Yuchun Lee, professional blackjack player and former member of the MIT card counting team, answers the internet's burning questions about casinos and odds. What are the odds of winning a slot machine? What's the best blackjack strategy? How does card counting work? What's the best poker strategy? What casino games make the house the most money? Yuchun answers all these questions and much more!

Video Transcript

- I'm Yuchun Lee, professional blackjack player and a former member of the MIT card counting team.

This is "Casino Odds Support."

[upbeat drum music] First up, imroulettestar.

"What casino games has the best odds?"

If you don't have any skills, the best odds is by far baccarat.

You will lose about 50 cents for ever \$100 you put out.

If you play for a long time, you still lose money, it's still the least amount of money you can lose, if you have no skills.

The best game out there, if you do have skill, I believe, is blackjack.

If you are a regular player, you walk into a casino, you'll lose somewhere around \$1.50 to \$3 per \$100 that you bet.

If you are professional blackjack players, you will be able to win \$1.50 to \$3 from the casino the other way around.

From ReactGPT, "What is the worst casino game in terms of odds?"

There's no question the worst game in a casino are the slot machines.

Odds range anywhere between 80% to 99% payout.

That means when you put \$100 in you may only get \$80 out or \$99 out.

The next question is from Boomloaded.

"Can casino kick you out for winning too much?"

Most of the casino don't kick you out for winning because they believe the law of large number will eventually help the casino win back any money that you've won in the short period of time.

This is the concept that in statistics no matter how random something is when you do a lot of these random events together at some point there's a norm that comes out.

That's called the law of large number.

However, if a casino found out you are a professional and you have an edge over the casino, the only law on the book that a casino can kick a player out is through the trespass law.

Then they will kick you out, and in fact they have to, otherwise they will go bankrupt.

Nighthawkkz, "How is the house edge calculated?"

Every game has a different edge and the way they do this is through what's called a Monte Carlo simulation.

You simulate millions and millions of these hands and based on that simulation and the outcome, you can compute what the expected win or loss is.

This is how a professional blackjack team figured out what is the optimal hand to play.

Twobobsquirt, "Getting no luck at all in the roulette.

Is there a trick to it?"

Unfortunately, there's no way to win in a roulette as is.

And part of the reason is you can bet red or black, if it lands in these greens, you'll basically lose.

The reason the casino have an edge over the player in roulette are these two green numbers here.

There is however, a way to win in roulette and that happens when you step into a very old, not well-maintained casino where the roulette wheel itself is not balanced.

When it's not balanced there are parts of the wheel that get less probable of a chance of landing the ball in the slots along that area.

And you observe that over a long period of time you can actually beat the casino by just eliminating as little as two to three numbers.

Casino_Bloke, "What are the odd of winning slot machines?

How does volatility work in slots?"

In some states, the range to which is legally allowed for the casino to set the dial could be as low as 80% and as high as 99%.

That means, you know, for every \$100 you bet the casino can set it so that you will win back only \$80 out of it.

So, slot machines has a dial that casino can tweak and create the odds that they want for their business.

They don't change these number easily.

It requires a whole committee to come down and agree on this is what they need to do.

But in a more sort of off-Strip, shady casino we have heard story from insiders that busy, you know, Super Bowl nights and whatnot, they literally crank up this so they can make more money.

The next question is from data36_com.

"Why are people losing at casinos?

They ignore a few statistical concepts like: expected value, hot hand fallacy, probability in general."

Think about expected value as the mathematical truth of how much money you are winning or losing.

Most of the players in the casino, most of the game, you have a negative expected value.

That means over time law of large number will take over and you will lose money.

Hot hand fallacy is the concept of streaks.

A lotta players when they sit at a table they keep winning and when they're winning they're like, "I'm in a hot streak."

When in reality, every hand is completely independent.

But randomly, over a short period of time, you could have lots of winning hands one after another.

And again, the concept of all of these is rooted in the math of probability.

The law of large number eventually takes over.

The expected win or lose will eventually play out.

The next question is from kadafeather.

"What is the best blackjack strategy?"

There's actually a perfect way to play your hand.

And the perfect way is based on the cards you have in front of you against the face up card from the dealer.

There's a mathematical way that pair in these wins.

And I have here a pretty standard, what's called a basic strategy chart.

You can Google these and find a lot of variations of it.

And by the way, there's small variations of these, depends on different casinos, different rules they have, there's a slight variation.

But if you don't know how to count cards and you memorize what to do with each hand against every single combination of the dealer's hand, you will minimize your loss in blackjack down to around 60 cents per \$100.

Arta_chris, "I'm not gonna ask how to do it, but how does card counting work?"

The principle of card counting is really around tracking how much face cards and aces are left.

And the rationale is that when there are more aces there's a higher chance of either the player or the dealer hitting blackjack.

Except in most casinos, if the player hit blackjack they get paid time and a half.

When the dealer hit blackjack they just get your money, right?

So, because you have that time-and-a-half advantage, when there's higher odds to hit blackjack player has an edge.

That's one.

And two, the rule of blackjack, the dealer has to hit their hand until 17.

When there's a lot of face cards left in the shoe the dealer will bust more often.

EDEOT69, "Why do casinos kick you out when you do card counting?

This is not cheating, it is a skill."

It is not cheating, right, we're using our brain, that's why it's completely legal.

In the state of New Jersey, casinos are not allowed to kick players out, so, they have other means of ruining the game for us.

So, for example, in the game of blackjack they will put the cut cards way up in the front so that you basically cannot possibly count and win.

Some casino will use what's called continuous shuffle machine, where they have a machine that shuffles the cards continuously.

In those situations, there's really no way you can beat the casino.

Tradingsumo1, "Why do casinos have table limits if the odds are in their favor?"

Table limits are set up to bust a particular type of algorithm called the Martingale algorithm.

And the algorithm goes like this.

I bet dollar.

If I win I'm gonna take the dollar I win and rebet a dollar.

But if I lose that hand, I'm gonna double my bet.

If I stack away the wins I have and for every hand I lose I double, eventually the streak of losing will break.

Otherwise, if you have a lotta money, if I'm a billionaire, I can go to a casino and just use that algorithm and I can make money.

Wildgoodietours, "Does craps have any type of advantage play?"

Unfortunately, you can never win in crap.

However, there is a loophole in some of the casinos in the following way.

So, in crap you have the initial bets, and after the initial bet, if the roller didn't hit seven you will have a follow-on bet.

The follow-on bets are even odds.

There's no advantage to the casino, or the player, in the follow-on bet.

So, one strategy with playing craps is you back bet anybody else.

So, if you have a friend or even a stranger, who put the initial bet, let's say \$100, then you can have the secondary bet.

Going forward in that round, you can bet as much money as possible on the second bet up to the maximum allowed by the casino.

And that's even odds.

That means you can play for a long period of time and theoretically you won't lose money.

Click2Launch, "What is your best poker strategy?"

The best poker strategy is to get really, really good at poker to begin with.

In non-tournament poker, the way you win money is to frankly, sit around tables with other players who are not as skilled as you and have a lotta money to lose.

Informal teammate of ours, who retired from blackjack, end up building a software that he used to monitor all the online poker sites that he can get into and basically screen scrape and look at all the different tables that's out there.

And the algorithm rings a bell for him when he detect that there is somebody who's not that good and have a lot of money to throw around.

And it rings a bell, he jumps into those table and beat them and take their money.

VubblePOP, "How do they catch cheaters in Las Vegas?"

There are some casinos that have RFID embedded chips in the actual chips that are being put out.

And the main purpose is not to catch card counters or cheats, but it's really to keep track of how much money the player put out because that's a way to compute and figure out what type of perks, or what type of players, or detecting whales, et cetera.

And sometimes through those RFID chips they can detect anomalies from the statistics they're seeing.

And from those they will flag these players and people will then pay more attention to them to make sure there is no cheating going on.

Bobvocado, "You think every slot machine has the same odds?"

There's tons of different slot machines.

Now, technically there is a type of slot machine you can actually make money, right?

And that is part of a whole class of slot machine called progressive slot machine.

You may have seen these in a casino where the concept is basically over time as the player lose money, the machine build up a bank and the payout increases over time.

But once somebody win a jackpot or certain combination it empties out the bank.

So, theoretically if you walk up to a machine, over a certain threshold these machine will actually pay out more than the money you pay in.

So, the strategy for these progressive machines is that you walk up to the machine, you look at how much is in the bank, if it's above a certain number, you basically will play that machine until the bank breaks.

Seegz, "I lost 400 at a roulette table in 10 minutes last night.

What are the odds there were eight reds in a row?"

The odds of eight reds in a row is two to the power of eight, which is 256.

So, it's one out of 256 times you will have eight reds in a row.

Very unfortunate, sorry to hear that.

TimSimcox1, "Gambling at casinos is voluntarily participating in a game that is openly acknowledged to be rigged.

Why do people do it?"

There are people who actually value the thrill of making money a whole lot more than the misery of losing money.

Those are the true gamblers.

When they make a \$100, they are so much more happier than if they lose \$100.

By the way, most people are the other way around.

If you lose \$100, you feel a whole lot worse than the joy of winning \$100.

And usually that's how you can tell whether somebody's a gambler or not.

From VonScharff, "Which casino game makes the house the most money?"

For most casino, the game that make the most money are the slot machines.

And the reason the slot machines make casino money is there's no labor involved.

You can set up, you know, hundreds of these machines and they're just there taking up electricity, but they're making money every hour that there's a player sitting in front of 'em.

StevenWilton, "Why do you always split aces and eights in blackjack?"

If you got two aces, the Monte Carlo simulation says you're better off splitting those aces so that the two hands that you result in will give you higher odds of winning because all you need is a face card in one of 'em to get the highest possible which is 21.

The other one is when you have an ace you can double down if it's a favorable hand against the dealer.

So, you always split that and eight it's the same thing.

When you split two eights you have a higher chance, again mathematically, to come up with a more favorable hand.

However, the one caveat I would say is that if the casino offers surrender, surrender is a little known rule.

Surrender is the concept that if I bet \$100 and I say surrender, I only have to give the dealer \$50.

I take half of my money back.

So, if I have two eights and the rule surrender exists in that casino, you would say surrender and you've got the other half back.

If the dealer has a face card, an ace, or a nine, all other situation you would split the eights.

LiftEmotion, "Can machine learning guess your poker face?"

So, the way the machine will be able to pick out are these tells.

You know, maybe twitches, or how long you gaze at your cards and so forth, all these little nuances that frankly, skilled poker player rely on to beat other poker players.

But at the end of the day, I can totally see if you focus machine learning and image recognition on facial expression on individuals, over time I can totally see how you can have a algorithm that's tuned on individual players.

IrishNorsewoman, "How do you lose money owning casino?"

If you think about the odds of winning for casino, it's still very tiny.

You know, casino may beat a regular player 3% of the time.

At the same time, the other side of the ledger is they're spending tons of money entertaining guests, you know, restaurants, lights, utilities.

Even though casino gains by purely just the casino part of the business itself could be making tons of money, if you don't manage the other part of the business you could still lose money.

That's all the questions.

Hope you learned something from this and good luck in your next adventure in casinos.

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