House of Cards®



In a recent podcast, “When the house can’t win the game, it will change the rules” (June 9, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with mathematician, computer scientist, and engineer Salvador Cordova on the mathematics of gambling — why the odds are stacked against the gambler — or, depending on a gambler’s skill and knowledge of the circumstances, maybe they aren’t…

Marks and Cordova ended Episode 1 by discussing the famous advantage player Don Johnson who cleaned out Atlantic City for tens of millions of dollars in 2011. What was his secret?

Sal Cordova: He was very good at his craft.

Robert J. Marks: … he used comps in order to offset his probability of loss and was able to turn that to his advantage and won tens of millions of dollars. They had to have found him out because if I was him, I would keep on going until somebody kicked me out.

(Note: Comps are free games, kickbacks, etc., intended to keep players gambling.)

Sal Cordova: Well, probably even before they found him out, it was just… they were losing so much money. They said “We can’t afford to keep this guy here.” And I can’t believe that this is such obvious, basic math. So the comps that he was offered was a loss rebate. So he was playing a losing game of blackjack. But again, going back to the Law of Large Numbers, his loss rate was only half a percent. And they’re giving him loss rebates of 10 to 20%.

Robert J. Marks: Was he card counting?


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