Yesterday kicked off March Madness and one big gambling opportunity. How many of you participate in an NCAA pool? By the looks of estimates on office pools from a lot of you do:

48 percent of workers participate in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament

In Deal or No Deal: Gambling With Math! I explained my mathematical approach to the show. Readers were certain that I wouldn’t gamble, but I revealed that I do partake in some gambling.

Basketball Pools

Since my husband is a huge sports fan, it is inevitable that we’ll probably watch at least 90% of the tournament games. With the exception of our alma mater, I’ve found that I enjoy it much more if there’s something in it for me.

Let’s say we watch 25 hours of basketball during the tournament (which is probably an understatement). At a $5 entry for a pool, it’s roughly $.20 per hour of entertainment. That’s pretty cheap entertainment! And the chance to win more.


Basketball pools aren’t the only gambling that we do. We’re also blackjack players. We have a local casino and before kids we used to frequent Las Vegas. I also find it to be a cheap form of entertainment, but only because we strictly play basic strategy. For the most part we don’t do any emotional or judgment betting and play by statistics.

Playing blackjack by the books is also cheap entertainment. Over time, it’s likely to only lose less than 1% in most scenarios. We’ve found that Las Vegas has been a fun and cheap destination compared to other vacations where entertainment ends up being more expensive overall.

When we were regular players, I even learned how to count cards to shift the edge to my favor. The book Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong was the basis for my card counting.

However, you can still lose every bet, so we never play more than we could afford to lose. I also don’t recommend that anyone try to gamble any money that’s needed in their budget to try to turn it into more money.


If you are worried that so far I’ve fallen off my logical personal finance rocker, don’t worry… it ends here. While I have a few betting interests, I’m completely against the lottery.

Someone in West Virginia won the Powerball drawing this weekend of $276,300,000. Geesh, if that isn’t enough to ruin someone’s life, I don’t know what is.

The odds of winning the Powerball? 1 in 146,107,962. I’m almost certain that your odds of everything else in life are better than this.

I have family members who pay the lottery regularly. Even at a $1 ticket, the price for entertainment isn’t cheap when you look at the split second that it takes to announce the winning numbers. Of course if you buy your ticket a few days in advance, you could spend hours dreaming about the money.

I prefer to invest my $1 each week and watch compound interest multiply it.

Do you Gamble?

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Comments to Basketball Pools, Blackjack and the Lottery…. Do You Gamble?

  1. I play poker, which I think most people consider gambling. I agree that many poker players are gamblers. But the good ones are not; their skill wins them more than probability takes away. Poker is about careful study, mathematical acumen, and discipline.

    If poker truly were gambling for me, I’d probably have a long-term profit of $0 (not counting rakes). But my return on invested capital last year was 90%, for a couple of hours work each month. Better than my stock portfolio’s doing. 😉


  2. I do enjoy the occasional lottery ticket, just because the dream of winning all the money with $1 is enough to get you really excited about the possibility if at least for a little while.

    I don’t ever really expect to win, but you never know, maybe one day it will be a dollar well spent.

    Know The Ledge

  3. Do I gamble? Of course I do!

    But I keep it controlled and for fun. I like to play poker with the guys… $10-20 buy-ins are standard. No one gets rich, and no one goes broke. Add a couple drinks and some snacks and you got a cheap night of entertainment.

    I also do Fantasy Baseball, which we do at $20 per person. When you have a 12 tram league and pay out 3 places, the winner can egt ober $150 which is a nice payday. BUt it takes all season to win! The time/money factor here is incredibly inexpensive! And worth every penny. 🙂


  4. I don’t gamble. Every 4-6 months I might play poker with the guys for $5 or $10, but that’s for about 4-5 hours worth of entertainment… and its money I can afford to lose.

    I wrote about this a while back (link as my name in this comment). If you bought 1 $1 lottery ticket per week, all year long, for 20 years… you would be giving up $1,805 (assuming a 5% return). $1 doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. And I would say most gamblers play more than $1 per ticket.

    Don’t even get me started on how the lottery doesn’t really help schools either…

    No Debt Plan

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