Math Skills in Gambling: Engaging Activities for Gamblers

min read
a top view of a calculator among poker chips
BetMGM Jul 18, 2023, 12:14 AM

You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to become a successful gambler. However, developing some basic math skills can certainly bring you closer to reaching your goals. Every gambler’s main focus is to win, but how you quantify success will be different. 

Some simply play casino table games for fun and try not to lose too much. Others take greater risks, which can be highly rewarding but potentially dangerous. Whatever the strategy, using basic math in skill games like poker or blackjack can increase your chances of success.  

Creating the Ideal Mindset

However you approach it, the most important factor for achieving success in gambling is developing the right mindset. To reach your goals, you must be in control of your mental and emotional state of mind. Remaining calm under pressure, taking calculated risks and knowing when to walk away are all skills that you need to tap into. 

Understanding your game of choice is paramount, as all casino games have their own rules and strategies. Of course, they all have an element of chance too. But games like online poker for instance, also require a large amount of skill. Developing your basic mathematical ability to properly understand odds, probability and payout percentages will be instrumental to your success. 

Setting clear goals and realistic expectations prior to play can also help you to remain focused on the task at hand. Good bankroll management should be a key goal. Know how much you can afford to gamble with and understand when to stop. Researching the best game strategies and finding casino games online with the lowest house edge are other useful targets to set. 

Strengthening Your Skills in Math

Developing strong skills in mathematics is a plus for gamblers, as it gives them an edge when it comes to making calculated decisions. It’s undeniable that mathematics and gambling go together like two peas in a pod. Whether it’s online gambling at live dealer blackjack tables, betting on your favorite horse or playing poker, basic math will help.

It takes effort and hours of practice to understand the importance of poker math and how it can enhance your game. Like sports betting, poker is a game full of probabilities and is all about using math to make long-term winning decisions. In blackjack, being able to calculate payouts on the fly will help you make correct decisions when splitting, doubling down and surrendering.


All online casino games have definite probabilities which influence the decisions made by skillful gamblers. As an example, if you were to throw a six-sided die, the probability of landing on a particular side is one in six. 

Here’s an example of a Texas Hold’em poker hand where two players are all-in preflop and the probability of a win is shown by percentage:

Player 1: ace of spades, ace of diamonds – 81.06%

Player 2: king of hearts, king of spades – 18.55%

Tie: 38.00%

The Flop: jack of diamonds, four of diamonds, queen of clubs

Player 1: ace of spades, ace of diamonds – 90.81%

Player 2: king of hearts, king of spades – 9.19%

Tie: 0.00%

The Turn: king of spades

Player 1: ace of spades, ace of diamonds – 13.64%

Player 2: king of hearts, king of spades – 86.36%

Tie: 0.00%

The River: 10 of spades

Player 1: ace of spades, ace of diamonds – Win

Player 2: king of hearts, king of spades – Loss

Expected Value

Expected value, or EV, is the average amount you will theoretically win from any game. EV is calculated as the sum of the amount that can be won or lost, multiplied by the probability of a win or loss. 

The classic example used to explain EV is a coin flip. Imagine winning $1 for every head and having to pay $1 for every tail. This a neutral EV game where you can expect to break even, since the probability of both a head and a tail 0.5, or 1 in 2.

(Probability x Payout) + (Probability x Payout) = EV

(0.5 x $1) + (0.5 x -$1) = 0

However, imagine instead that you were to win $2 for every head. Suddenly this becomes a positive expectation game:

(0.5 x $2) + (0.5 x -$1) = 0.50

Although you may still lose a single flip, the longer you play, the more you expect to win. Play 200 times and you can expect to walk away with $100. 

House Edge

The house edge exists on every table game, slot or lottery, whether online or at a brick-and-mortar establishment. It’s expressed as a percentage and the lower the house edge, the better the theoretical return on your bet. 

Classic blackjack, for example, has a low house edge, typically ranging from 0.5% to 2%. A bet to avoid is the tie in baccarat, which usually has an edge of 14.4%.

Payback Percentage

Sometimes, you’ll hear the term Return To Player (RTP) instead of the house edge. This is a theoretical percentage that indicates the potential payout following an extended period of play. Basically, it’s the difference between the house edge and 100%. 

It’s most commonly applied in slots, where the RTP can vary wildly. A standard RTP is around 96%, but it could realistically be anywhere between 80% and 99%.


The odds are different from payout percentages, as they indicate the probability of something happening. In addition, they also express how much you can win if your bet is successful. For example, you’re given 10:1 odds on your favorite team winning, this means you’ll receive 10x your investment if they win.

Odds can vary at different sportsbooks, so it’s wise to do your research before betting in order to get the best return. After all, the probability of winning doesn’t change in reality, but how much you can win will differ with each bookmaker. Pot odds are used in poker, which dictate whether you should call or fold. Simply put, you compare the odds of something happening to the amount earned if it does.


Vig is short for “vigorish” and refers to the house edge for sportsbooks. It’s more commonly referred to as “juice,” and all sportsbooks build it into their betting lines. For example, here’s a hypothetical NBA spread:

  • LA Clippers: -110 
  • Utah Jazz: -110 

A $110 bet is required to win a $100 profit on either the Clippers or the Jazz. If the sportsbook didn’t incorporate vig, it would offer +$100 on either team. The extra $10 you pay on the $110 bet is the vig, amounting to a house edge of 4.77%.

Hone Your Math Skills at BetMGM

As you can see, there’s more to gambling than meets the eye for the serious player. Mathematical calculations and a steady focus are the keys to success, but it’s not just the professionals who play like this. You, too, can improve your performance by analyzing your decisions and applying some basic math.

Ready to develop your mathematical skills whilst playing your favorite poker and online casino games? Start making better decisions and taking more thoughtfully calculated risks today – register to play with BetMGM.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.