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 that might appeal. One table I found showed that black had come up 8 times in a row (see the yellow numbers).
There are 18 red slots and 18 black slots in a roulette wheel for the ball to fall into. The odds of it being black or red would be 50/50 if it were not for the green zero, and because the Vegas casinos are so greedy there is yet another green slot for the ball: a double zero. If either zero or double zero comes up when you have bet black or red, you lose. That makes the odds for winning on black or red (which pay a dollar for a dollar bet) about 18/38 (or 47.4%). You could think that 2.6% margin between 18/38 and 50/50 is not much, but it is those sort of odds which built this city. It means that for a ‘perfect’ roulette wheel, after every 19 turns you will have won 9 times and lost 10 times.
The chances of the 8 blacks in a row that I saw is 1 in 395. With about one roll of the wheel per minute that means it could happen three or four times a day. (But if you had put down $15 on black (that table had a $15 minimum) at the right time and left it there for 8 turns, you would have won $3,840. I stayed and watched the next turn: unfortunately for some that 9th turn came up red.
A few hours later that very same table was showing a run of 10 black consecutively. 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 that 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 win/loss 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, PROVIDED 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 many as 10,000 turns at the Vegas 18/38 odds.
The blue “Sum 50/50” line in the graph above shows a typical simulation where I played 8,200 times at true 50/50 odds before going home broke and hungry, but with typical casino odds of 18/38 the red line simulation threw me out after just 1,250 turns.
Another run of the same program, with different random numbers, shows unhappier results: I didn’t even survive past 2,000 turns on an ‘honest’ wheel.
Playing my computer game, by hitting F9, 100 times or simulating 1 million rolls of the roulette wheel, the best set of 10,000 spins of the wheel I could achieve was:
This says that after 10,000 turns at 50/50 odds I’m up 200% on my starting cash and still alive, but if the wheel has zero and double zero I’m out the door after 6,600 turns.
Very interestingly, in Monte Carlo (the Mediterranean 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 a green “00” slot). 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 either the house limit (I wonder just how big that is?), or your own limit i.e. all the money you can show them. Guess which is closer to your cumulative win/loss amount?
So how did “I Save (almost) All My Money in Las Vegas”? Instead of donating to the wheel I read a delightful $10 copy of Fydor Dostoyevski’s”The Gambler” – it has all the thrills of winning big and losing even bigger; pawning your winter coat; going hungry; stealing from your grandmother, and still lose and lose again; just following the downward slope of any of the red lines in the graphs above, turn by turn. They all lead in one direction!