MCU gambling tip: The even-money assumption default content graphic

If you want to gamble recreationally, you don’t need to have the best of it, you don’t need to maintain a bankroll, and you don’t need to worry about mastering advanced tactical concepts or probabilities. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with doing that. Many people find the excitement of legal gambling for comfortable limits well worth the price. After all, it’s the casinos that are providing the service, hiring the help, investing in buildings and equipment. There are many other costs casinos incur.

It is unreasonable to believe that casinos shouldn’t have an edge. They deserve one. They can make money by charging you by the hour, collecting membership fees, taking a percentage of your bets, offering games where they have slight advantages over you, and more. However it happens, the casino is trying to earn money, and it should. You wouldn’t do all this for nothing, either.

It’s perfectly possible to make money

Fine. So, gambling can be pure entertainment. You don’t need to have any long-range expectation of victory to enjoy it. And I — unlike some other experts — have absolutely, positively no problem with that.

Still, if you decide that you want to make money gambling, it’s perfectly possible. Many succeed. That’s because there are forms of gambling where the odds are not fixed rigidly against you. Most games you can beat are player-versus-player, rather than player-versus-house. But there are some house games you can beat, too, such as blackjack.

I lost my train of thought. What was I saying? Oh, now I remember. So, there are games you can beat and games you can’t, and the ones you can are worth learning to play well. But before you do that, you need to understand something. In the May 17, 1999 issue of Newsweek, I’m quoted as saying, “In the beginning, everything was even money.”

Actually, that’s my favorite quote (mine or anyone else’s), because it says something much more substantial than it seems to on the surface. What it says is that in the beginning you start with no information whatsoever. In that mental state, everything is like a coin flip. It’s fifty-fifty. It’s even money. Without any information, you have no idea how to bet on anything.

Challenging the even-money assumption

But the more information you gather, the more you are able to challenge the assumption that something is even money. And if you decide to be a serious gambler, rather than a recreational one, you have your job defined. It’s simple. Your job is to challenge the assumption that something is even money. Maybe you’re thinking, well, not everything is even money, even without information. What about rolling two dice. You know it’s more than even money against rolling a seven. Don’t you? No, not without information. You’re using knowledge to say what’s obvious to you now. Go back to the beginning. Without knowledge, everything is even money. If you want to win gambling, you’re job is to destroy this assumption. Period.

So, I’ll say it again: In the beginning, everything was even money. Never forget it. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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