Books : reviews

Adam Kucharski.
The Perfect Bet: how science and maths are taking the luck out of gambling.
Profile. 2016

Once upon a time the house always won. Now, scientists and mathematicians are giving gamblers the competitive edge. Physicists have tamed the randomness of roulette, computer scientists are transforming poker strategy and statisticians know what makes a champion horse. Maths and science have revolutionised gambling.

But gambling has revolutionised science and maths too: Fermat and Pascal used dice games to lay the foundations of probability theory; von Neumann and Turing found inspiration in poker; solitaire helped Stanislaw Ulam develop the hydrogen bomb. The search for the perfect bet has influenced fields as diverse as chaos theory, behavioural psychology and machine learning.

In The Perfect Bet, award-winning writer Adam Kucharski takes us from the roulette tables of Las Vegas to the racecourses of Hong Kong to tell the story of the men and women taking on the house – and changing our fundamental notions about chance, randomness and luck along the way.