cover image The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck out of Gambling

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck out of Gambling

Adam Kucharski. Basic, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-465-05595-1

On first blush, Kucharski, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, would seem out of his comfort zone with this detailed exploration of how mathematics and physics operate in the world of gambling. However, he makes clear that the principles of mathematical modeling—the ways myriad variables can be used to predict outcomes—can be profitably transferred to the world of games of chance. Kucharski begins with a brief history of failed searches for the gambler’s holy grail, which would be an infallible system, and then delves into modern mathematically based strategies that can shift the odds in the bettor’s favor. Among the strategies he deconstructs are card counting, the calculation of the physics of a roulette wheel’s spin, online poker-playing bots, and the ultrasophisticated algorithms employed to handicap horse races, soccer, and football. Kucharski’s straightforward writing and attention to the fundamentals of the business of gambling, and the quirky personalities of the players who craft the strategies, successfully balance the drier descriptions of the underlying mathematics. The conjunction of the multibillion dollar gambling industry and mathematics brings together Ph.D.s, Las Vegas gamblers, and investment bankers, and though readers looking for an edge might be disappointed, Kucharski delivers a fascinating read. Agent: Peter Tallack, Science Factory. (Mar.)