I’ll See Your Probability and Raise You an Absolute

A statistician I’ve been exchanging e-mails with for a few years made a bold statement awhile back. It went something like this: “There are probably fewer than  three people in the world who can demonstrate a long run in-casino SRR in excess of 1:7.” He went on to state that if there were such a person that he would probably spend most of his time counting all of the money he makes at the tables.

My point exactly, I replied.

Are there players out there with a long-run SRR in excess of 1:7? I can think of a half-dozen of our forum members who could provide roll data documenting those results at the drop of a hat. My statistician friend, of course, would say that their data is flawed and cannot be trusted. He would say it is the product of selective memory – not scientific tracking. To his subjective way of thinking – no roll should be tracked unless it takes place in a live casino session on a table selected at random by someone (meaning an impartial statistician) other than the shooter. Of course, none of us would even PLAY under those conditions, much less offer our results up to some statistician with this skewed viewpoint of reality.

By the way, in addition to those board members who can provide me with documentation supporting an SRR in excess of 1:7, I can think of a half-dozen or so players who have no idea what their SRR is because, as my statistician friend pointed out, they are too busy counting their money to worry about it.

Data? Data? We don’t need no stinkin’ data.

Don’t get me wrong. Statisticians are an interesting lot and their information can be useful as long as it is grounded in reality. . . or at least in an approximate reality. Statistics is, I believe, the only university class where you can spend one week learning how to calculate the mean and standard deviation, then spend the rest of the semester learning how to use the word “approximately.”

Statisticians, you see, are trained in the art of making what I will refer to as “adverb-hedged statements.” Adverbs, as you may recall from high school English, consist largely of words that end in “ly.” In that last sentence “largely” was an adverb-hedge word. It modified my statement so that it was not an absolute. Other adverb-hedge words include probably, likely, possibly, and as I have noted – approximately. Of course, if you are cursed with a negative personality then your hedge adverbs would include words like unlikely and rarely – again, avoiding absolutes.

When statisticians make definitive statements they run the risk of erring in other areas. It is relatively simple to draw the wrong conclusion by “connecting the dots” between two apparently unrelated data sets. Here are a few examples I culled from a statistics “joke” page:

1. Ten percent of all car thieves are left-handed.
2. Ten percent of all African lowland gorillas are left handed.
3. If your car is stolen, there’s a 10 percent chance it was taken by an African lowland gorilla.

Or how about this one from the workforce:

1. Thirty-nine percent of unemployed men wear glasses
2. Eighty percent of employed men wear glasses
3. Working is detrimental to your eyesight

Or my favorite:

1. A total of 4000 cans of beer are opened around the world every second.
2. Ten babies are conceived around the world every second.
3. Each time you open a can of beer, you stand a 1 in 400 chance of becoming pregnant.

Obviously that last one is wrong, since approximately 50% of the world’s population is male.

Sports bettors, of course, are among the world’s worst when it comes to statistics. Take major league baseball fans. Like craps players, these guys have a language of their own. There’s the 30-30 player, the 40-40 player, and the Mendoza line. There’s the home park factor, ERA, RBI, and home run percentage. The list goes on and on. What does it all mean? It means someone is making a heck of a lot of money running tote services.

Let’s look at a couple of unrelated stats from the last great moment in home run history. It occurred on Tuesday, September 8, 1998 at 9:18 PM EDT. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals stepped up to the plate and shattered the single season home run record, driving number 62 over the left field wall. That day the stock market made its greatest daily gain ever – an increase of 380 points on the Dow. Conclusion? If you want a bull market give the bat to McGwire.

By the way, the date and time of McGwire’s record homerun was 9/8/1998 at 9:18 PM. If you add the single digits in these numbers together they total 62. Yeah. Another of those things that make you say “hmmmm.”

Of course, it’s relatively easy to lie with statistics after you know the outcome of a particular event. Politicians and the news media do it all the time. The sad part about that is not their flawed human nature – it’s the fact that so many of us accept their statements as fact without taking the time to research the truth for ourselves.

What is your SRR? Is it adjusted for Come Out cycle and Point Cycle? Is it a product of selective memory or do you honestly track every roll. Advantage players are correct about one thing. Your edge calculations are only as good as your data set. And if you DO have an SRR of 1:7 or greater and you are still losing in the casino – you don’t need someone to work with you on your grip and toss. You need help with your betting and the crap between your ears.

As for Absolutes . . . I’ll take mine up and on the rocks with a twist of lime.