Under the veneer of flashing lights and free drinks, casinos are mathematically engineered to slowly bleed patrons of their cash. That’s why, for years, some mathematically inclined people have tried to use their knowledge of probability and game theory to beat the house.
In a casino, players gamble using games of chance and skill (poker, video poker, blackjack, roulette, craps). These games have mathematical odds that give the house a permanent advantage over the player, known as the house edge. The house also collects a percentage of the bets made on the machines, called the rake.
Successful casinos bring in billions each year for the companies, investors, and Native American tribes that own them. They’re also a major source of jobs and tax revenues for states, cities, and towns that allow them to operate. Casinos are located in massive resorts like Las Vegas and Macau, as well as smaller card rooms and racinos at racetracks, truck stops, bars, and other small businesses.
Something about gambling attracts cheats and crooks, so casinos spend a lot of time and money on security. Elaborate surveillance systems provide a high-tech eye-in-the-sky, with cameras monitoring every table, change window, and doorway. Cameras can be adjusted to focus on suspicious patrons by security workers in a room filled with banks of monitors. Some casinos even have a special room that watches the tables for unusual betting patterns that might indicate cheating. In addition, the casino’s staff checks that each player has a valid gaming license.