Casino games are one of the most popular forms of entertainment, being enjoyed by millions of people across the globe every year. In 2016, the amount wagered in casinos, both online and offline, reached $400 billion. In the United States, around 50 million people visit the Nevadan city of Las Vegas to spend time in its world-famous resorts.

Across the pond, online gaming is much more popular. In the United Kingdom, a country with a population of nearly 67 million people, there were 36.6 million customer accounts registered with online casinos sites, according to official statistics published by the Gambling Commission. In the regulator’s most recent industry statistics report, Brits wagered £14.2 billion between April 2019 and March 2020. This included spending on lotteries, bets on sporting events like the Grand National, though much of it went on casino games.

To put that into perspective, it’s almost as much as the amount UK consumers spent on Amazon in 2020, which saw sales reach £19.5 billion in 2020.

With figures like these, it’s clear just how popular casino games are. And there are countless reasons why people enjoy playing them. Many do so because they find the games exciting, because they like to try out different strategies, because it’s a way to relax, or because they get to socialise while at the table.

With so many people looking to experience the thrill of online casino games, there are companies that aim to serve them. Of all the options open to Brits, we’ve found 888 Casino to be the leader thanks to its intuitive interface, easy-to-use software, and quality customer support. It also offers a wide selection of gaming options, including a mix of classics and many of its own exclusive titles, making it one of the best places to play casino games from your computer or mobile device.

But when your average player is spinning a video slot’s reels or is deciding whether to hit or stand on a blackjack hand, most won’t realise that maths play a pivotal role in making these games work. In reality, numbers run right through casino games, from the probabilities and statistics that give the house an edge to the high-tech random number generators that make sure online casinos are fair and secure.

Probabilities and Statistics

While you may not have enjoyed learning about fractions, percentages and probabilities, the reality is that most of life is made up of them. Most of the things we do in life from crossing a road to making an investment involve some level of risk. You may not realise it, but you make risk-based calculations all the time and based your decisions on them.

Casino games are all based on the probabilities of different outcomes. This is why some people that play blackjack and roulette develop strategies to move the odds in their favour, such as counting cards or varying their wagering amounts in roulette.

These odds are how casinos make a profit as if the games are played over a long time, the house has a small edge. This “house edge” varies from game to game though, so players that are savvy will pick the ones where the edge is smaller.

Roulette

Group of young smiling people looking excited at spinning roulette

Roulette has the easiest probabilities to understand. It uses a wheel with 37 or 38 different pockets, each with a unique number. The likelihood of the ball landing in any of these pockets when the wheel is spun is the same: 1/37 (0.027) for European roulette or 1/38 (0.026) for American roulette.

You can also bet on odds or evens, red or black, or groups of numbers. These have better odds of your wager winning, but this is offset by a lower payout.

If all of the pockets were coloured either red or black, then, on average, betting on either one of these for long enough would see you just finish playing with the same amount of money you started with.

However, European wheels contain the green 0 pocket and American wheels have both 0 and 00 pockets. These pockets are what shift the odds ever so slightly in favour of the casino, giving it a house edge of 2.7% and 5.26% respectively.

Blackjack

Blackjack odds are a little more complicated, but they work on a similar principle. Many academics have analysed all the possible outcomes with blackjack and created a system that suggests the most efficient action to take in every situation. This is sometimes called “basic strategy” or “perfect strategy”.

For example, if you have a hand of 12 and the dealer’s first card is 7, you should hit. But if you have a soft 20, you should stand regardless of what the dealer has.

Some have taken it further and created methods of counting cards that help the player to estimate the “value” of the cards that remain in the shoe. For example, if more low number cards have come out of the shoe recently, it means the chances of a higher value card being dealt next are increased. Knowing this, a card counter could alter their decision to hit or stand.

To make card counting more difficult, casinos now add several decks to a shoe.

The house edge in blackjack is around 0.5% if you use basic strategy. Otherwise, it’s closer to 2%, which is still smaller than roulette.

Random Number Generators

In land-based casinos, the fairness of games is ensured by the casino using untampered cards and shuffling them regularly. Dice are also checked to ensure they’re not weighted, and wheels can be inspected to ensure they don’t favour a particular outcome.

In an online casino, where there are no physical cards to shuffle or dice to inspect, a different approach is required to keep games fair and help players to be confident that they’re in safe hands. That’s where even more maths comes in.

Online casinos use something called a “random number generator”, which can create truly random numbers that determine which cards are drawn and which number wheel or die lands on.

There are numerous ways of doing this. For example, one common approach is to listen to atmospheric noise and convert it into a number. Other solutions include firing photons at semi-transparent materials and recording what direction they travel in, or recording the random movements of lava lamps.

Conclusion

Casino games of all types are incredibly popular both in the UK and around the world. This is because of a multitude of reasons, but mostly because players find them fun and exciting.

Most players don’t consider what happens behind the scenes in a casino, but the fact is, maths sits at the heart of each game. Knowing this can add an extra layer of fun to your gaming sessions as you try out different strategies as you play.

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