The Art of Tetman Callis Economics,Lit & Crit,Verandah We play the lottery to benefit the fund

We play the lottery to benefit the fund

“There was a period in my life when I was spending time among great sleight-of-hand men, card magicians, in Las Vegas, and one of them slipped me a guide to card cheating that had been privately printed by a professional card cheat. (Card magic and card cheating are Siamese twins, and no great card magician has not flirted with fiddling his neighbours).

It was a sour piece of work, but it taught me something vital. Since a card cheat can only cheat effectively on his own deal, unless he has the cards marked (hard to do) the rest of the time he has to just play smart, and this means fully internalising, as instant reflexes, all the statistical probabilities of card playing. I recall the cheater’s insistent formula about these odds, almost his precise words, with indecent clarity: If the odds on whatever it might be—say, drawing to an inside straight—are 10-to-one, you’ll see it this week; if it’s 100-to-one, you won’t see it this week, but you will see it this year. If it’s 1000-to-one you won’t see it this year, but you will probably see it once. Anything more than that—10,000-to-one, 100,000-to-one—you’re never going to see at the card table. It’s just never going to happen. Yeah, but it will happen, to someone you say! Someone draws an inside straight. Yeah, he said, but you won’t.” – Adam Gopnik, “A Point of View: Four Types of Anxiety and How to Cure Them”

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