How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

It was an unmitigated disaster for the Grand. Financially, it was the worst week they’d ever had. After the conference was over, APS was politely asked never to return—not just by the MGM Grand, but by the entire city of Las Vegas.

Instead, it turns out that the physicists found the one move guaranteed to provide an edge when the odds are stacked against you: You just don’t play.

By staying at a gambling hotel but obstinately refusing to gamble, everyone who booked their reservation with the group effectively had their stay subsidized by guests who were lured in by the chances of a big win—which is probably why Las Vegas hotels never bid on APS conference contracts anymore. The MGM Grand learned a lesson the hard way that week: Physicists do not play dice.


That’s pretty funny.

My younger son, a Christian, financed his LASIK surgery, a trip to Switzerland with his family to visit his brother during spring break the other year, and I don’t what else, by playing poker*. It’s not gambling for him, but I have a little difficulty with the idea, since he doesn’t know that the other players can necessarily afford to lose.

*(Maybe at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, @Dan_Eastwood? You should do well at it, given your profession. :slightly_smiling_face:)


This isn’t him :slightly_smiling_face::

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Not so much - I’m pretty risk adverse when it come to losing money that way. Nate Silver (of made his living off of online poker for some time before he went on to bigger and better things. According to Silver’s book, making money at poker is dependent on there being enough other players who only think they are good at poker. :wink:
He quit because poker-bots were beginning to show up, which destroyed the profit margin for those who were actually skilled.


It’s apparently a nice little supplemental income for my son because he is good at it. :slightly_smiling_face:

Poker is one game that, actually, is skill based and can be rational to play, if you have higher skill than those with whom you are playing.



They shouldn’t host a convention of statisticians either.


It’s an interesting question. Poker played for meaningful stakes is a form of combat in a way. It behooves one to be emotionally, intellectually, and financially prepared before entering into such a contest. People should be allowed to compete if they wish. I think one can enter into the contest on that basis, morally speaking. But if one claims to have a total and overriding concern for everyone’s well-being, I don’t think your point can be refuted.

Horse racing is the same situation, where the funds of all players are collected and then distributed to the winners, if not so directly. Gambling against a large concern like a casino is easier to justify, but they are not so concerned about your well-being as to give you a totally fair chance of winning :slight_smile:

How about speculation in stocks, etc?

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I just spoke with him on the phone this evening. The house apparently just takes a cut of whatever the winnings are, so no, of course they can’t lose, but they can’t affect your chance of winning, either, and you’re not playing against the house. Card counters in blackjack are invited to leave, though. :slightly_smiling_face:

The stock market is a whole 'nother game. :slightly_smiling_face: Getting in on the ground floor in an IPO or even before has some appeal… or not. One company I was interested in early on, almost a decade ago, Lit Motors, has run into some obstacles, including competition. Cool idea, though – a twin gyroscopically stabilized two-wheeled enclosed electric vehicle and next to impossible to knock over.


Sure, for poker you’re playing directly against other individuals and not the house. And no, they can’t lose :slight_smile:

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I was in the credits of the The Holy Rollers documentary about Card Counting Christians who took the Casinos for 3.5 million dollars.

I was banned from play from several casinos for skilled play at blackjack and my photo and likely my biometric facial recognition data have been circulated in the the Casino Surveillance Information Network (SIN). And yes, I was a physics grad student during my blackjack days.


Great to see you back @stcordova.


Nice to be back. Thank you sincerely for the invitation back.


That’s so funny!! SIN… :rofl:

Ah, scr**ed over a large corporate business. Warms my heart, it does.

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