Three Ways to Gain a (Slight) Advantage Over the House

“The house always wins”. That’s what they say, but if it were true, nobody would win a bean. Well, I’ve definitely won at least a tenner on the lottery, so the house doesn’t always win. OK, in most cases the house has the advantage, but, there are ways to gain the advantage over the house. To find out what these are, read on…

Card Counting Gives You the Advantage Over the House

Many people think that it’s impossible to get the advantage over the house, that the casinos have created games that always skew the odds in their favour. This isn’t entirely true.

Yes, the casinos try to make games that give them the odds, but they’re people too. That means they can make mistakes as well. Because gambling odds can involve complex maths, and the games complex rules, there’s plenty of room for error. Intelligent people use this complexity to find vulnerabilities and ways to exploit the odds.

Enter: card counting.

Card counting is a technique used in Blackjack that allows the player to keep track of the cards in a deck and estimate the odds of drawing particular cards. This skews the odds in favour of the player, making them more likely to win compared to the house.

There is no doubt about it; card counting DOES flip the advantage from the house to the player. A professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota, Edward Oakley, discovered the technique in the 1960s. He collaborated with other mathematicians, and together, they swooped on Las Vegas, winning hundreds of thousands of dollars. Read the full story here.

But before you rush off to the casino, understand that the casinos do everything they can to discourage it. They will either ask you to leave or force you to make the same bet for each deal (which puts the odds back in their favour – don’t ask me how; I’m mathematically challenged).

Identifying Good Bets in Sports Gambling

It would be easy to win or lose in sports betting if the bookmakers were black and white in the way they design their bets. Imagine two horses, once a thoroughbred racehorse and the other barely qualifies as a donkey. It’s obvious who’s going to win in a race. The bookmaker might give the donkey odds of 1000 to 1 (the thoroughbred might twist an ankle or something) of winning and the horse 1 to 1000.

But where’s the fun in that? Extremely rich people might be able to make some money by placing a few hundred thousand on the thoroughbred, but most people will either waste money on the donkey (who will only win once every 1000 races – so for the Grand National, you’d be waiting a long time to win!) or make a fraction of a penny per race.

To overcome this dilemma, the bookmakers use something called “line betting”, where they give the favourite teams/horses/racers a handicap in the odds. Taking the example above, they might say that a bet will win if the donkey reaches the 3rd furlong before the thoroughbred reaches the finish line.

The bookmakers use different ways of handicapping favourites in different sports, e.g. in football, it will be goal difference. If Tottenham loses 5-0 to Aston Villa, you can still win if you placed a line bet on THFC with appropriate odds.

It’s possible to take advantage of the way the bookmakers create these odds. They use their knowledge of sports performance to choose odds in their favour. But they can get these calculations way off.

With careful study (which includes studying the sport, its teams, their performance, and the maths behind the odds), you can identify good and bad bets and win money over the long term.

Also, it’s fairly common for the general public to jump on bandwagons when it comes to betting.  Often, they get this wildly wrong. If you can spot when the public places these bets, you can bet against them and make even more money.

There aren’t any shortcuts here, but being a whiz in computer modelling will help, as with a good knowledge of maths, and in particular the maths behind line betting.

The key is to find ways to set the line better than the oddsmakers have.

Lottery Rollovers Can Give You an Advantage Over the House

When playing the lottery, the rollover weeks often give you better odds than the weeks following a big win. Now, this isn’t exactly giving the house an advantage – they still win when compared to the rest of us – but it improves your odds compared to a normal week.

This is not the case with all lotteries, so do check the details of their rollover T&Cs. It’s more likely with the smaller lotteries, e.g., charity lotteries, but may apply to some of the larger ones.

Conclusion

It’s not easy to flip the odds in favour of the player unless you put in the effort. It is possible to get an advantage over the house. For most people, though, work is the best way to make money.

 

A picture of a monopoly board (just the corner) with a house on it to represent taking advantage and the house.

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