Since the introduction of large-scale casinos in cities like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Macau, stories have sprung up about shady operations within these gaming meccas. These have soon become urban legends within the casino community. We can't help but think that some of these have been spread around by players who are still trying to make sense of their unfortunate losses. So, let’s see which myths don’t hold up when we shine a light on them.
The House Always Wins
This infamous phrase has been uttered in films, books and even video games that take place in casinos. The ‘house’ is usually in reference to casinos, and the fact that they always turn a profit, while players both win and lose. Recently Elon Musk referred to the state of Nevada as “the house to the house” when discussing tax arrangements for his new factory there.
Players will both win and lose, but it’s about knowing when to walk away with your winnings intact instead of throwing them away on a losing streak. However, all casino games can be determined by probabilities. Knowing what these are, and what to do to improve your odds, could diminish the house edge and help players minimise their losses.
Players Must Win Eventually
This belief, often referred to as ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’, finds players caught in the mistaken view that the more they lose now, the less they will lose in the future. The reality is that in games of chance, what has happened before has no bearing on what will happen next, so each spin of the wheel or throw of the dice has the same odds.
Gambler’s Fallacy is sometimes called the ‘Monte Carlo Fallacy’ after an odd event that happened in the Monte Carlo Casino in 1912. During a game of Roulette, the ball landed on a black number 26 times in a row, with gamblers at the table losing millions because of the false belief that it must eventually land on red, and would do so for an equally long winning streak.
Casino Games Are Rigged
Casino games are among the most rigorously tested gambling activities in the world, with slot machines working via a Random Number Generator (RNG) to ensure they’re not rigged or tampered with. With table games, dealers and players alike are watched constantly for any sign of trying to influence the game through illegal means.
However, the house does have its edge built-in to the odds of these games, in order to generate a profit. Casinos are upfront about the odds of winning, and an educated player can often pick the best games with the smallest edge to minimise any losses. The truth is, there are enough players who will bet and lose to the house that it doesn’t need to cheat to make money.
Casinos Pump Oxygen Through Air Vents
It’s often been whispered that casinos circulate pure oxygen around the casino floor to keep people alert and awake in the hope that they’ll gamble for longer. Not only would it be illegal, but it would be enormously expensive to the point that the house would no longer be winning.
However, there are other ways of influencing how long their guests will gamble for. Casinos tend not to have windows or clocks, making it easier to lose track of time. Players who have been betting for a while will be offered complimentary drinks to keep them energised or to make them tipsy if it’s a cocktail on offer. A few of these will soon see the alcohol go to the players’ heads, offering them a false sense of confidence in the hope that they bet big.
Card Counting Is Illegal
While it’s certainly frowned upon, card counting is not by definition illegal. Players who have developed the skill are able to keep a mental note of all of the cards played in Blackjack. If they know how many decks are being used, they can guess with a certain degree of accuracy whether the next cards will be high or low.
While it’s not illegal, casinos are not public institutions but private businesses, and can therefore refuse to serve someone or accept their wager for whatever reason they see fit. Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House loosely documented a team of real-life card counters from MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who would often count in teams and under assumed identities to stay under the casino’s radar. However, they were eventually found out and black-booked by most casinos in Vegas.