a winning sports gambler, you have to handicap games well enough to win more than half your wagers, and you have to find the best lines that help you win more bets, and you have to pay the lowest vig that you can. Winning isn’t easy, but some sports gamblers can do this and make a profit.

Positive Expectation for Blackjack Players

Blackjack players can create positive expectations by using card counting. Blackjack gamblers who don’t use card counting always gamble with a negative expectation, so they lose in the long run.

When you count cards in blackjack, you don’t play with a positive expectation on every hand, but you put more money in play with a positive expectation than you put into play with a negative expectation. So, in the long run, this gives you a profit.

You work with a slight edge when you count cards, usually between .5% and 1%. While this doesn’t sound like much, over time, this can be a lot of profit.

Multiple Blackjack Hands on a Table

For example, if you’re betting $5,000 every hour and have a 1% edge, your expectation is $50 an hour. Counting cards is better than working most regular jobs. And if you can bet $10,000 every hour, your expectation is $100 an hour.

The way to make more money is to get more money in play or improve your edge. But, of course, if you can do both, you have a higher expectation.

Other Gambling Positive Expectation Situations

The three sections you just finished about poker, blackjack, and sports gambling are the most common ways gamblers create and use positive expectations to make a profit. But they aren’t the only three ways you can do it.

I’m not going to go too deep into any of these areas because they can be complicated, but I want to introduce some of them to you. Then, if you see something that interests you, you can do additional research to learn more.

Hole card spyingHole card spying is watching dealers to see if they show the value of cards as they deal. Most dealers don’t do this, but some have poor dealing techniques, and you can see cards if you pay attention.

Shuffle tracking – In casino games that the dealer shuffles, you can sometimes track where cards go into the stack and where they end up after the shuffle.

Ace sequencing – Much like shuffle tracking, ace sequencing is watching where aces go into the discard pile and where they end up at the end of the shuffle.

Jackpot abuse – Jackpot abuse tracks jackpots to see when they make the return theoretically higher than the cost to play. Jackpot tracking can happen with big slot machine jackpots as well as other games that have progressive jackpots.

Bonus advantages – Gamblers can find bonus advantages by finding bonuses with clearing requirements that are lower than the bonus value. In other words, sometimes, you can find a bonus with an expected loss lower than the value of the bonus.

Our Thoughts on Positive Expectation Gambling

Now you know that the only way to win when you gamble is by creating positive expectation situations. And you know a few of the best ways to start building these types of cases.

It’s also important to understand that you need to identify and avoid gambling situations with negative expectations. Winning gamblers maximize the number of positive expectation situations and minimize their negative expectation situations.

Start by choosing a single area to master. When you master positive expectations in one area, then start focusing on a second area. Soon you’re going to be able to create positive expectations in many gambling areas.