While statisticians remind us that odds and variance determine whether you win or lose at a casino, most people prefer chalking up their successes and failures to luck. In Luck: What It Means and Why it Matters, Ed Smith explores this very phenomenon, though his main focus isn't on casino games. Instead, the author takes a look at the world of football as well as cricket, while brushing on concepts like superstition, experience practice, and talent. While the definition and even existence of luck are surely debatable, the author's unconventional perspective is filled with compelling anecdotes. Whether are not you fully agree with the concepts, you'll surely thank your lucky stars that you stumbled upon this great read.
Gambling is synonymous with luck. While the amount of influence of luck can change across different casino games most would agree that there's at least some element of luck needed in order to win. Sure, there are house edges and payout percentages which will ultimately determine how much is won, but these figures refer to play that takes place over an infinite amount of time. In the short term, how often you win is more or less determined by luck.
There are some who consider the above to be a simple truth while others will render it an opinion and continue to believe that luck is merely a made up entity. Ed Smith, former England cricketer and current journalist & writer, was firmly of the latter belief until an event on the cricket field caused him to rethink his assumptions about luck.
It was this change that inspired Smith to pen Luck: What it Means and Why it Matters. While there are just a few direct references made to gambling in the book's 241 pages, the main topic discussed means that the book revolves around an issue that, if you're a believer, is unavoidable to gamblers.
Such is the relationship between luck and gambling that on numerous occasions gambling metaphors such as "discount the odds and spin the wheel" can be found woven into Luck. These metaphors appear even when the topic being discussed bears little relevance to any form of gambling and highlight just how linked the two topics are.
In the first of the three parts of the book – Experience – Smith discusses the superstitions that he and other professional athletes experience. These include a South African cricketer who demanded that his spare bats be taped to the ceiling, a footballer insisting on being the last one out of the changing room, as well as Smith's own routines.
These tales of superstition and routine are likely to strike a chord with many who take to the tables. Whether it's favouring a seat at a blackjack table or frowning upon those who dare to bet against the shooter in craps, superstition is entwined with gambling just as much as it is sport.
As Smith moves on to attempting to describe luck, he continues to refer to issues which play a large part in gambling. These instances include comparisons between luck and similar phrases such as chance and risk as well as the balance between luck and skill.
Reference to golfing great Gary Player's famous statement...
The more I practice the luckier I get
...is included as Smith concludes that skill can only get you so far until luck is required to play its part. Again this is a principle that applies equally to gambling where all casino games require the player to experience an element of luck in order to be successful.
The amount of luck required depends entirely on the game with some casino games such as roulette and baccarat being referred to as games of luck while others are sometimes described as being games of skill. But even the most skilled poker players and blackjack card counters ultimately leave their fate up to luck. While they can improve their chances by practising, the cards that they and others receive are determined by luck (although card counters can narrow down the possibilities).
Smith's discussions of talent versus skill feature prominently in the final section of the book – Witnesses. Here he speaks of how the very best sportsmen are successful due to natural talent and while some players can become very good through practice, they can never be as good as those more talented.
One of the few gambling activities which pits players against each other in a similar way to sport is poker – or more specifically Texas Hold'em Poker. Here players can learn the rules, tricks, moves, and strategies inside out, yet if they can't bluff effectively they will never be as successful as those who are able to do so.
These are just a few of the instances where the issues raised in Luck easily translate into the gambling world and it's certainly not too taxing to find many others. So, despite a lack of direct mentions to gambling, just like its title topic Ed Smith's Luck is a book that's of great significance to gamblers.