In the course of reading various autobiographies of poker legends, I noticed this book. It’s title was so pompous, and it’s customer rating from Amazon so high, how could I resist? It turns out to be an excellent primer on statistics and how they work in casinos.
The book starts out with a crash course on statistics and probability for the foolish, and then moves to each casino game, explaining the issues at work in the various games. Strategies for each game are covered, and sample games are played so you can see how the lessons work out. Of course, perdiodically casinos change the rules of the games in subtle ways, but since you’ve been schooled in the nuances of how to compute the various probabilities, you’re well prepared to refactor your strategy accordingly.
It’s also pleasing to see that the MENSA Guide doesn’t take any easy shortcuts. As everyone knows, the entire game of roulette is a sucker bet, with the casino edge at least 5% over the customer. In other words, you are paid at least 5% less reward than the risk you take when betting on a number. It would be easy to cut this chapter out with a dismissive paragraph, but a detailed examination of the probabilities in the game is presented with thoughtful analysis.
I was in a casino recently, and was struck by the various people taking fool’s bets over and over again, based upon nothing but their intuition in complete defiance of the math involved. People banging on the table to get blackjack, rubbing troll dolls for luck, or asking the dealer for blackjack, as if she could choose to give it. The education you get by watching such people once you know the odds is a fascinating experiment in how critical thinking valuable and elusive in the casino. (And don’t even get me started on the unlikely shit people bet on at a craps table..)