Why You Always Lose When You’re Gambling in a Casino

Gambling Loser-Chips-Keys_Table Game

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but many (if not most) of the casinos in Las Vegas are opulent. The buildings are exquisite, the decorations are lavish, and even the smallest of details scream luxury.

They can only afford that kind of opulence because you always lose when you’re gambling there. But how and why do you keep losing?

My dad would tell you that it’s because the casinos cheat, but that’s misleading.

This post explains the real reasons why casinos always win.

1 – Losing Is the Price You Pay for Playing Casino Games

Of course it’s disappointing to lose money during a gambling session. What’s worse is sometimes you lose all your money faster than you expected to. It’s hard to not spend time at the bar, throwing down drinks, imagining what you could have spent that money on if you hadn’t lost it.

But everyone who gambles in casinos experiences this. If you’re realistic, you’ll understand that this is how it’s going to happen most of the time for most gamblers. Even if you’re a seasoned stock market or real estate investor, you face the risk of losing money.

In fact, any time you risk money with the hope of a reward, you face the possibility of losing that money. You only have three possibilities in these situations:

  1. You break even.
  2. You lose money.
  3. You make money.

Even if you put your money in a sock under your mattress, you’re going to lose money. Inflation will make sure that such money is worthless when you get it back out than it was worth when you squirreled it away.

And gambling is, by its nature, a high-risk venture. That’s why it’s called gambling.

Your job is to make sure you don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose. My advice is to set aside a gambling bankroll that you don’t need for any other purposes.

Scared money always loses, and if you’re losing a lot at the casinos, you’re probably gambling with money you can’t afford to lose (“scared money”).

I have friends who take their grocery money to the roulette table with the goal of doubling or tripling it. They usually come to me for a loan, a meal, or some groceries.

2 – Casino Gambling Is an Entertainment Expense

Casino-Row-of-Slot-Machines

It’s normal to get mad or frustrated when you’ve lost a lot of money at the casino. If losing were fun, the casinos would have ALL the money instead of just a lot of it.

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Avoid gambling if you’re not financially healthy. Avoid gambling if you feel guilty about gambling. If you do gamble, consider it a form of entertainment with a cost associated, just like a movie or a magazine subscription.

If you win, great, but always prepare yourself for the possibility of losing.

That’s the good news about casino games, too. Even though it’s entertainment, in the long run, you’ll lose your money. Sometimes, in the short run, you can come out ahead and win money. If that never happened, no one would ever gamble, and the casinos would go out of business.

If you only gamble with money you can afford to lose, you’ll limit the amount of frustration and guilt you feel after a losing session.

On the occasions when you win, you’ll feel even better because you won’t be thinking about how much money you’ve lost up until this point.

3 – Casinos Don’t Cheat, but the Odds Are Stacked Against You

Remember earlier when I mentioned that my dad thinks casinos cheat? He’s wrong, but he’s not that far off.

roulette-wheel-closeup

Casinos don’t cheat in the respect that they control which playing card you get next in blackjack. They’re unable to affect the outcome of a roll of the dice. They can’t decide which number comes up on the next spin of the roulette wheel.

Instead, casinos get their edge by paying off your bets at odds that give them a mathematical edge that’s realized over time.

The hypothetical casino has a game where you bet on a coin toss. You’re required to bet a minimum of $5, but you’re also required to post a 14 cent “ante.” When you win, you get $5. When you lose, you lose the $5. In either case, you lose the 25-cent ante.

In the long run, it’s impossible to win this game. Look at what happens to your bankroll after 100 statistically perfect coin tosses.

You win 50 times for winnings of $250. You lose 50 times for losses of $250. But you also paid a 25-cent ante on all 100 of those hands, for another $25 in losses.

You wagered $500 total, but you lose $25, or 5% of your wagers. This 5% figure is the house edge, and it’s built into every casino game you play. It doesn’t always take this form, although an ante is a popular type of fee charged by Oklahoma casinos.

4 – Most Casino Games Don’t Pay off at the Same Odds You Have of Winning

Roulette is one of my favorite games to illustrate how the house edge works because the math behind the game is so simple.  Most people know that you can place a bet on red or black at the roulette table and win almost half the time.

But do you know how to calculate the actual probability of winning and what effect that has on the long-term house edge for the casino?

Again, you can just look at a statistically perfect set of results. A roulette wheel has 38 possible outcomes, so that’s your starting point.

For illustrative purposes, I’ll just assume that you’re betting $100 per spin. On a roulette wheel with 38 numbers, 18 of those numbers are red, 18 of them are black, and two of them are green.

So, a bet on black (or a bet on red) would win 18 out of 38 spins. That’s $1800 in winnings. But this also means you’ll lose on 20 of those spins. That’s $2000 in losses.

When you subtract the amount you won from the amount you lost, you’ve seen a net loss of $200 over 38 spins or an average of $5.26 per spin.

Since that’s 5.26% of your $100 bet on each spin, you can think of the 5.26% as the house edge for the game.

5 – All Casino Games Have an Edge and There’s No Way to Overcome It

Most of my readers know that some people gamble professionally. This doesn’t mean that a professional gambler can get an edge in every game in the casino. For the most part, most casino games don’t offer you any opportunity to get a mathematical edge.

Roulette is a good example. No matter what you do, it’s impossible to change the number of possible outcomes on the roulette wheel or predict where the ball is going to land.

Slot machines are another good example. The game has payouts for various combinations, and each of those combinations has a probability of coming up. The payback percentage for the game is based on those two factors, and no amount of skill can help you affect either factor.

Blackjack is one of the few exceptions. Card counters can get an edge at blackjack by changing the size of their bets based on the composition of the deck.

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Here’s the difference between blackjack and roulette—roulette has no memory. Every spin of the wheel is an independent event.

But what if when the ball landed on a number, that number was removed from play? Over time, the probability of winning a bet on red or black might change based on previous results.

In blackjack, when a card is dealt, it’s gone from the deck until the next deal. This has implications about what’s going to happen next in the game.

A card counter keeps rough track of this and raises the size of his bets when the odds favor him. This tilts the odds back in his favor.

Conclusion

Why do you lose when gambling in a casino? The answer is simple. The games are designed mathematically in such a way that the house always has a mathematical edge over the player.

Any time there’s risk involved, you might lose. But with casino games, the odds are set up so that you’ll lose more often than you’ll win.