Blinded by Science (and Math)Written by Thomas Morgan aka The Irishsetter
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First, let me say, in everyday life, there is immeasurable value in having at least conceptual knowledge of science and math. For gamblers, it’s imperative that every player have solid knowledge regarding how mathematics and their game of choice go hand and hand. (There are different philophies as to what extent you should allow math to determine your playing strategy, but that's another article.) With that said, science and math are frequently used and mis-used by marketers and systems sellers to dazzle and baffle average player.
Let’s take this out of realm of gambling for a moment. Advertisers love to use math and science to sell their product. How many commercials claim that a product is “scientifically proven” to be effective? How about sugarless gum commercial that says, “Four out of five dentists recommend (Brand X) for their patients that chew gum?” What are these advertisers doing? They’re trying to sell you a product and imply that their product is superior to others because of a “scientific” study or because it is statistically chosen more by dental profession. It’s not what they’re saying so much as what they’re not saying. Was “scientifically proven” product tested by an independent laboratory or were scientists on payroll of company selling product? How were tests conducted? Was it a double blind study? What about sugarless gum statistics? How many dentists were polled? What were options given to dentists? After all, question could have been;
As a dentist, would you recommend to your patients?
Brand X sugarless gum Brand Y extra sugar bubble gum Dog Food
So, depending how question was posed, or how data was gathered, it seems to me it would be quite simple to get a “4 out of 5 dentists recommend…” statistic. I think it was Mark Twain who said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” (Alright, if you want to split hairs, quote apparently originated with Benjamin Disraeli, but Mark Twain made it famous). I don’t know whether company selling “scientifically proven” product or gum manufacturer who says most dentists prefer their gum is telling truth or not. That’s problem. Without further elaboration about how studies were conducted, it would be quite simple to use pseudo-science or bend statistics in a manner which will be beneficial to these sellers.
What does this have to do with gambling? The same tactics used to try and sell you Herbal Viagra or sugarless gum are used to sell you gaming products and services. Ever been offered a betting system which was “scientifically proven” because it beat Zumma book? How about a roulette system guaranteed to win 85% of time? The person trying to sell you system that beat book isn’t telling you that he knows 72 hour book leans distinctly towards favoring dark side, and therefore it’s pretty darned easy to design a system that beats book. The roulette system seller isn’t telling you that your total monetary losses may still outweigh your total wins. They’re trying to blind you with science (and math). In past couple of years, sellers have gotten more sophisticated. They’ve developed a real flare for using scientific jargon and evolving scientific theory to sell their systems. Have you heard about craps system based on Chaos Theory? How about Parondo’s Paradox? Without getting into why these “scientific” systems work no better than others, I just want you to think about this. Do you really think that a system seller could succeed in using Chaos Theory or Parondo’s Paradox to develop an advantage craps system when worlds greatest mathematics and scientific minds can’t?
Welcome Doctor To Our Humble MadhouseWritten by Thomas Morgan aka The Irishsetter
I have a friend, probably most intelligent person I’ve ever met, who occasionally joins my group in our Las Vegas excursions. We refer to him as “Doc” as he has a Phd. from one of ivy league schools. He’s tall, excruciatingly thin, and appears to be made up of only arms and legs. If you were to meet him in passing, his appearance and demeanor would leave you with impression that he’s a bit of a stiff. When my friends and I would head for craps tables, he would go to play blackjack. He’s a moderately strong BJ player, and would probably be an excellent one if he played more frequently and was more passionate about game.
One night, awhile back, instead of his normal routine, Doc followed us to craps tables. “Just want to see what you guys get all wound up about…” Three of us settled onto a table with Doc standing behind looking over our shoulders. In between rolls, we explained basics of game, which he quickly grasped. We couldn’t have timed our arrival any better as table began to shift from cold to warm about time we placed our first bets. Within 15 minutes, my friends and I were all up about 20 units. “You shouldn’t be winning, you know….the odds are stacked against you.” Doc said. We nodded and continued to call out our wagers. He continued to watch.
The stick calls, “Five, pay line!” The table erupts in cheers, laughter and high fives.
Forty minutes pass. Chip racks are filling and what was once a half full table is now packed with players standing elbow to elbow. No one is having monster rolls, but nearly everyone is making at least a pass or two and throwing some numbers in between. Doc, who has a thoughtful scowl on his face, seems almost irritated that things are going so well for us. “Doc, come on! We’ll make some room. Squeeze in and play!” I said. He shakes his head, “The probabilities have to start evening out soon. This has been going on far too long. A correction is due.”
I tried to explain that he was over thinking, being too analytical, but he would have none of it. We continued to win at a steady pace, all while Doc appeared to be doing math computations in his head. I think I even heard him say something about standard deviations and Gaussian curve!