At Vegas in July it is hot. I went out of the casino to look for wild life and found a grove of trees but no way to get in. In front was the purest looking green lawn – supsiciouly verdant at 105 F (40 C) – on close inspection it proved to be plastic Astroturf.
Chris and Chantal E. from South Africa were there in Vegas too and very kindly brought me a precious sample of honey from their semi-wild, and certainly ferocious, African bees. A few years ago the African variety of bee escaped from an experiment in Brazil and has since been slowly working its way north. They are now in the Southern United States and still advancing. Those bees didn’t need big hives because their winter was mild. But unlike our European bees who are only violent when defending their hive with its precious winter long food supply, the African bees attack on any insult, for some reason I can’t quite fathom. If attacked by the Africans, the first rule is “Run”. Second rule: don’t dive into water because they’ll simply wait for you to surface and then sting your face!
As they work north they are mating with the natives and so diluting their ferocity, and hopefully imparting some good, tough genes to better resist our nasty collection of Varroa mites, small hive beetles and various viruses. DNA analysis is extraordinary – it can give the % of African vs European genetics in any bee it measures.
Back in the casino, which I regard as a monument to how badly mathematics is taught these days, I studied the Roulette wheel: They very nicely post the results of the previous 21 turns on a clearly visible column, so you can wander through the tables and happily look for numerical patterns. One table I found had black come up 8 times in a row (see the yellow numbers).
There are 18 red slots and 18 black slots for the ball to fall into. The odds of black or red are almost 50/50, except for green zero, and because they are so greedy, there is another slot for the ball: green double zero. If either comes up when you have bet black or red, you lose. That makes the odds for black or red (which pay 50/50) about 18/38 (or 47.4/52.6). You could think that 2.6% margin is not much, but it is those sort of odds which built this city.
The chances of the 8 blacks in a row is 1 in 395 turns. With about one roll of the wheel per minute that means it could happen three or four times a day. (But if you’d put down $15 on black (that table had a $15 minium) at the right time and left it there for 8 turns, you’d have won $3,840. I stayed and watched: unfortunately for some the 9th turn came up red.
A few hours later that very same table was showing 10 blacks consequetivly. No other table had any such interesting pattern.
Now your $15 bet could have won you $15,360, but you’d have to not have left it there for the 11th turn because it came up red. By now the croupiers were getting quite upset with my taking supposedly forbidden photos, but I had big Australian Paul C. with me so we could safely escape. (I really feel that cell phone photos don’t count. Right?)
Back home you can easily see the true odds with a simple Excel spread sheet. Use the Random Number Generator (+Rand()) and add up the results for 10,000 rows of the spread sheet, or 10,000 turns of the game. Pressing F9 key almost instantly re-spins the wheel another 10,000 times, creates another 10,000 random numbers, and so you can discover the veracity of statistics in large numbers.
Starting with $100, and only betting $1 each time, often lets you stay alive for 10,000 turns, IF you have true 50/50 odds. But when I used the Vegas odds of 18/38 because of “0” and “00”, I was usually broke by 5,000 turns. Sometimes you’re broke after just 1,000 turns. In 100 runs of the program, I never survived as much 10,000 turns on 18/38 odds.
The blue line shows that this time I could have played 8,200 times on true 50/50 odds before going home hungry, but with typical casino odds of 18/38 I’m thrown out after just 1,250 turns.
Playing my computer game, by hitting F9, 100 times or 1 million rolls of the roulette wheel, the best I could do was:
This says that after 10,000 turns of 50/50 odds I’m up 200% on my starting cash and still alive, but once again, with zero and double zero, I’m out the door after 6,600 turns.
Very interestingly, in Monte Carlo (the Mediterranian country, not the vegas casino of the same name) you leave your bet on the table if you are playing black or red, and green “0” comes up. (the don’t have “00”). So that is one of the very few places in the world where you’ll get true 50/50 odds. Yet you’ll still lose! The reason is because that as your accumulated winnings oscillates around an average of zero. Sooner or later your total will bump into the house limit (I wonder just how big that is?), or your limit (all the money you can show them). Guess which is closer?
So how did I save my money? Instead of the wheel you can spend $10 on Fydor Dostoyevski’s “The Gambler” – all the thrills of winning big and losing bigger, pawn your winter coat, go hungry, steal from your grandmother, and still lose and lose again; just follow the downward slope of any of the red lines in the graphs above, turn by turn. They only lead in one direction!