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Bet Your Friends to Be More Right

A while back I had a friend named Andrew. The tie that bound us was our love for gambling, not as a thrill-seeking diversion, but as a practical application of statistics. We made money gambling together, exploiting any edge we could find, but we also gambled between the two of us.

I forget how it started, but eventually we got to the point where no assertion could be made without stakes being attached to it. Any sentence beginning with "I bet you anything..." was taken literally and was likely to result in a wager of some sort.

For example, if we were talking about going to a restaurant, and I said that it was probably closed, and he thought that it was open, he might ask me what odds I'd give him that it was open. If I was really sure, because I'd been there at that time the day before, I might offer him 3:1. If I was barely sure at all, I might offer him 1:1. Confidence in estimations determined the amount bet.

The interesting thing about this practice was that it made us both think very carefully about the accuracy of all of our statements. The most embarrassing thing ever was to say, "I bet you anything that I'll be on time..." and then be unwilling to back up the assertion with a bet. Failing to bet was an admission that you'd just said something that you had no real confidence in.

Losing My Casino-Virginity

On Flower Power

As frightened as I was, I did it. I lost my casino-virginity. Last Thursday I went to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut with a bunch of good-time friends who are more experienced than I am. We shared a suite on the highest of floors and had the most magnificent view over a frozen lake. After a couple of drinks, I made it down to the casino part of the hotel.

Before I go into the gambling part, let me tell you how capturing these casinos really are. First of all, there are no windows! No matter what time it is, it will always be dark. That is probably also the objective: these places want to get as much money as possible from you, so they take away your sense of time.

The enormous area illuminated the roulette tables and slots with flashing colorful lights, directing your eye and attention to the win-it-or-lose-it facilities. You won’t know where to look: every side looks completely different. While there is a huge plastic ice castle on your left, there is a wooden forest-like area to your right. It’s a world of magic; anything can happen.

I wanted to start small, so my other casino-virgin friend Chris and I made our way to the slots. Big mistake. We lost $20 just like that. We also had no clue as to what we were doing, so in a way that makes sense.

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