How to Leverage the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule) in Gambling

The 80 20 Rule on Gambling Background

The internet is overloaded with countless gambling strategy resources. You can read thousands of articles, watch endless YouTube videos, and browse numerous forum threads to learn strategy for casino games.

The upside to this is that you’ll never be at a loss for resources. But the drawback is that studying too much strategy becomes redundant and wastes your time.

Obviously, you don’t want to blow your free time rehashing the same concepts. This is where the Pareto principle helps streamline your efforts when improving as a gambler.

Keep reading as I discuss why the Pareto principle will help you win big gambling profits in the shortest amount of time. I’ll also cover how you apply this concept to specific casino games.

What is the Pareto Principle?

The Pareto principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of the causes.

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto developed this idea, hence the name. While working at the University of Lausanne in 1896, Pareto noted how 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

He also wrote about how 80% of peas come from 20% of the peapods in his published paper, “Cours d’économie politique.”

These seem like simple observations of specific subjects. But Pareto’s concept has been expanded to include a variety of other areas.


The Pareto principle has especially become popular in the business world.

Noted English author Richard Koch wrote a business management book called The 80/20 Principle, where he discusses how this theory can be applied to a number of management aspects. Koch’s book has since been used by many business executives to maximize their companies’ efficiency.

Famed author and public speaker Tim Ferriss also wrote about the 80/20 rule in his 2007 book, The 4 Hour Workweek.

Ferriss discusses how he discovered that 80% of his productivity came from 20% of his work time. Ferriss eliminated 80% of his least productive time by outsourcing work to virtual assistants and only checking his email once per day.

Another area where the Pareto principle applies is computer science. For example, Microsoft solved 80% of software errors and crashes by fixing the top 20% of reported software bugs.

Because the 80/20 rule applies to so many different areas, it’s become known as a power mathematical rule. In other words, many disciplines have been shown to fall into the 80/20 rule in one way or another.

Now this isn’t to say that the Pareto principle always works into such a neat ratio. For example, 83/17 or 78/22 ratios also fit into this rule.

How does the Pareto Principle Apply to Gambling?

Gambling is yet another area where the Pareto principle can apply. This is especially the case when it comes to skill-based games that require a significant amount of strategy.

Card counting, daily fantasy sports (DFS), poker, and sports betting are games where the 80/20 concept can be used. All of these games have one thing in common: they offer long-term profits to the most skilled players.

The Pareto principle applies to these games in two main ways:

  • 1 – How players make their money.
  • 2 – How players learn strategy.

I’ll discuss both of these factors more in depth in the coming sections, but the point is that the 80/20 principle deals with the most challenging casino games.

Contrast this to an easier game like baccarat, where perfect strategy boils down to wagering on the banker hand every time. You can’t use the 80/20 rule here, because all you’re doing is placing the same bet over and over.

Another example is roulette, where you simply need to find either French (1.35% house edge) or European roulette (2.70%) to boost your chances of winning.

It doesn’t take much skill to look for the right online casino and find French roulette. Therefore, the Pareto principle doesn’t apply to roulette in any useful manner.

Applying the Pareto Principle in Specific Casino Games

Card Counting (Blackjack)

The easy part of blackjack card counting is learning how to actually count. This is especially the case if you choose an easy system like the Hi Lo.

All you need to do with the Hi Lo is keep track of all dealt cards and assign them point values based on the following three groups:

  • Cards 2 to 6 = +1
  • Cards 7 = neutral
  • Cards A to 10 = -1

This gives you a running count, which is based on the entire shoe. But you need to convert this number into a true count in order to account for multiple decks.

This is done by dividing your running count by the number of remaining decks. For example, if you have a +6 count with three remaining decks, the true count is +2.

The hard aspects of blackjack card counting include keeping your count amidst casino distractions and camouflaging your actions. The last part is critical, because but you don’t want the casino to make you as a card counter.

This is where blackjack strategy tools become important with regard to improving your game. It’s also where the Pareto principle helps focus your efforts on the most fruitful training methods.

You could try several different training methods to help sharpen your counting skills, but this would mostly be a waste of time.

A better idea is to google “card counting trainer,” then use one of these programs to train yourself to count cards better.

As for camouflaging your efforts, you can read an entire book on the subject such as Ken Uston’s The Big Player. Or you can take to a more direct route by reading a single article on how the MIT Blackjack Team executed the same big player concept.

This isn’t to say that you should go into card counting with a lazy mindset, but if you’re pressed for time, a card counting trainer and a few quality articles will get you off to a good start.

Daily Fantasy Sports

DFS has gained more prominence in the gambling world over the past several years. One big reason why is because DFS combines sports with a beatable form of gambling.

But the problem that many amateurs fall into involves letting their love of sports govern how they study strategy.

For example, a player might choose their NFL lineups on Sunday morning, then watch every single football time slot that day.

This is fine if you’re a casual football fan who plays daily fantasy sports for fun. But watching all the games is an inefficient way to improve at DFS.

The truth is that detailed statistics are a far better use of your time than watching entire games and trying to spot player tendencies. Here’s an example:

  • You’re looking for running back Alvin Kamara’s red zone efficiency during a game.
  • But you’re also wasting hours watching the entire game to figure this out.
  • Odds are you won’t even remember how he fares with each carry after the game.
  • You should instead look at advanced stats to see how Kamara does with his red zone carries, since this only takes minutes.

Another time sucker involves watching fantasy sports analysts for hours on game day.

I occasionally enjoy watching Brad Evans’ antics on Yahoo’s Fantasy Football Live, but I’m not going to sit through a 3 hour show just to hear advice on the 3-4 players I have questions about.

This fits into the 80% of your time that’s not utilized properly.

I’d rather spend my time using a software program to create advanced metrics. This fits into the 20% of my effort that produces the most results.

One more time-wasting example includes browsing through several different sets of fantasy football rankings. A more efficient way to do this is looking at FantasyPros, which gives you a composite average of rankings based on a number of experts’ opinions.


The Pareto principle applies to poker in a few different ways:

  • 1 – 80% of your winnings come from 20% of your plays.
  • 2 – 80% of your winnings come from 20% of your opponents.
  • 3 – 80% of your improvement comes from 20% of strategy resources.

Beginning with the first point, the majority of your winnings come from being able to execute fundamental concepts. This means that you must be good at check raising, semi bluffing, bet sizing, understanding poker odds, profiling opponents, using HUDs (when allowed), pre-flop play, post-flop play, and post-session analysis.

Fully knowing the fundamentals and how to study your opponents leads to the bulk of your wins. And this is where you should dedicate the most time until you’ve mastered these concepts.

Of course, elite players can gain the extra 20% in winnings by learning advanced situational play like 5 betting. But you only need to study advanced strategy techniques when you’ve mastered what brings in the most money.

The second point refers to how crucial game selection is in poker. The majority of your opponents won’t be spewing money, especially with all the available strategy materials today.

But, you can still find the 20% that will donate most of their chips to you. These are the players who make the most mistakes and increase your edge of table.

The last point deals with where you should dedicate your time when improving as a poker player.

You’ll find no shortage of poker articles that can help beginners. But the problem is that it takes a while to read long articles, and much of this is based on outdated strategy concepts.

I find that watching top pros on YouTube videos and Twitch is a more efficient way to spend my time, because I can quickly get into the mindset of a top player and see how they handle different situations.

The 80/20 rule is especially important with regard to studying poker strategy, because most people would rather be playing. This means that you need to maximize your strategy sessions by looking at the best available information.

Sports Betting

Sports betting is another form of gambling where understanding the Pareto principle pays dividends. This is especially the case when looking at how you research matchups.

The web is filled with free handicapping advice. But visiting a dozen handicapping sites to look at their lines is a waste of time.

Anybody can look at this information. And if one handicapper was so much better than the rest, then every sports bettor would only be viewing their services.

Rather than pouring 80% of your time into different handicapping sites, you can instead use sports betting software to analyze recent trends and come up with advanced statistics.

Like with fantasy sports, many sports bettors also a waste too much time watching games. The amount of information that you gain from watching players in action is minimal compared to what you’ll learn by looking over statistics.

Sure, checking out stats and using software programs to crunch data isn’t as exciting as watching games, but it’s a far better use of your time when trying to place informed bets.

Should You Forget the Remaining 20%?

Everything that I’ve discussed up to this point leads to the inevitable question of what to do about the remaining 20% of results. Do you pour the extra 80% of time into chasing the small slice of the pie?

This depends on a few factors, including your available free time, how good you want to be, and the specific situation.

Maybe you want to become a strong DFS player who wins more often, but you’re only working with 8 hours per week. In this case, you need to dedicate the bulk of your time to the 20% that leads to 80% of winnings.

Perhaps you’re an online poker player who has 20 hours of free time and wants to eventually become a professional poker player.

You should initially dedicate your time to the 20% that leads to the greatest output. But after fine tuning your skills, you’ll have time to work on the other 80% that leads to 20% of winnings.

Another important thing to keep in mind here is that you’ll eventually master the 20% that produces the most efficiency. At this point, you can begin working on the other 80% of work to improve even more.


It would be great to master every concept of a skill-based gambling game and use this knowledge to make huge profits, but the vast majority of us only have so much time to dedicate to gambling.

This is especially the case if you’re a casual gambler, or somebody who works a day job and dreams of being a pro.

The goal for most of us is to get the optimal return on our time. And the Pareto principle puts this into focus.

The first key is to figure out where the most efficient 20% of your time lies. As a poker player, does this 20% involve post-session analysis and watching Twitch streams?

Asking yourself these questions helps you whittle down what leads to the highest gambling winnings. You can then cut out the extra 80% of your time that only brings in 20% of your earnings.

And if you ever have more time, you can slowly began working on the least efficient concepts that will give you an extra edge. But again, in the beginning, focus the bulk of your time towards the most profitable actions.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.