10 urban legends about casinos

Martingale roulette, counting blackjack cards … Tricks that will make you rich or fantasies of dreamy onlookers at the doors of Bellagio Vegas? Even though some myths about casinos and their games are not completely unfounded, here are 10 mythbusters.


1. The roulette is 50/50

2. Blackjack: Prohibition of counting cards

3. Las Vegas has the biggest casinos

4. Oxygen for you to dope

5. No crisis for casinos

6. Casinos: a dirty money laundry

7. “Hot” tables and “cold” tables

8. Big progressive jackpot = imminent gain

9. The games are piped

10. The house always wins

1. The roulette is 50/50

This is the basic postulate of the famous classic martingale roulette, which would win every time: by playing a series of simple strokes on red or black and doubling his bet as long as you lose, we end up being at least refunded since we have a 1 in 2 chance of winning. This method is illusory because:

To apply it supposes a (very) big starting capital, in the end to gain very little. It’s more about being reimbursed every time than actually winning, given the amount of money you have to commit.

Casinos limit the amount of stakes . In other words, the strategy can fall through the water in the first period of bad luck.

The chances of falling on red or black are not 50% since it would forget the zero box (or double zero at the American roulette). The basic reasoning is therefore wrong.

According to a tenacious idea, mathematics would be the key to thwart the mechanics of casinos and a good math could pluck any institution. This is obviously not so simple in the facts. For starters, the chances of winning are always in the house’s favor and it is impossible for anyone to reverse them, with the exception of blackjack card counting. The only other game where mathematics will be useful is poker, where the best players know how to calculate their expectation of winnings.

probability shadok currency

The martingale: a certain vision of the probabilities

2. Blackjack: Prohibition of counting cards

Several movies (such as Las Vegas 21) played on this misconception. In fact, no law prohibits it . On the other hand, it is illegal to use an electronic device (computer, smartphone …) to count the cards.

The rooms, however, see the process of an evil eye and prohibit for the most part in their internal regulations . An example was recently given in the people section with Ben Affleck , caught in the act of counting and banned blackjack since. Comment from the actor: “The fact that being good to a game is against the rules of casinos says a lot about casinos.”

To “be good” in blackjack, you do not have to be a Rain Man genius. It is enough to master the basic mathematics (addition, subtraction, even a dose of division according to the techniques) and to have the patience to learn. But the counters do not become full of aces, even if they earn more money than they lose.

Not to mention the subterfuges to use to avoid getting stuck:

3. Las Vegas has the biggest casinos

In the collective imagination, the “City of Sin” is the place of excess and the largest buildings. In recent years, in reality, the “mecca of the game” is no longer in Nevada but in China, Macao . It is now there that are the largest establishments in terms of size, including the largest in the world, the Venetian Macau  :

3000 slot machines

870 game tables

3000 hotel rooms

24 restaurants


The Venetian Macao

The Chinese city places 4 more of its casinos among the 10 largest on the planet: the City of Dreams Macau, Casino Ponte 16, Sands Macao and MGM Grand Macau. It is amusing to note that the latter, branch of the MGM Grand de Las Vegas, surpasses it in terms of square meters: 20 000m2 for the 1st, 16 000m2 for the second.

4. Oxygen for you to dope

The casinos are supposedly desperate to encourage players to spend. Since a high level of oxygen keeps a person alert – when a lack of oxygen weakens it – to broadcast in the rooms would be the way to see customers play until the end of the night.

oxygen bottles

The secret boot

A firefighter would point out to begin with that this would dangerously increase the flammability of the place. Then that would require broadcasters of too much size.

Some practices of similar spirit are, however, proven. For example, experiments have been conducted on the influence of smells on player behavior, which is part of the widespread ”  olfactory marketing “. Similarly, the alcoholic beverages frequently offered by the staff are specifically intended to disinhibit customers. Finally, the absence of windows and clocks in the rooms serves to make us lose the notion of time, and therefore our link with reality.

5. No crisis for casinos

The casinos would be cut off from the economic environment and make money no matter what. While it is true that they are not the hardest hit in bad times, they are not waterproof. As in any industry, good times and bad times succeed each other. In France, for example, their turnover dropped by 25% between 2007 and 2013. In Macau, it  dropped by 49% in February 2015 .

casino economy

In addition, the casino sector is one of the most penalized tax , with no less than 6 different taxes and levies in addition to common law taxes, including from municipalities. To represent them as cut establishments of the world is thus a mistake. On the contrary, they participate in the economic, touristic and cultural development of their city, of which they are often the only place of animation throughout the year. What would Vegas be without its casinos?

6. Casinos: a dirty money laundry

The link between casino and mafia is not so much a myth as an anachronism. It is true that Las Vegas was partly built in the first half of the 20th century thanks to the involvement of organized crime. Today, institutions are no longer held by gangsters but by large companies, more concerned with their ethics. For example, the famous Bellagio, MGM Grand and Mirage are owned by MGM Resorts International .

Above all, cinemas are subject to drastic surveillance measures. For example, in France:

From 1000 €, any exchange or gain movement is recorded and kept at the disposal of the Ministry of Supervision (Interior or Finance). Even the FDJ® and PMU do not experience such an obligation.

Procedures to detect suspicious money movements have been mandatory since 2006, including the possibility for the Central Service of Racing and Games (SCCJ) or finance officials to control at any time.

If it was necessary to look for financial malpractice somewhere, it is more on the side of the game circles  that should be turned (8/10 have been closed in Paris since 2008 for this reason).

7. “Hot” tables and “cold” tables

It is wrong to believe that one table has higher earnings potential than another. At roulette and craps, the odds for any outcome to occur are exactly the same with every ball or dice roll . In other words, these games are governed by equiprobability . For example, a dice has one chance in every six rounds to fall on any of its faces.

So you are leaving from zero perpetually. If there is one thing these games do not have, it’s a memory.

Our natural need for control tends to convince us otherwise. In fact, when we believe we are active and have an influence on the game, we are simply denying chance.

8. Big progressive jackpot = imminent gain

Just as counting combinations of symbols is useless, predicting when a jackpot will fall is impossible . No matter if there was one or 200,000 games played on a slot machine, the odds of winning are exactly the same each turn (whether you press the button or pull the controller, for that matter).

Each one-armed bandit indeed contains a random number generator , which emits variables determining the stopping position of the rollers according to the precise moment when you play. If you left a machine and someone else picks up the jackpot just after you, do you say that given the millions of possible combinations, it would have been necessary to play at the same time as the thousandth of a second to have the same luck.

On the other hand, winning several jackpots in a row is theoretically possible:

On the other hand,  the machines redistribute on average 85% of the put to the customers  and it is possible, with observation and the patience, to locate those which “pay” more than the others.

9. The games are piped

Operators no longer have the right to place magnets in the roulette balls (100% resin or teflon) than to have control over jackpot allocations.

They do not even have access to machine electronics, which is sealed. To intervene, they must be in the presence of a specialist approved by the administration.

More generally, equipment is subject to regular checks to ensure fair play , and all video surveillance games – mandatory – are kept for several weeks and made available to the authorities. The Far-West time when tables had major flaws is a long way off.

10. The house always wins

This is neither true nor entirely false. The games are designed so that the chances of winning are in favor of the establishment . From there to affirm that the latter always wins is to push the logic a little too far. If there were never (big) winners, the rooms would close .

In truth, games of chance need to be distinguished from games of skill such as blackjack and poker. For the first (roulette, slot machines, ball …), only the “luck” of the player will determine whether he will win or not. Since the probabilities are a priori in its disfavor, it will take a good dose.

In blackjack, it is however possible to tip slightly the odds on his side if we know how to count the cards. The house will still win, but much less than a beginner.

As for poker, it is the player’s ability to minimize the amount of chance that will determine his winnings. This is mostly a so-called “circle” game: the casino does not win when the players lose, since they compete against each other. There are then two ways of seeing things:

The house is never a winner since it is not part of the game

The house always wins through the levies it operates to pay itself