This book is about playing. “What do you mean, playing? Do you mean this gambling? Playing for money?” Yes, no, it is simply about playing. The word “play” is not the only one for which there is more than one conception. It is, so to speak, “a broad concept”. There are many types of play, one can play in many different ways. I will try to shed some light on the many different aspects of playing, of course not without finally moving on to the form of playing with money stakes.
What does the word “play” sound like to you? Playing: let your associations run free. When you hear the word spoken by an adult, don’t you involuntarily think of addiction, danger, ruin and a lot of craziness (“He says he has a ‘system’. I said to him: ‘I know a doctor who can help'”)?
Or is it like this: “The whole of life is a game”? Where is the seriousness in that? You don’t play with feelings, for example? Or do you? Maybe everyone does, or everyone has? Or it has happened to him? No matter how much genuine passion he pretends to have? Well, what. Has he never suffered? Sure, suffered too. Been hurt. Has someone played with my feelings?
Or do you see children in front of you? Yes, they play all day. Unless they have homework to do. They play, almost everyone plays. And you, who are holding this book in your hands, surely also like to play? Playing rummy or canasta? Play a game of solitaire? With your children or grandchildren, Memory or Monopoly, Man-Erger-Dich-Nicht or Mühle? A game of “Trivial Pursuit” with friends? Skat? Yahtzee? Never played for money? No, not for money, that spoils friendships.
Is playing actually about winning or losing? Is that the point of a game? Is that what you imagine? Do you lose honour when you lose? What about the winners? Honour won, or what? And what about playing with building blocks as a child? Played, played together, nobody won, nobody lost, just had fun. How nice. You can also play all by yourself. You can even play against yourself, for example, win or lose if you want to. You try to beat your own record. You always have a virtual opponent you’re trying to beat. And if you succeed, there are only winners, right?
But you can also play with one or more friends. Or against them. Anyway, the question is how to express yourself: “Today I’m playing with… or I’m playing against…. Ever thought about that? Funnily enough, in team games you always play against.
Einkriege, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. Or Lego. And who builds the highest tower? Children’s games. Car racing, trains, table tennis? All of them are games for children and adults.
People play, people play everywhere. But you have to be careful not to say: “I’m a gamer.” “Yes, uh, do you mean now, so uh, such a gambler, so uh, the roulette or something? In the casino? Or what do you mean now?” Unspoken is the thought “so a loser who is ruining himself, who is heavily in debt, who you would actually have to help if you hadn’t got scared straight away, and so you’d better stay away straight away before you get drawn into it…” and so on. Only then I reply in a firm voice: “Yes, just like a gambler who plays for money. Even in the casino, if it’s convenient.”
I remember very well how we tried to play poker or skat as children, but without betting, for matches or points. Then in poker, one bets all his matches, the other is curious and would like to see the cards, so he “pays”. The game is over, boring, absurd. Also in Skat. Then the protagonists soon irritated every game up to 96, and, a bit like Kishon’s “Jewish poker”, they very soon invented new levels of irritation, where then the discussion was just: “No, 256 doesn’t exist.” “Yes, there is.” All right, everyone wanted to have the game. Besides, didn’t people really want to find out what was in the Skat? These games are pointless without stakes. Unless you play the version of poker where the attraction comes from successively getting rid of your clothes. Do you want to lose?
Some games are very suitable as money games, others less so. It is always possible. Sometimes you can even make an outwardly completely boring game exciting by staking money on it. Coin toss or “even – odd” when rolling the dice. If there’s enough money, it’s exciting.
Or what are the Olympic Games? What is a football match? The word keeps popping up, always new associations. My father liked to call a football match a “full-fledged substitute for war”, just as a contrast to a “game”. Ouch, but somehow there’s something to it? Playing, playing, playing. I even have trouble with my job title. “Yes, I’m a professional player.” “Oh, what sport and what club?” There is no such thing as a profession. My profession is playing.
Anyway, all my life I have only played. Everything else was boring to me. You can even play with words, that’s what I do today. “Karl Ranseier is dead. Probably the most unsuccessful player with words died yesterday…” That’s just by the way. A lifetime of playing. Everything else is boring. I played the serious side of life mercilessly against the wall. If by chance there was something useful, then there you go. Do you think it makes sense to square a four-digit number in your head? But then in under two minutes, and for money, then it’s on! Be serious voluntarily? Nah, thanks. So what could be more natural than to make gambling my profession?
Well, since we’re talking about “playing for money”: It’s certainly fascinating. For everyone, actually. But the fact that you have to keep your hands off it is something we are practically fed with our mother’s milk. And those who are really virtuous and who think they are, can resist for a lifetime. Can he really? Are you aware that every insurance policy is a bet? A wager of money? But you bet your money on a misfortune and at the same time hope that it will please never happen! It’s a land of milk and honey for the insurance companies. Everyone bets with them, plays with them, and those who bet don’t even want to win!
And you have never taken part in a lottery? Never drawn a lottery ticket at a carnival? Even if it’s just for the kids? I think practically everyone has already staked his money somewhere, with the more or less vague chance of winning something, of getting paid something. Unless he has just bet on a “fire in his flat”….
Let’s go back to children’s games. Children play. They learn about the world through play. They simulate the world of adults. They learn to obey rules. They learn to handle their bodies, to coordinate movements They learn to read, to calculate, to write. They even learn to lose or win, neither of which is easy. Dealing with loss, dealing with defeat, dealing with the loser or the winner. They learn to do handicrafts, to build or to paint. They learn in team play that you can better achieve the common goal with your teammate if you get along well with him, show consideration for each other, respond to each other, put your skills “at the service of the team”. All wonderful. Of course, many of these things also apply to the adult world. You start with a sport, a game as a child and continue with it throughout your life, stay with it, stay in the club, later take your own children with you.
But what are the adult games then? What is the difference? People play for the joy of playing. Sure. Child and adult. One wants entertainment, diversion, excitement or relaxation? You want to put your skills to the test, compete with others. In some games you try to succeed mainly with your mental abilities, in others mainly with your physical abilities. Games, games, games.
At some point, one encounters the possibility of playing games for money. For some, this is the only attraction, for others it is only an additional attraction. Most, however, have carefully drunk their mother’s milk and have internalised: everything but that. I don’t do that, not with friends, not in the casino, hands off and that’s it. We like to gamble, but not for money.
Nevertheless, there is the fascination. With a paltry euro every week you can “buy” the illusion of becoming a millionaire. Or is it not an illusion at all? I read in the newspaper that there was another winner last week.
But let’s take a closer look at the individual games. The prime example of “pure gambling” is roulette. The only attraction is that you can bet money and that you can win or lose. The game itself is totally boring. Whether the 12 or 28 comes up, whether it is Rouge, Noir, Pair, Impair, Manque or Pass, we wouldn’t care at all if there wasn’t at least a little bit of money on it. Watching is possible, but really only for a very short time. The attraction would not be which number would come up, but who would be the lucky winner or who would run sweating to the next table because he has just lost a high set. The attraction of the game itself lies only in the possible money stakes and the possible winnings. But of course, at the latest since we have all read Dostoyevsky, we also see the huge winnings. One involuntarily thinks of the winning run, the winning frenzy, where one simply continues to play with money won, bets even higher and wins again. One evening, on our lucky day, we might win 10,000 or 50,000, why not? The casino, you can see, would easily be able to pay that. The casinos put a lot of emphasis on the fact that everyone realises: you get the winnings, too. It’s even nice for them when someone “really clears the bank”. That guarantees new guests who also dream.
But, as I describe it here, you see the danger much more than the attraction. Exactly the way he describes it is what happens. That’s right. But that is the sure path to ruin. You might even win one day, but only to lose that and much more the next. Sure, there’s some truth to it. But the allure still remains. And the possibility, the thought of getting a grip on chance, at some point forces itself upon you. Is it perhaps possible after all?
Roulette is purely a game of chance. But in the casino, for example, another game is offered which already contains a skill factor. It is blackjack. The player can make decisions (for those who don’t know it: it is explained in the book), buy, stand still, double or split (hit, rest, double or split). And the decisions are by no means always equally good. Doesn’t the ability to control the game perhaps give you a chance to win permanently? I played this game professionally for several years. It actually works (unfortunately not these days).
But then there are the games that contain a skill factor and a luck factor. In any case, these include: Skat, Backgammon, Poker, Rummy, Bridge, Yahtzee, in general practically all card and dice games. And why shouldn’t you simply be better than your opponent in these when you play privately? You can study the games and even participate in tournaments in some of them, many of them also with cash prizes. Money is wagered, then a combination of luck and skill decides the winner. This applies both privately and in tournaments. The advantage that the combination of qualities provides: the weaker player, who doesn’t even have to know about his inferiority, also has a chance to win. He may need a little more luck than the better one, but it works. This motivates the weaker player to also put money into the game. This is only in contrast to chess, where only very small amounts, if any, are wagered. In chess, all factors of luck are deliberately eliminated as much as possible. The advantage?
I personally played backgammon professionally for a while. There was a small boom in Germany. I studied it and went to all the big tournaments for years, where you then not only play the tournament, but also on the side, the so-called “money game”, the game for money, just privately. So you consciously and deliberately expose yourself to the factors of luck. You even want them to be there, even if you curse them often enough when the weaker player turns out to be the “lucky one” again. But you know that the amounts only flow at all because there is luck and bad luck.
Lotteries are another category of games. These offer one the chance to win big with very small stakes. That is the attraction, the game itself is only exciting because of that. You can watch the “drawing of the lottery numbers” or wait for the result. But you don’t even have to go out. On top of that, the stakes are really small. So the game also has its justification. After all, it’s on. In lotteries, however, only a certain percentage of the money wagered is ever paid out. In contrast to roulette, the organiser has no risk.
The situation is somewhat different with the Toto. This is a very shaky story, where nobody really knows what to do. If you bet on the favourites and actually win (which I have heard from many people here), then you get a very small payout. If he bets on outsiders, he might be able to win a lot. The disadvantage: it just doesn’t happen, he doesn’t win at all.
Well, and that almost brings us to the topic: Toto is a traditional way of betting on football matches. And football is really our favourite child. It started about 25 years ago, at least here in Germany, that there were other types of football betting. So now, even without guessing a lot of games correctly, you can still make a profit by betting at Oddset, which has long been legal and nationalised here in Germany, but you can also use the betting providers that have long been widespread, including via the Internet, to make your bets there.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding about this kind of gambling. Of course, I am trying to clarify this here in the book. First of all, the huge, decisive difference is that in football you bet on events with unknown probabilities. There is no one who really knows these odds. It is almost impossible to know them correctly. In contrast to the classic game of roulette, where you can reasonably reliably assume 1/37 for each number, in football you simply don’t know any chance for sure. It is a game of individuals who represent conflicting interests in the game. You can even interact during the game. The coach can change tactics, make a player substitution or offer a victory bonus. An important player can get injured, and last but not least, the decisive breeze, the small hill on the ground, even a tiny blade of grass can ensure that the ball hits the crossbar and not the corner.
And then someone like me claims that football is “predictable”? And here I have really dedicated myself to the greatest task, you could also call it “the task of my life”. I have kept statistics from an early age, simulated the Bundesliga in all ways, played football myself and have been a stadium-goer since the age of six. In addition, I had a recognisable talent for numbers, which later made it easier for me to enter the world of computers, or more specifically, the world of programming. So grasping the laws of football had a long history. And the combination of all my experiences, observations, adventures and aptitudes brought me closer and closer to this problem.
I developed the first programme at university (1985), which I later extended so that it could already make forecasts. Later, I improved the algorithms and put the decisive parameters into several formulas, which then actually made the calculation of football possible.
Only now comes the crucial hurdle: what actually is a probability? I am often asked how a match will end, “who will be relegated” or even more, “who will be champion”, who will be “world or European champion”. And my answers always turn out disappointing, at least from the questioner’s point of view. ” I haven’t the faintest idea. I only have a percentage here. And, with everything I’ve experienced, I’m definitely not surprised if a small chance also occurs. So not even the answer ‘they’re favourites’ represents any real help.” It could look like this or something similar. And, judge for yourself: what should the questioner do with it? I always like to add for him: “I’m not suitable for prophecy, you’ll have to ask a fortune teller. I am well aware that you could also give the same answer: it will come or it will not. Germany will be world champion or not. You knew that beforehand. Something will happen, you were that smart before.”
Nevertheless, that already contains the answer to the decisive question: and that is whether it doesn’t make a difference how likely it is. And of course the answer is: Yes, it does make a difference. That is the fine art of betting, the decisive approach I have taken to the betting market. I put my probability predictions to the test, backed them up in actual bets with others with financial resources. You have to understand a tiny bit of the mathematical background. It is this knowledge and understanding that I am trying to impart to you here.
I do not want to anticipate the contents of the book. Just this much here: If I bet Borussia Dortmund to win today, it is not because I believe they will win, but because I claim that the odds of 2.10 I receive are too high. The bet is not good because Dortmund will win, but because the odds are 2.1. Dortmund for 2.10 is a good bet, Dortmund for 1.90 is a bad bet. It is the same event that is being bet on. One bets well, the other bets badly.
I have no idea what’s coming….
But a few words must be said about fascination, fear and security thinking. Fascination and fear have something in common. A Formula 1 race, an artist show, a magician, can fascinate. And to a large extent, fear is also involved. We are amazed at the risks people expose themselves to. A scary film can also fascinate.
So often enough I hear the sentences “Oh, you bet? That sounds exciting,” but also “Betting? That would be far too risky for me.” Of course, part of the reaction is due to diplomacy. People don’t dare say, at least not in the first sentence, “Well, you’re going to lose in the long run.” even though that’s what they really think. But also the other part, the fascination, the thought “should it be possible for someone to make money just like that?”. He bets on the football matches that I just watch on Saturday afternoons and makes his money from that?” That would be somehow unfair but also unbelievable, exciting, fascinating … impossible?!
And on the subject of “too risky”, the safety thinking: of course I have to reckon with losses every day. Another person goes to work, 8 hours a day, then finishes work and at the end of the month the money comes into his account. He earns, in his estimation, “on the safe side”. It’s obvious, you also have children who want to be taken care of and a rent that has to be paid, all well and good. But what about the other imponderables? There are, omnipresent dangers to which we are exposed. Sometimes it’s the economic crisis, our own job that’s shaky, a new supervisor, job cuts, sometimes it’s swine flu, asbestos or a meteorite hitting the earth that “threatens” us. There is no final certainty.
Every event that lies in the future only occurs with a certain probability. And even death, which seems so certain, depends at least on the progress of time. My risk is not much higher than that, if you like to compare it, of another entrepreneur. You invest money in order to get more out of it later. But it depends on a few factors that are not easy to judge. If I take the innkeeper who perhaps rebuilds his restaurant, renovates it, installs a new bar, new tables, chairs, invests 20,000 euros. And in the long run he hopes for more guests. But what happens if a new pub opens around the corner next month, which draws away its potential customers simply by chance or because it has better ideas, nicer furnishings, nicer service? He might have to close down, or he might just survive. He has invested and had bad luck.
That’s how it is with me too. I invest, every day. I try to just make good bets. Whether they come or not I don’t know on any of them. But experience shows that a few will come. And then there has to be enough money coming back in. That doesn’t happen every month, not even every year. But it happens in the long run. At least that’s how it was until yesterday.