Frank Floor Talk: Book Review — Practical Casino Math

Frank Floor Talk: Book Review — Practical Casino Math

  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports
July 20, 2022 2:00 PM
  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Robert C. Hannum and Anthony N. Cabot

298 pp., 2005, Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming

 width=When I first recommended three books on relevant casino mathematics last month, I failed to check the availability of them since my copies have been on my bookshelf for years. I just assumed that older books on pedantic topics like casino math would have dropped in value faster than Bitcoin in 2022. Imagine my surprise when the lowest listed price of the 2005 Second Edition of Practical Casino Math on Amazon is $421.28!  If you act quick, they’ve got a few very used editions at just $210 each!!

Apparently, I should have stuffed my 401k with old math books instead of those slow-moving stock funds. This book is one of the best references for casino pros. But at more than four black chips, it’s tough for me to urge you to rush out and grab a copy. On the other hand, it is very good and can prove quite valuable when you’re seeking certain answers.

While there are dozens of volumes on the mathematics of games and gambling, this one stands out. As the preface says, it’s aimed specifically at “casino managers or potential managers.” Most of the other books target gamblers.

Why the distinction? While some advantage players calculate the total value of gaming returns, they are rare. Even more rare are those operators who do the same. Do your calculations and expectations on hold percentages include the impact of rebates, discounts, complementaries, promotions and regulations?

Chapters 8, 9 & 10 cover those topics well and justify more than $100 of the book’s cost. I found the discussion of “Dead Chip Programs” to be especially helpful early in my career. This topic is often debated by table game pros, but few of them really take a deep dive into the math. It is a shame that this book, published in 2005, does not cover the impacts of today’s more common “free play” with as much detail as they do for dead chips. You can find some coverage of that topic in Cardno’s and Thomas’ The Math That Gaming Made, reviewed last month.

(Professor Hannum [Univ. of Denver] passed away in early 2018. But hopefully, Cabot or the publisher, UNR/UNLV, will consider a Third Edition with updates on new games, rule changes and today’s promotional efforts.)

Certainly, neither last month’s book nor this one can claim to be a spellbinding page-turner, but The Math That Gaming Made will probably grab your attention sooner and more often than Casino Math, since it is a compilation of shorter articles originally prepared as magazine pieces. Practical Casino Math is more like a textbook and should be treated as such. Take your time, chapter-by-chapter, with this one. Your patience will be rewarded with a much better understanding of the foundations of our industry. The math will not be over your head, if you proceed slowly and methodically.

If you are ever tasked with evaluating a promotional game, a proposed rule change or figuring out why your overall hold percentage is dropping, you may find it helpful to re-read a specific chapter.

Hopefully, you can find a forgotten copy of Practical Casino Math in your company’s library or on the shelf of some old gaming guy like me who has no idea what’s it’s worth today on Amazon.