University of Akron professor Tim Norfolk has been known to gamble more than a wee bit — and as a mathematician, he might know a tad bit more than the average Joe about the odds.
He will offer his insights at a one-credit workshop called Mathematics of Casino Gambling that will be held for one week starting Monday.
“I try and teach the basics of what probabilities are, why you should make the decisions you do,” he said. “I try to take people through the games and tell them all the stories that I see gambling.”
Norfolk, 55, has professional interests with unwieldy names like numerical analysis, approximation theory and function theory. But it is gambling that he likes to do when he’s not raising goats and chickens with his wife.
He tailors these every-so-often, one-credit workshops to students’ interests. The course is short (from 9:30 a.m. to noon for five days) because it will be held in the intercession, the gap between semesters.
It’s grand if his charges have had college algebra and superb if they are mathematicians, but he works with those who walk through the door — and only 20 of them can, as he wants it to be small enough to allow them to play casino games in class.
They will find that the odds are far against them, although there are games at which they can be a winner, on average — with emphasis on the words “on average.” That includes casino blackjack when players count the deck thoroughly — no, that’s not illegal, although it can get them thrown out for doing it.
“It takes a lot of practice to be a consistent winner,” Norfolk said. “You have to play perfectly, and even the good players expect to win just over half of the time they play. You have to expect to lose lots of money.”
One of the first evenings playing his game of choice, higher-limit poker, he lost $1,500 in four hours, then won it back in about 45 minutes.
“It’s a game with a lot of boredom filled with moments of terror,” he said.
His advice: Bet the minimum possible, as that will make your money last longer. People don’t listen to that, he said.
“They’ll start winning and start betting more because they think they’re on a hot streak or have a system.”
When you sit down and put out your money, expect to lose it. In poker, don’t play drunk. Or tired.
Yet despite his advanced understanding of mathematics, Norfolk admits he probably has lost a gulp-inducing net of about $10,000 in high-stakes poker over the past dozen years.
“I just look on these things as entertainment,” as they offer a higher payoff than the lottery, he said.
After all, the house wins perhaps 4 percent of the time in gambling and half of the time in the state lottery.
For more information about the course, call UA at 330-972-7100.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.