How Gambling Changed the World

Did you know that casinos and card games helped shape the contemporary world by inspiring some of the most fundamental scientific and mathematical ideas!

Mathematicians like Adam Kucharski have shown how attempts at quantifying luck and boosting winning chances have birthed influential theories and ideas, ensuring that the vice called gambling would have an indelible and positive impact on our lives for years to come. From as early as the 16th century, the world of gambling has influenced thinking and inspired revolutionary ideas and solutions.

In the 1600s, there was no method to measure luck. During a game of dice, if a person was able to roll a double six, this was simply considered good fortune – today, many of us think the same thing. However, there lived an Italian doctor at the time called Gerolamo Cardano, who believed differently. He loved to gamble and he believed that there must be a way to determine how a betting game works through mathematics. He thus set about writing a manual, which laid out how to steer your way through all of the possibilities: For example, there are thirty six ways for two dice to land, but only one way for them to land and produce a double six. This was the beginning of what would come to be known as the theory of probability. Through this advantageous theory, we are now able to predict how likely it is for an event to occur, and ascertain how unlucky or lucky we have been.

In 1654, a French nobleman asked two mathematicians, Fermat and Pascal, to help him find a solution to the problem of points. In other words, how to split up money if betting is abandoned. So a concept known as expected value was established, whereby you can work out the amount of times each player could win if the game were continually played to its conclusion. Today, expected value is considered a key component of finance and economics, and is used to work out the value of investments for each party that is involved.

In the 1890s the mathematician, Karl Pearson, was interested in exploring and explaining random events, which is why the publishing of roulette spin results in newspapers intrigued him so much. By studying the randomness of the roulette wheel he hoped to hone his methods.

Today, Pearson’s roulette analysis plays an important role in science: from drug trials to research, it enables scientists to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to support their theories; in other words whether what they’ve observed is valid and likely to occur again or due entirely to coincidence.

Roulette would later play a significant role in the creation of chaos theory as well. It was noted that the tiniest difference in the speed of the roulette ball could have a massive effect on where the ball would land. This dependence on conditions would form the basis of chaos theory. By the 1970s, scientists were bringing hidden computers into casinos to study the speed of the roulette ball. By using the data, they were able to predict the correct outcome.

Back in the 18th century, a game called the St. Petersburg Lottery mystified mathematicians, as the value of the game was huge, but few players were willing to play it. Eventually a mathematician called Bernouilli introduced an idea to explain this phenomenon. Utility is a now a keystone concept in economics and it describes how the less a person has, the less they are willing to risk on a small chance of a big payout.

Games like poker and baccarat have also been studied, most notably by mathematician, John van Neumann. He wanted to see what strategies worked best, and this in turn led to the field of game theory. This scrutinises the mathematics of strategy as well as the decision making process that takes place between different types of players. Game theory has since been built on by numerous other mathematicians and scientists, and today it is even used in the fields of economics, biology, and artificial intelligence.

Clearly the vice of gambling and the art of bluffing have had profound effects on maths and science, and the world at large. Many speculate that science and maths will eventually take luck out of the equation. Till then, players flock to land-based casinos, as well as online casinos like Lucky Nugget, to do exactly that – try their luck! Most of us are, after all, not mathematicians, and casinos like Lucky Nugget casino provide us with the opportunity to enjoy the highs and lows of wins and losses without necessarily knowing much about game theory, utility, or the theory of probability.

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