Nov

1

 This forgettable book by Adam Kucharski attempts to examine the science of betting, and how to beat the game. It promises a lot but doesn't deliver. The sciences include math, physics, statistical analysis, probability theory, biology, and artificial intelligence. Kucharski discusses, at a very high level, the attempts and methods of Poincare, Tharp, Markov, Galton et al to predict future outcomes. There is much discussion of the original attempts to beat lotteries, roulette, blackjack, horses, sports, and other games. He wasted too much time covering the methods of the turf groups and syndicates that play in Hong Kong. Also, his description of beating blackjack by various people put me to sleep, with nothing new to add. Many of the rudimentary card counting and computer schemes have been banned in casinos and are irrelevant. There is much discussion of brilliant minds try to exploit flaws in games, but much too anecdotal, too historical. I found no probability equations to be found in the book. Lots of talk about science and math, but no actual science or math.

As far as the science, he makes a big deal out of the Kelly Criterion, the Monte Carlo principle, Poisson Distributions, Markov chains, and others but good only for a high school history student. I found his discussion of Galton's work on inheritance to be quite strange to be included in this tome, and it added nothing. He told a lot of stories about those who worked on beating games, but little else. One could find better, more complete information from Wikipedia.

The Perfect Bet was not written for gamblers, casinos, players or scientists, it was written for the general public. I felt like this was more like a history book and was sadly disappointed with the unevenness of the writing. Kucharski also jumped around in the book, and it was due to his fond use of questionable digressions and tangents he went off on. It will probably go on the back shelf of my large gambling book collection, or maybe end up at Goodwill.

If one wants to read something good about the science and methods of gambling, try John Scarne's New Complete Guide To Gambling. Actually everything Scarne wrote is a meal for a lifetime and I recommend reading his entire library. It's all on Amazon and quite reasonable in price. FYI, Scarne was a world class card mechanic, and if you ever watched the movie, "The Sting," you've already seen his excellent handiwork in the card game on the train.


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