The author, Dirk Paulsen, was born on 27 January 1959 in Berlin. Already in his early childhood he showed a special mathematical talent, which he himself did not attach much importance to as a child. The “arithmetic tricks” he often had to perform were more the result of a fascination with other people than of his own drive.
In primary school, of course, this talent showed itself in the fact that he regularly handed in the maths work scheduled for a school lesson after 15 minutes. In order not to disrupt the lesson any further, he was always presented with the maths book of the next higher class to work through.
At the same time, however, he also developed a talent in pre-school age, which was “speaking backwards”. Because this unusual ability could not be tested, tape recordings were made and played backwards to the astonished world around him: flawlessly. It had nothing to do with “learning by heart”. He heard a word, a sentence and said it backwards. Without faltering.
So it is safe to say that it was already apparent in childhood that he would not necessarily follow a “normal” path in life. Also, as a child, he already played recognisably “differently” from other children. The realisation that in games that are about winning or losing, one is more likely to feel sadness in winning and joy in losing may sound perplexing at first glance. On closer inspection, one realises that it is quite logical: as a clear winner, one very soon loses one’s game partner, whereas if one loses, the game continues.
So playing was already the purpose of life in childhood. In this way, he is perhaps less different from other children. But the intensity with which he played was nevertheless striking. Because of the difficulties in finding a play partner, he simply played most games alone. He was able to make up the rules as he himself thought fair, and at the same time implement all the ideas as he himself had them. No discussions and no incomprehension. The variety was enormous. Homework did not exist for him. School was more of a “chore”.
He spent a very large part of his childhood either playing football himself or as an enthusiastic stadium-goer. His father was his teacher and companion. Even minor leagues, minor games were devoured, everything that was on TV was “absorbed”. Above all, statistics were compiled. All forms of simulations were carried out. Play as an image of reality. The more realistic, the better.
But when, at the age of 14, he finally discovered chess, all other games lost their meaning. He was addicted to chess, skin and hair. He skipped school or stayed up all night for chess tournaments. And it was certainly a good deal of talent, the game par excellence for him, which made him skip all classes within 4 years, became the Berlin Young Masters and a Bundesliga player. But of course even more the dedication and passion.
The first real Berlin Championship, in which he was allowed to participate as Berlin Youth Champion, resulted in “only” a disappointing 7th place for him (out of 30). And all this only because he was supposed to take some kind of annoying “Abitur exams” almost every morning. Nevertheless, he had prepared himself well. For the evening game, of course. For that, an A-level average of 2.5 still looks quite respectable, doesn’t it?
He took his studies as seriously as he did his schooling. The summer semester was reserved for chess tournaments, in the winter semester we “dropped in” at the university now and then. This went on for about 4 years, from 1979 to 1983. The chess successes were quite respectable, but they were still far from a “secure livelihood”. Chess does not provide that, the missing luck factor ensures that even tournament successes are only “honoured” with small amounts.
So, after discovering the next two games, backgammon and blackjack, he turned mainly to them. He calculated the Black Jack completely himself, in all constellations. He used the winning strategy that actually existed there for years with some success. Nevertheless, the recognition to be reaped was low.
Much better in this respect was the parallel running backgammon. Here, too, the aptitude profile for the game was very high. There are quite a few mathematical considerations one has to make in order to be successful in the game. Here, too, success soon followed success. He won prizes at numerous major tournaments, some of them very handsome.
Many of the calculations were then checked at university with the help of the programming skills he soon learned on the side.
A brief fit of solidity led him to retrain as an IT specialist and then to actually take on a salaried position for 3 years. However, these years were also really very effective apprenticeship years, as he was placed in one of the elite units. The few days of leave were cleverly “divided” between the upcoming backgammon tournaments.
In 1990, the computer programme for calculating and predicting football matches, which had been further developed in nightly home work, was ready for its first test on the occasion of the World Cup. Despite the only undesirable outcome of the tournament, the victory of the German team, the result was a profit of 2000 DM.
So resignation and football betting as a business. The numerous mathematical methods he developed along the way, the algorithms that make football “calculable”, he gladly presents to us in the book. But everything is told in a playful, exciting, funny and self-ironic way.
It is the exciting life of a rather unusual person, which he tells us in his own words. As a reader, you hardly notice that you are occasionally forced to think as well as smile along the way. You are taken by the hand and always feel faithfully and safely accompanied.
The narrative style is so free and open that one almost wants to say that one is inclined to like the person.