Probabilities for Fun and Profit

So it gets around after a time that I’m pretty good with probabilities. Strangely, the management at the casino I work at has asked me to start giving them “the answers” to various problems that their management just hasn’t been able to figure out. I am sometimes astounded as to the questions they’ve started bringing me.

For example, check this one out. If the casino gives away stamps for players playing blue chip games, and the stamps can be traded in for electronics goods at the rate of 3 stamps for every $1 cost of the item, what is the dollar value of the stamps given? It’s obviously $.33, and I feel that my 8-year old daughter could have solved this very simple math problem, however, various members of management came up with the answer of $6 per stamp. I have no idea how they reached this conclusion. It’s funny that people who are in the business of advantage gambling don’t really seem to understand some of the basic math behind it. As I told my manager, these people could never make a living playing poker.

Two days ago I was approached to see if I could solve some more advanced probability questions that they were thinking of doing for a game very close to my heart, Blackjack. I said sure, since they offered to pay me. Here are “the answers”, which I had to figure for both a 5-deck shoe as well as for double deck black jack.

One idea was to pay more if you ever got three sevens on your first three cards. That is, your first hand was 77 and, when you hit, you receive another 7. The bonus would be larger if the sevens were all the same color, and largest if they were suited. I informed management that it was simply not possible to get three suited sevens in double deck Blackjack because there would be, at most, two available. This is, apparently, why they pay me.  They nixed that idea. Continue reading Probabilities for Fun and Profit

How Much Do Religious People Actually Know About Religion

A recent article in the LA Times reports the results of a survey which shows that, on average, the most knowledgable people about religion are those who don’t believe in it. When asked 15 questions about world religions those who reported their personal belief as either Agnostic or Atheist scored highest. The next highest were Mormons and Jews, with Protestant and Catholics brining up the rear.

Wow. I tested this out myself and went and took the Pew Research Questionaire on US Religious Knowledge . ¬†Sure enough, I got 93% correct and I’m an Atheist. So there ya go. We who don’t believe know a lot more than those that do. Of course, it goes a bit deeper than that. I went to sunday school quite a bit growing up and there was those five years of Catholic Theology that I got in parochial school. So my religious knowledge should be far above the norm, but this survey verifies something I have long held as a personal truth. Those that believe most fervently that the Bible is the literal word of God are those that have simply never read the book.

I say this and always get a “Oh yea,” from the Bible thumping Baptists, but I’m usually able to ace them on actual Bible knowledge when we get to discussing things. For instance, I will ask them how exactly they explain Jesus’s actions regarding the fig tree that bore no fruit when it wasn’t supposed to. I often get a glassy eyed stare in response. It gets far worse when you start asking them about comparative Biblical accounts. For instance, why is the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (where King Herod ordered the first male children of all Israelites put to death) only mentioned in the Gospel According the Matthew? Was it not a significant enough event for the other Gospel writers to mention it? Or, for that matter, how come the Gospel According to Mark not include the accounts of Jesus’s Virgin birth? Mark opens up discussing Jesus’s life as an adult. You mean to say that this guy who hung out with Jesus his whole life and wanted to record his life for posterity did not thing the Virgin Birth a significant enough event to actually record? Was he just low on ink?

The vast majority of Christians, particularly those who believe the Bible is the absolute literal way it happened, have no idea that the different Gospels contain different (and occasionally conflicting) accounts of the life of Jesus. They furthermore are very hard pressed to actually know which Gospel has the briefest account of Jesus’s life, and so on.

It has been my lifelong experience that those who believe in religion the most are those who know it the least. It’s strange, given how fervently they seem to cling to their devotion, but it’s true.

My Daughter’s 2nd Grade “Warrior Cats” Play

My daughter has fallen in love with the Warrior Cats series of books by Erin Hunter. For those of you who haven’t heard of it (which I expect is all of you), it’s basically a tribal warfare storyline using anthropomorphic cats. It’s certainly not my favorite subject matter, but the books are far more complex and dense than anything else she’s shown an interest in and pursuing them has caused her reading to excel. She now reads at a level far above that of the average 2nd or 3rd grader.

She’s also shown an interest in being a writer, and wrote a play inspired by the Erin Hunter novels. Her 2nd grade class agreed to perform it (well, half of it anyway) during the last week of school. Here it is.

Goldfinger’s Evil Plot

I was raised by a single mom who had to care for three children. As the youngest of three brothers, I was put in their care a lot of the time, and that meant I watched whatever they watched. Which meant, instead of watching cartoons, I was raised on John Wayne Westerns and James Bond. It was an unusual childhood full of sex, violence, and Sean Connery.

Many people say he was the best Bond there ever was. Personally, I really like Daniel Craig, but it’s hard to compare the two. In hindsight, it’s interesting to note the similarities I have between the fiction I was exposed to as a child and who I became as an adult:

  • My favorite bond movie as a child was the Japanese centered You Only Live Twice
    and I took up Judo as a teenager and was strongly influenced by Sensei Vince Tamura during my formative high-school years.
  • Peter Parker (a chemist) was the fictional character with whom I identified the most, and I later got a degree in Chemistry.
  • Neither John Wayne nor James Bond showed any fear in the face of gunplay, and, as it turns out from a real life incident, neither do I. Continue reading Goldfinger’s Evil Plot

Dollar Falls Sharply as Gold Approaches It’s All Time High… Again

Vampire: the Eternal Struggle
As my personal friends know, I’m a gamer geek. My collectible card game (CCG) of choice is Vampire: the Eternal Struggle (VTES). It’s Richard Garfield’s (the designer of Magic: the Gathering) second CCG and he designed it for multiple players. It’s a game I enjoy playing competitively.

Every year, White Wolf (the company that publishes VTES has a North American Championship. In order to play in this tournament, you first have to do well in a qualifier tournament which every region has. This weekend, Los Angeles had its qualifier tournament and I enjoyed playing in it (I didn’t qualify). Since VTES has a small but loyal player base compared to other CCGs, you get to know everyone pretty well who competes on a national level. We’ve become a pretty close knit group despite the fact that we all live in different regions; our willingness to travel and our love of the game brings us together.

Well known members of this tight-knit circle include Ben Peal, and a married couple, Robin and David Tatu. They have all purchased my book and found it a good read. Both of the Tatu’s were at the tournament this weekend, and I commented to them that my investments were up some 50% over the last six months. They recommended that I sell my gold investments before they crashed. Now, I found it a bit peculiar that two people who told me that they learned a great deal about how the economy works from the book that I wrote would then tell me to sell gold.

It does make sense in a human nature kind of way. The knee jerk response I’ve gotten when I tell people how much money I’ve made off of my gold investments is “Sell!” It’s a bit of conventional wisdom that has its roots in reality. After all, trees don’t grow to the sky and what goes up must come down. If something’s up 50%, then it must be time to sell it.

Well, yes and no. Continue reading Dollar Falls Sharply as Gold Approaches It’s All Time High… Again

A Personal Journey and A New Direction

My friends and regular readers have no doubt noticed that I am not as prolific a blogger as I once was. This is true. Over a year ago I moved from Dallas to Los Angeles to become closer to my daughter. I wasn’t able to find a steady job at the time, but I was all right with that. I have a good skill set as a poker player, and I was content to play poker to pay the rent for a time. I enjoyed what I did and the money, though erratic, did come in.

Still, I had always figured that eventually, I would find something else to do. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy poker, I just wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I took acted out of a luxury that most people didn’t have. I didn’t enter into something in order to pay the bills, I already had that covered. Instead I just focused on what it was I enjoyed doing. I enjoy studying the economy and found that I was able to make predictions about the future. Friends encouraged me to put my ideas down in a book, and so I did. It turned out that the predictions my book made very quickly came true. Since I had made invests according to my philosophical outlook on things, I profited from the crash.

So, in addition to poker, I was making a nice return as an investor. Well there’s two sources of income anyway. I started this blog in order to pursue a third source of income as a writer. So far the income has proven elusive, and that’s in large part what the writing regarding this blog as tailed off a bit. I’ve been spending my time learning a new skill set. In the past six weeks or so I have read and digested CSS: The Missing Manual and Syndicating Web Sites with RSS Feeds For Dummies in addition to some other books on Word Press. Continue reading A Personal Journey and A New Direction