Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paradox Of The Spread

If you do know that here is the hand, we'll grant you all the rest.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, Section 1

In the Province of Ontario there is a game called Point - Spread offered up by the folks at Ontario Lottery and Gaming. It is offered in baseball (MLB), hockey (NHL) and football; both NFL and CFL! The "authority" assigns a value or a handicap figure to the perceived favorite of a matchup and you the punter simply have to decide if the team in question can win by more than a half point, a full point, and so on, or not. You can select from two to twelve games. The prize for picking the spread right for twelve consecutive games is one thousand times the wager. In Ontario at the time of this writing you can wager from two to one hundred dollars on one ticket. Imagine! Turning a two-ney into two thousand dollars!

Probability, even simple probability is very weird...

And in Canada it gets even better, the winnings are tax free! Provided of course that you are not doing it as a business, but only as a hobby. (If you are employing fifteen "runners" to place your tickets, odds are that you will be declared a business, so one must be careful.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein
 It is now on the verge of July. And everyone knows that July and August are nearly the two most important months of the MLB baseball season. Along with April, May, and June, not forgetting of course, September and October.... Again the Oracle of Ottawa is contemplating the fine points and eternal mysteries of the "spread". How hard can it be? Picking the correct result of the spread in a mere two games pays two times money. Two dollars becomes four dollars. There are games every day, why a really sharp person could own the world! Two events, with only two possible outcomes, Bust or Cover, gives the punter a one in four chance of doubling his money. That is like flipping two heads in a row, or hitting cold on two babes and getting their phone numbers one right after the other, stuff that the Oracle of Ottawa has done over and over in his long life with total ease. But sub in the words point spread and it might as well be infinity.   

The cold hard odds of picking the spread on twelve consecutive games is a mere 1 in 4096. Close inspection will reveal that that is one of the fairest props going. And it is fair. We are not talking soccer or cricket here. What keeps the Oracle of Ottawa up late in these summer nights is the certain knowledge that he has done far better at events with much, much higher odds. Take for example a twelve question test where there are four possible answers for each question. We now go from 1 in 4096 to 1 in 16,777,216! That is on a twelve question multiple choice quiz with four possible answers for each question, there are 16, 777, 216 ways to answer! And 531, 441 ways in which you can answer all twelve questions wrong! 

The paradox to the Oracle of Ottawa is that he can remember far more than one instance in his long life where by he has aced a twelve question multiple choice test with four choices offered for each question...Yet for the sheer life of me at the time of this writing, the Oracle still has yet to cash out on a three gamer point spread ticket. Which has the hard odds of 1 in 8, and which pays five times money. 


Friday last there were 13 MLB games on the list. The Oracle of Ottawa focused for one more try and doped up all the days games. Then in fear that he might be becoming a problem gambler at two dollars a throw per day, put away the list in revulsion. The plan was to play two twelve gamer tickets one starting from the top and the other from the bottom of the list. Yesterday the Oracle decided to teach himself a lesson once and for all and check the results. There is no way on Earth that anyone can pick the spread results for thirteen games! Well Dear Reader you are right, I only picked 11 out of the possible 13!! If the Oracle would have played the two long shot tickets, he would have had two tickets that had 10/12 correct results, which pays 10 times money! My high stakes of $4.00 would have become $40.00... The Oracle is sure there is a moral to this story, but he just can't put his finger on it....

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