The Science Of Gambling
Nick Gilbert
at 16:08 PM Jul 12 2012

Gambling is an issue that’s received plenty of airtime in Australia in the last few months, not least because of the back-and-forth on regulation in federal Parliament. But Popular Science has been on the issue since the early 20th century, showing you how to not only avoid being sucker punched by the numbers game, but how to turn that exact same numbers game back around on your rivals.

  • Crooked Gamblers’ Tricks, November 1933

    As long as betting has existed, so has cheating at it. In this article Popular Science advised against meeting strangers in a dark hotel room at night. The story tells the tale of a sucker getting roped in to a situation where the strangers used technology to see his cards at all times. Some other highlights include using invisible ink to mark cards, using a machine to imperceptibly cut the corner of a card, then know it by feel. The highest tech conceit shown is probably a mechanical card disperser that delivers a new hand to the player.

  • Check For Fake Dice, July 1945

    For the gambler who suspects he may be more than just unlucky, in 1945 we offered a couple helpful tips for seeing if those dice are up to snuff. If you make a stack of three and the suspected die can’t slide in the middle slot, you might have a fake on your hands. If that’s not an option, grab a bucket of water and see if one side immediately sinks to the bottom.

  • Gambling Strategies in Business and War, December 1953

    Here we tout the power of mathematics to teach us about war and business through games–and sometimes the power of games to teach us about games. The trick to roulette, we observe, is that there isn’t a trick, so stop trying a system. If it lands on black 10 times in a row, the next one is still a 50-50 shot. The 1950s gem quote comes in a photo caption describing a board: “‘Blast Off’ is based on the current interest in space travel.'”

  • How Your Neighbour is Winning Your Cash, January 1962

    This one is remarkably similar to the ’30s post mentioned, but there’s a good dose of ’60s paranoia thrown into the mix. So what are your friends doing to cheat you out of your dough? Cutting the deck strangely, marking cards, -the usual, mostly. The gem in this one is a glossary of terms that card cheats use-I guess to brag about how good they are at cheating while other people are within earshot? Deliver the mail – what users of marked cards are said to do. Passers – the dice the hustler uses. Mechanic – any cheat who uses props.

  • Build a 7-in-1 Gaming Table, January 1972

    “When television palls, these long winter nights,” we poetically told our readers in 1972, “few things are more fun than playing a game or two with your wife or (after the homework) with the kids.” But it just takes so long to set up a board game. The solution? Spend several hours away from your wife and kids making a DIY table that fits seven games in one. It does look pretty neat–but are we wrong to assume this might be a way of tacitly condoning gambling with the guys? (Or, after the homework, gambling with the kids.)

  • How To Spot a Liar, August 2002

    In 2002, we were looking for a better lie detector than the polygraph. In 2012, we’re still looking. But back then, researchers examined the realm of bluffing to learn more. A team had a participant pick a card out of one of three envelopes. After that, they put them into an fMRI machine and asked a series of questions about what card it was, then monitored the results. But the joke was on the participants: all three envelopes had the five of clubs inside, so scientists knew who was lying even though the participants didn’t.

  • Smart Tags For Casino Chips, April 2004

    Radio frequency identification technology was already 50-year-old tech when we wrote about it in 2004, but that’s when we saw it cropping up more widely. One of those applications was in casino chips. With the tag, the house can know if someone is playing with counterfeit coinage. High rollers also get set apart from the rest of the crowd through the technology.

  • Gamble Better On Drugs, September 2005

    Want to be smarter and happier? According to this article, drugs will help you out with that one day, no problem. A nice additional effect? They could also make you richer. Improving your memory could be especially helpful for the gambler trying to count cards in Las Vegas. “In the future,” it says, “‘recreational drug use’ may take on a whole new meaning, extending to substances that improve your ability to gamble effectively.” Drugs are an investment in your future, basically. Yep.

comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for the Pop Sci newsletter
Australian Popular Science
PopSci Live