The Mathematics of Gambling
Learn more about probability so that you are better able to make informed choices.
The coin is biased. It has a 60% chance of landing heads up and a 40% chance of landing tails up. You have the following amount of money to play with:
Place your bet using the panel below.
Type the amount of your wager below.
Which side of the coin will you bet on?
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Mathematicians are not the people who find Maths easy; they are the people who enjoy how mystifying, puzzling and hard it is. Are you a mathematician?
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"Numeracy is a proficiency which is developed mainly in Mathematics but also in other subjects. It is more than an ability to do basic arithmetic. It involves developing confidence and competence with numbers and measures. It requires understanding of the number system, a repertoire of mathematical techniques, and an inclination and ability to solve quantitative or spatial problems in a range of contexts. Numeracy also demands understanding of the ways in which data are gathered by counting and measuring, and presented in graphs, diagrams, charts and tables."
Secondary National Strategy, Mathematics at key stage 3
Learning and understanding Mathematics, at every level, requires learner engagement. Mathematics is not a spectator sport. Sometimes traditional teaching fails to actively involve students. One way to address the problem is through the use of interactive activities and this web site provides many of those. The Go Maths main page links to more activities designed for students in upper Secondary/High school.
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This activity represents an experiment conducted to test people's understanding of probability by two investment fund managers.
The Economist reported that Victor Haghani and Rich Dewey invited 61 people, a combination of college-age students in finance and economics and some young professionals at finance firms (including 14 who worked for fund managers), to take a test. They were each given a stake of $25 and then asked to bet on a coin that would land heads 60% of the time. The prizes were real, although capped at $250.
Remarkably, 28% of the participants went bust, and the average payout was just $91. Only 21% of the participants reached the maximum. 18 of the 61 participants bet everything on one toss, while two-thirds gambled on tails at some stage in the experiment. Neither approach is in the least bit optimal.
The best strategy was devised by J. L. Kelly, Jr, a researcher at Bell Labs, in 1956. The idea of this simulation is for players to work towards finding what this best strategy might be. Good luck.
Just for fun, if you accumulate over £1000 you will be awarded with a trophy for being skillful and lucky.
Exam Style Questions - A collection of problems in the style of GCSE or IB/A-level exam paper questions (worked solutions are available for Transum subscribers).
More on probability including lesson Starters, visual aids, investigations and self-marking exercises.
Did you know that Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat invented probability theory in 1654 to solve a gambling problem?
WARNING: In the real world commercial gambling operations have a much smaller change of you winning money than this simulation. For more information about the dangers of gambling see RaisingChildren.net.