1) The importance of play:
As humanity has progressed, also commonly called progress, we have managed to make the most valuable luxury good more and more available to us. This luxury good is time. So after the duties are fulfilled, you have free time. And how do you prefer to spend your free time? With things that are fun. What is fun? Experiencing something. What is experiencing? Excitement, something new, getting out of the routine, holidays, seeing new countries and people, getting to know them. Sure. These experiences consist to a large extent of the “unpredictable”, or rather: that’s what makes them fun. (“Just imagine, yesterday I met the old Joethe, in there fümundfuffzich, at the Alex”. “What then, you’re fibbing, the fümundfuffzich doesn’t run on the Alex”). The stories you have to tell are always the ones that deviate from a routine, that are unique. And which move us, have moved us. So joy or anger, disappointment, jubilation, dejection, euphoria, tension and relaxation, highs and lows.
And you can have all these “experiences” at once when you play. You have the whole range of emotions in one evening, in one game! No wonder gambling is a dangerous addiction. Gambling can be addictive, that’s for sure. Once you manage to get yourself into a state of euphoria, you have won a lot. One wants to have this feeling of happiness again, to repeat it. Of course, I am also trying to give you some guidance by studying this book. Almost all games that are offered, that can be played for money, can also be played well. Whether also with an advantage, i.e. with a positive expectation of winning in the long term, depends on the game and the skill.
By the way, I can still remember my first visit to a casino. Because: I was also German, so I paid attention and “don’t gamble, bet, you don’t do that”. But at least I had studied maths and learned a few arithmetic operations. Besides, I had always had a pronounced gambling instinct, so among friends we had regularly played a dice game, for small amounts, and I had calculated all the probabilities (for myself only, of course). But suddenly a friend sent me a book about Black Jack. Yes, should it be possible…? I read a few pages and it was a coherent theory on how to actually win with it, a winning strategy!
I briefly skimmed the book and immediately thought: Now let’s get to the game. On the drive to the casino I quickly learned the “basic strategy”, and now to the gambling table. What can I say? I didn’t know anything about anything and actually won a total of 650 DM with the minimum stake of 10 DM. Is the proverbial “beginner’s luck” a casino trick to keep people coming back?
I went back there almost every day, but I also did my homework. Only: instead of reading the book, I started writing one myself. Because: after checking some numbers that Mr. Edward Thorpe, author of my Black Jack book, had printed, I came to the conclusion that they weren’t quite right (but I’m expressly defending him here: at the time when he wrote the book, the rules were still different in many respects from the time when I started; moreover, even in my time there were still certain rule variations that differed from casino to casino), so why shouldn’t I work it all out myself? So I took pen, pad and my then really advanced HP67, a calculator, and started calculating. At first just the probabilities that the bank would sell, then based on that the rule with which hand I would still have to buy against the dealer hand and gradually my book filled up, but only with numbers. All the game situations were calculated.
Later, I wrote a computer programme in which the recommended winning strategy was tested in a realistic simulation. The calculations served to prove the winning strategy and to determine the possible hourly wage. This was then to be expected at about 60 DM/hour. More on this later.
2) The importance of sport
Sport generally has two functions in our lives: The first is that it is a wonderful thing to do yourself. You can exercise, which is supposed to be healthy, you can even pump yourself to exhaustion, you can do it recreationally or competitively, team sport or individual sport. Good, and the second is to consume it. That means attending sporting events, watching TV broadcasts or even reading the newspapers, magazines, books. Good. What is the attraction of consuming it? Sure, you want to see the best, it’s a bit like the circus, because you can do a bit, but never like them! But there’s something else that makes it so appealing: Who will win? Who can cheer afterwards? Emotions are also part of it. You want to see the jubilant winner or occasionally the grieving loser, you suffer with them or rejoice with them. There is tension, that tension again. And that is due to the unpredictability. Sometimes we speculate about the odds, but now it’s 10 seconds (100m race) or two hours (a football match) to determine the winner. That excites us. And gradually we start to develop preferences and make predictions ourselves: “Boris Becker is so strong, he’ll win Wimbledon again” or even “Germany will be world champion” or something like that.
Yes, so in principle everyone is gradually trying to be a prophet. People are excited when a major event begins, let’s say the European football championship. Somehow you know intuitively that it still depends on a few coincidences how a game, a group, a tournament ends. But you at least try to predict or anticipate something. “I think the Germans will be very strong this year, they’re a tournament team anyway, they’ll do it again, Germany will be European champions” or something like that.
Now, as a supposed expert, I of all people am often asked such questions. I have a specific answer for this: “I know much less than you do how the game will turn out or who will be European champion. I only calculate probabilities of occurrence.” So my form of prediction consists of predicting probability. I cannot solve the problem in any other way. I am unsuitable as a prophet. The expected, hoped-for prophecy consists, in terms of probability, of the statement 1 or 0, certain or impossible, does it come or does it not come. And such events do not exist. Everything that lies in the future has a probability of occurrence. This lies between 0 and 1, and between actually means greater than 0 and less than 1. And the future must first come to that.
You realise how boring my kind of prediction is. So someone asks me what will happen, who will win, how the game will end, and I answer in probabilities. And what is the content of my statement? The content is this: It comes or it doesn’t come. I’ll write down a few probabilities, estimates of outcomes, typical for a working day:
Germany will be European champion: Yes: 18%, No 82% (translated this means it comes or it doesn’t).
Germany wins the first game against Poland: Yes: 68%, No: 32% (translated again, it comes or it doesn’t).
Well, that’s when you turn away and say, “Nice prophet you. you say no matter what I ask you, it’s coming or it’s not coming. I can do that too. How are you going to win and live on it?” One intuitively turns away. And especially as a German, one is somehow associated with such terms as “exactness”, “security” and “predictability”?!
Then I had a memorable experience when I first entered the betting business. I was talking about the 1988 European Championship and I said to an acquaintance: “I bet on Spain to win the European Championship. The odds are 9.0”. He said: “Spain won’t be European champions. That’s nonsense. They never win a big tournament. Then I said, “I’m not playing it because I believe they will, but because the odds of 9.0 are too high. They’ll have some chance, the question is how big.” He replied: “It doesn’t matter, Spain won’t be European champions.” Since I was running out of arguments, I said, “Well, you pay me the odds, or pay me 20.0, it’s safe money for you. I’ll bet it on you.” Then he said again, the wise man: “No, I’m not betting. But they won’t be European champions.” And how right he was – Holland did.
It just struck me in this very early experience that you don’t have very many arguments there. The only argument at the end is: “If you know so well, then you have to bet, back up your assessment with money. Bet or keep quiet.” The American also says: “Put your money where your mouth is.” If you don’t bet, you can say what you want. It is better to remain silent. But the best thing is to be brave and bet. Be measured by what he says (Do you somehow feel. I want to tempt you to bet? No, how will I. I reject that. Or did you happen to have a special motivation when buying the book?). But more on that later…