Riding Your Luck



girl-japanese-sexy-softballThe people in white coats have been at it again.  Juemin Xu and Nigel Harvey from University College, London, claim that in some areas of gambling lucky streaks exist.  They also claim that losing streaks are irrecoverable ~ that if a losing gambler continues to bet he cannot expect to even recover his losses, let alone come out ahead.  The ‘research’ is based on real-time on-line sports betting and has detailed results which may be of interest to statisticians, behavioural scientists, and bookmakers.  For the average gambler the results will come as no surprise at all.  If your luck is in, then you seem to be able to do nothing wrong.  If Lady Luck is against you, then whatever you do you will just go on losing.

Our research scientists say that lucky and losing streaks are the result of a gambler’s behaviour, rather than anything to do with statistical abberations in the results themselves.  If a gambler is winning then he / she becomes more cautious and makes safer and better thought out wagers ~ the kind of bet that really should win more often.  Conversely, losing gamblers tend to make impulsive, illogical, larger, riskier bets in a vain attempt to recover their losses.  Well, who knew?

football_3As a matter of fact, I’m not certain that sports betting is the best area in which to study winning and losing streaks.  Strict probability theory deals with random variables, stochastic processes, (random processes), and non-deterministic events.  Sports betting deals with non-random variables, in that a brilliant team will beat a rubbish team more often than not.  What makes sports betting exciting for real gamblers is that every now and again the rank outsider will win at long odds.

City-of-LondonGames of chance which have more quantifiable, yet more complex, random variables than sports betting include the financial markets.  Around the world, in global cities, the financial markets are also huge games of chance.  These days the successful players are most likely computer models, with the human element doing little or nothing to influence the bets one way or another.  To avoid the fatal error of reinforcing failure, there are supposed to be end-of-day controls placed on dealers ~ these don’t always work.  If you are wise, you will not play the financial markets.

Even more random games of chance than sports betting and financial markets have calculable odds, which is why good card players beat poor card players, more often than not.  However, the odds do not always work in favour of the actual result.  Every now and again some idiot will fill an inside straight-flush and coup a huge pot.

F1 Grand Prix Of IndiaThe fact that a rank outsider will win big is factored into probability theory.  In essence, probability theory says that every possible result will happen, sooner or later.  Just because the odds are a hundred, million, million, to one against doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to happen the first time the game is played, or the second time, or even the first, second, and third times in a row.  Trust me on this, probability theory only really works when you factor-in infinity.  However, some gamblers are ‘odds players’ and they know to a hair the chances of any given result happening.  Sadly for odds players, knowing the odds does not allow them to see into the future, because they cannot factor-in infinity.

albert-einsteinBecause that’s what gamblers are attempting to do.  Gamblers are attempting to predict the future, and as any competent quantum physicist will tell you, all possible futures will happen, sooner or later, or in an infinite time.  Predicting the future is more difficult than your basic quantum physics, and even Einstein couldn’t make that work properly.

The best advice is ~ don’t ever gamble if you can avoid it.  Sooner or later you will lose.

If you want to win at gambling, then there are some basic rules you should think about;

  1. Learn the game.  Stick to one area of expertise and get good at it.
  2. If you can’t get good at one type of gambling, then quit gambling, for good.
  3. The House / Bookmaker always wins in the long run ~ even if the game is straight.
  4. The game isn’t always straight.
  5. Never bet more than you can afford to lose.
  6. Never bet with borrowed money.
  7. If you cheat you will be found out and there will be serious consequences.
  8. No matter how good you are, the laws of physics are not on your side.
  9. Nobody can accurately predict the future.  How many weather forecasts are wrong?
  10. There is such a thing as dumb luck.

Back in the day, when I was a practicing card mechanic, (I could cheat if I wanted to), I came across a guy I just couldn’t beat.  This young guy was as dumb as a doornail, but no matter what I did, he could always beat me at some well known card games.  Even if I fixed the deck, this young guy would always take serious money off me.  Eventually I gave up trying to work out how he did it.  I couldn’t, because just there and then this guy was lucky.  I haven’t gambled since then.

alcoholic-latina-womanWhat Juemin Xu and Nigel Harvey of University College, London, have come across is that the biggest non-variable in gambling is the gambler.  Gamblers are predictable.  Experts can tell what kind of a gambler they have in front of them well before the first play is made.  Sadly, most serious gamblers are also problem gamblers.  Very, very few people can consistently win at their chosen game, and that includes traders on the financial markets.  Even Gordon Gekko was brought low ~ he had to cheat to win.  Most gamblers consistently lose, and those who lose more than they can really afford are the problem gamblers.

Problem gamblers usually have a range of other problems, most often alcoholism.

Cincinnati KidThe hard truth is; Even if the game is straight, every gambler eventually loses big.  When on a losing streak, gamblers will reinforce their mistakes in a vain attempt to recoup their losses ~ this tactic never, ever works.  Have a flutter by all means, but if you become a serious gambler, you will lose big, eventually.  You cannot change the laws of physics.

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