How gambling works

Most people gamble without any real understanding of how gambling actually works.

Do you know what the house edge and average return to player mean? Are you playing a skill-based game or is it just chance? Can you separate fact from fiction among the many myths surrounding gambling? What are your real chances of winning?

Before you decide to gamble, it can be a good idea to know how gambling works so there are no hidden surprises.

Chance, skill, risks and the odds

From pokies and roulette to betting at the track or a weekend football match, gambling comes in many forms. Some of these games involve a level of skill while others rely on pure chance. It's important to know which type you're playing and to realise that skill doesn't mean a sure bet.


Chance-based gambling such as playing the lottery, roulette, bingo or gaming machines, is completely random and you can't influence whether you will win or lose. All players have an equal chance of winning.


In skill-based gambling, such as betting on races and playing poker or blackjack, your ability or skill can influence whether you will win or lose. It's important however to remember, the odds of winning are not the same for all players and the odds are always in favour of the house. Technique, knowledge or strategy can give some players an advantage over others and no matter what your skill level, there is always a large degree of chance at play, so there can never be any certainty of the outcome.


Risk is the one thing that all types of gambling have in common. The thrill of taking a risk is a big part of the entertainment you pay for when you gamble. The only certainty when it comes to gambling is the result is never certain, winning is never a sure thing and losing is always a possibility.

Before handing over your hard earned money, think about chance, skill and the risks involved.

The odds

When you gamble do you know what your chances of winning really are?

This table shows the odds of winning on some of the common forms of gambling available in Victoria.

The bottom line is, no matter what type of gambling you're doing, you should always expect to lose.

Odds of gambling related activities


Odds of Winning

Typical Prize

Poker Machines – Getting 5 Black Rhinos on Black Rhinos Machine (Top Prize) ($1 Bet per line)

1 in 9,765,625


Tattslotto – Winning First Division (Getting all 6 numbers correct)

1 in 8,145,060

$300,000 - $1m+

Powerball – Winning First Division (Getting all 5 numbers & the Powerball correct)

1 in 54,979,155

$3m - $15m

The Pools – Winning First Division (Getting all 6 numbers correct)

1 in 2,760,681

$500,000 - $700,000

Super 66 – Winning First Division (Getting all 6 numbers correct)

1 in 1,000,000

$60,000 - $90,000

Super 7's Oz Lotto – Winning First Division (Getting all 7 numbers correct)

1 in 45,379,620

$1m – $5m

Trackside – Horse number 1 wins race ($1 Bet)

21 in 100


Trackside – Horse number 12 wins race ($1 Bet)

2 in 100


Casino – Roulette (Single Zero) – Winning Straight Up (Correct bet on a single number) ($5 Bet)

1 in 37


Casino – Roulette (Single Zero) – Winning Black/Red, High/Low or Odd/Even ($5 Bet)

18 in 37


Casino – Big Wheel – Getting the Joker (Pays 47-1) ($5 Bet)

1 in 52


When you compare these odds with some of the things that could happen to you, do you feel lucky? Do you still think your odds of winning when gambling are good?

Odds of non gambling related activities


Odds of occurring

Dying of Heart Disease

1 in 3 people

Having a back problem

1 in 4.8 people

Having some form of cancer in the last 12 months

1 in 6.3 people

Taken a sick day from work in the last two weeks

1 in 7 people

Having high blood pressure

1 in 10 people

Being assaulted during the last 12 months

1 in 21.2 people

Having your home broken into in the last 12 months

1 in 21.3 households

Being injured after falling from a height less than 1 metre in the last four weeks

1 in 25 people

A woman giving birth to twins

1 in 44 women

Being stung or bitten by something in the last four weeks

1 in 55 people

An Australian person dying in a terrorist attack

1 in 333,333 people

Being killed by lightning

1 in 1,603,250 people

Did you know that regular gambling is one of the risk factors for developing problems with gambling? The research shows that if you gamble at least once a week on anything other than lotteries, you have an almost one in seven chance of developing an issue with gambling.

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