18th Apr2017

How nerds have outsmarted the system… in real-life!

by James Smith

It’s not just billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk who’ve shown that being a nerd can lead to immense wealth. As some of these examples show how being a maths geek can even help us win big at everything from the lottery to a game of blackjack.


As all gambling games are based on the laws of chance, it’s no surprise to find that some mathematicians have managed to hit it big at the casinos. Take Edward O. Thorp who used the lessons learned in his pioneering probability research to develop a card-counting technique to beat the casinos’ games of blackjack during the 1960s.

Thorp wasn’t shy of sharing his winning secrets, as he even wrote a highly successful book called Beat The Dealer. Card-counting techniques were also used by the MIT Blackjack Team who doubled their investment at the casinos in just ten weeks. And whilst they were eventually barred from the casinos, their escapades were eventually made into the awesome Hollywood movie, 21.

And although the card-counting technique is frowned upon by many casinos, by applying the laws of probability for the next time that we play online blackjack at a site like Lucky Nugget Casino, we can boost our chances of getting that lucky hand.


Whilst blackjack has an element of human interaction that can make it easier to predict, the game of roulette has far fewer variables and is often seen as one of the purest games of chance. But that didn’t stop Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo cleaning up on the roulette tables of Madrid by collecting large amounts of data about which pockets on certain wheels were most likely to give the winning result.

And then there’s the incredible story of Mohan Srivastava. Srivastava didn’t even use statistics to beat the system, as he merely realised that lottery scratch cards seem to have patterns that could be used to predict the winning result. And what’s craziest is that he didn’t even use this research to claim his winnings, but instead reported the results to the lottery authorities!<


However, if you’re looking for true evidence of the mind-blowing powers of mathematics, take a look at the exploits of Joan R. Ginther. The statistics professor somehow managed to win the lottery no less than four times, and whilst there is no proof that she worked out the lottery’s algorithm, the chances of anybody recreating these incredible results is eighteen septillion to one!

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