By W.R. Jones
My daughter watched a movie about this group of students from MIT, lead by a professor, who “beat” the Las Vegas casinos at black jack. She was impressed. I read a book about the same group, which, I suppose, is where the movie came from; I was not impressed.
They applied all their considerable intelligence and focus to create slightly favorable odds at a card game. And they made some money. The book implied, or maybe even spelled out, that it was a fairly large sum. But really, how large exactly? And after you broke it down to the number of man hours spent, how much did they make per hour? With an MIT education would you want to spend your days counting cards? +1, 0, +1,+2,+1,+2,+3….. wow, wonderful use of that trained mind.
I never would have made that team. My mind wanders too far and too often; “Say there, dealer, could you replay that last 47 hands? I seem to have lost my count.”
And it was still a gamble. They could have lost a ton. If that group had applied the same level of effort at creating a business with a product or service, they had even better odds of financial success that also had some benefit to the world.
From the first days of playing cards, dice, Monopoly, golf, etc. as children, from age about 10yrs I would guess, all my friends and I had an aversion to gambling. We wanted the other guy’s money with very little if any risk.
So we cheated. We tried everything, homemade rings with mirror (you can imagine how attractive and professional it looked), mirror on ceiling, various signalling techniques, marked cards, loaded dice. Eventually, as those techniques all failed, we moved to the simple but effective strategy of ganging up on an individual target. This is done by overtly playing normally but after taking the target’s money, and after he left the room, we would all return what we had started with and then divvy up his cash. This method worked very well and we would sometimes clean out an entire golf team if we were on the road.
Loyality was very fluid in our group, and money scarce, so if you were the last to arrive at a card game, the odds were in favor of you being the target of the evening.
The last card game I ever played was on an aircraft carrier in the Navy. I forget what the game was but we were playing partners and gambling. That was one of the few honest (at least as far as I knew) games that I remember. I made a stupid (what a surprise) mistake that cost my partner and I two weeks pay. He flew into a frothing rage and actually threw the table at me. I told him I didn’t think I wanted to be his partner anymore. That started him laughing; he didn’t believe I could be serious.