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Ask the Wizard #236
Charlie Rose: You have never known, in your entire life, a gambler who comes here and wins big and walks away?
Steve Wynn: Never.
CR: You know nobody, hardly, who over the stretch of time, is ahead?
I find this hard to believe. What are your thoughts?
Andrew from Fort Wayne, IN
I personally know lots of professional gamblers up on the Wynn. However, I’m sure that none of them have met Steve Wynn personally. I would imagine that only the super whales are granted an audience with him, and such whales are usually superstitious (i.e. losing) baccarat players. Most heavy recreational gamblers do lose over the long run. However, if Mr. Wynn believes that nobody is up on him, I would invite him to repeat the triple-points promotion he ran Labor Day weekend 2007. Even if the promotion loses money, surely the foolish players will give it back eventually.
A. Carter from Derby
The house edge on the specified number would be exactly 0%.
Aaron from New York
The following table shows the number of combinations for all possible totals from 3 to 18.
Combinations in 4d6-L
The mean result is 12.2446, and the standard deviation is 2.8468.
Leo from Fort Worth
Comparing buy bets to place bets, on points of 6 and 8, the place bet always has the lower house edge. On points of 4 and 10, the buy bet always has the lower house edge. On points of 5 and 9, it depends on whether the commission is always paid or only paid on wins. If the commission is paid up front, as is usually the case, then place bets are better; otherwise, buy bets are. To be more specific, the house edge placing the 5 and 9 is 4.00%. The house edge buying the 5 and 9, when the commission is paid up front, is 4.76%. When it is only paid on wins, the house edge is 2.00%.
Kaitlin from Preston
To be honest with you, I don’t know much about it. Casino felts are generally much better quality than those for home use. For my home poker games, we put a home-use roulette felt on top of my dining room table. By the end of the evening, there are little green felt balls everywhere. In Macau, the felts are much smoother and harder than those in Vegas. I see you can buy casino felts on eBay for about $90.
Samuel from Miami, FL
I always encourage math majors to consider the actuarial profession. The best book on casino math, in my opinion, is Practical Casino Math by Robert C. Hannum and Anthony N. Cabot. However, I think you would find it below your level. Most blackjack and poker-based games are done by computer, looping through all the ways the cards may fall and making the play with the highest expected value at every decision point. If you can’t write such a program from scratch, a book about it probably wouldn’t help much.
To answer your last question, there are a number of nonconventional areas for actuaries. I know a self-employed actuary here in Las Vegas who specializes in splitting up pensions in divorce cases. The possibilities are endless.