Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Alternatives to losing at gambling
My brother-in-law has a system. He says it works on a regular basis, and it must do, because every time he comes to visit us, he goes into the local casino and comes out with some small amount of winnings. 'Small'? Yes, that's part of his system. “Most people are just too greedy,” he says. “They imagine they'll win millions and end up losing everything they have.” If you're not greedy, he says, you can count on winning small amounts regularly. That helps to pay the rent, it might even buy you a bottle of champagne, so isn't that worth having? Well, no, not for most people. They buy Lottery tickets in order to win the million pound prize. If they got a letter saying they'd won three hundred thousand, they'd probably be disappointed. That's part of the problem of gambling: it inspires a level of complete unreality. But that's the point, isn't it? The casinos in Las Vegas provide an adventure in a fantasy world. They know they shouldn't be selling 'reality'. If they did, people wouldn't part with their money so easily. In fact, they'd win more often. Like my brother-in-law.
The second part of the system kicks in when he sits down. He plays Blackjack, starting slowly and relaxed, and looking around the table to see who else is in the game. He spots the losers, the high-rollers, the emotional types, and distances himself from all of them. Because that's another way to lose. If you get influenced by the other players, you can't watch your own game. Of course, in the real world, it happens all the time. Why else did thousands of people invest in 'dot com' companies in the 'noughties’? They were copying other people. Why else have so many people in Britain invested in housing and renting out those homes, even though the market has peaked and is now slipping down? They've listened to other people, they've followed what everyone else is doing. You want to win at gambling? Look at your own hand first and consider the odds you're facing. Then, and only then, consider comparing yourself to everyone else, after you've got some idea what your chances are.
The next consideration is luck. Successful gamblers know it's all about luck, but they work with it, play along with it, coax it and cajole it. They never, ever work against it. My brother-in-law says that Blackjack is a game where the cards seem to go in runs. For a while they might be with you and then they'll turn against you. At that point you need to back off and wait for the good run to come round again. It always does, he says. So he plays with his luck, not against it. He's placing small bets and if the cards seem to be going his way, he'll slowly increase his bets, planning on building up winnings. If the hands are going against him, he'll slow down, minimise the bets and conserve his stake. Why would that work for him? Because most people do the opposite, he says. If they see they're losing, they'll panic and increase their bets enormously, trying to win back all the chips they've lost. That's crazy, he says. If the run is not going your way, you need to calm down and minimise, not maximise bets. Above all, don't panic. Just wait for your luck to turn, as it always does. If you bet high while the cards are running against you, then all you'll do is lose bigger. That's his philosophy and it seems to work.
That might be for two reasons. One is that 'runs' do exist. Try it. If you flip a coin and record the results you won't get a list that says 'head, tails, head, tails'. Sure, it's random and there's an even chance that it will come up heads or tails each time. But it won't alternate. Instead, you'll get a list that says 'heads, heads, heads, tails, tails, heads' and in the sequence you'll see runs going one way or the other. In fact, this is a complex point, and fools a lot of people. When the first computer programmers tried to build a Random Number Generator a few years ago they were disappointed at their first results. They kept getting runs. To the untutored eye, it didn't look 'random' enough! But it was. Randomness produces runs. You just have to be conservative enough to see it.
That's the main point. My brother-in-law is cautious. It's the way he plays and the way he wins. Because he's aware of the dangers of following other players; because he's only aiming to win limited amounts; because he knows the cards could turn against him and produce a losing streak; he's always reserved and waiting. He never makes snap judgements and never, ever takes absurd risks. In the end, he walks out of the casino with money in his pocket not because he's a great winner, but because most of the other players are big-time losers. They follow other players; they risk high bets; and they compound a losing streak by betting amounts they can't afford. In the end, that's why he wins. All he has to do is keep his cool and win some money, standing by while everyone else loses theirs. He watches the cards, places small bets and increases only when he's feeling safe. But that's okay. The system works and will continue to work. Because? We know that out of all the people reading this article, most have never set foot in a gambling house, so they're not rivals. Of those who do, most don't go regularly and have never thought about applying a system. Of those who have a system, most are still prone to emotional and panicky responses. That leaves, well, how many? Not many. At the end of the day my brother-in-law is a regular winner, but then, how many real competitors has he got?
Monday, December 03, 2018
It's Thursday today. Just a normal day, an ordinary day. One more opportunity to work hard, get rich, and one more chance to be slammed around by people who seem never to have heard of the concept of 'customer service'.
It seemed like a simple problem, at first. The post-person arrived this morning, but they were only holding letters, no parcels. We had been expecting a parcel for weeks. My partner is taking part in a table-top sale this coming weekend, and had ordered some paperback books that she wanted to take along and re-sell as part of a health package. The books were ordered two weeks ago, with a promise that delivery would take place in '3-5 days', but when no books arrived, we had to email. We were told that the supplier didn't have them and had had to outsource the order. Still, they said, delivery wouldn't have been delayed. The books should have arrived, they said. They would look into it. Next day an email arrived from the out-sourcer. It said that 'an account had to be confirmed'. My partner tried logging on to their website and was refused. She had to phone them.
So far, so bad. Still, don't forget we've only lost a week at this point, and it doesn't seem fatal: we've got another week to go, and as we know, (or have been told), the books could arrive in '3-5 days'. So that's all right, then. It was a nuisance that the newly found supplier was telling us to register and then had established a website which didn't allow a non-customer to establish a new account, but we thought we had cleared that up on the phone. All was going ahead – or so we thought. But - a new day dawned and no books arrived.
It's Thursday. We tried emailing, but got no reply. We tried phoning the real supplier, the new one, but they said their lines were busy. We went back to the original supplier – pre outsource – and tried them. We couldn't find a phone number, anywhere. It took half an hour, but there it was at last – no, not on the 'Contact Us' page. That would be too easy. Okay, so we phoned and the man checked his computer. He said no order existed. We asked him to check again. He said the records showed that our order had been cancelled the previous week. Right, so the out-sourcer had wanted confirmation of the account and, in the meantime, cancelled the order. When he confirmed the account – with us, on the phone – he forgot to re-instate the order. He had an account but no order. He didn't query or question that. He went on with his life, we went on with ours. The difference is that we were expecting books to arrive. They didn't. If we hadn't chased it up, we would never have found out why, either.
The man on the phone was pleasant enough. He asked us if we wanted to make the order again. We asked him when the books would arrive. When he said, 'After the weekend', we declined his offer. The books were needed this weekend coming. Not after. Definitely not after. What could he have done (better)? After all, he apologised, which was nice, considering he would probably be thinking that it probably wasn't his fault. Of course, in reality, it was. He had set up a system that placed orders to outside bodies and his company had no control over the quality, honesty or memory of their ‘outsourcing’ people. They didn't cancel the order, so they probably thought it wasn't their fault. Why not? Why were they working with a sub-contractor who was so slapdash and careless? Would they follow it up, complain, seek recompense on our behalf? Not a bit of it. It's life, they implied. These things happen, mate. Life goes on. In our case, for me and my partner, life would have to be without the books we wanted.
Well, we didn't place a second order and we won't be doing it, not within the foreseeable future. If we can avoid it, we will always avoid that firm in future. A very wise man once said, 'If you make a client, you should keep them for life and they will keep you'. The alternative to that might read something like, 'If you lose a client, you never get them back'. That's certainly true for us. Why? Because there are plenty of other suppliers and, being human, we don't just want books, we want service. Superlative service.
I know what you're thinking. Look, you say, the guy isn't going to ruin his day with an apology, then rush down to the warehouse, pick out your books and stick them in an envelope, posting them off that very afternoon. Why? Does anybody do that? Because I tell you what, readers. The company that does that is the one who gets our business, now and in the future. Everyone else gets a surly customer, chasing an order they think they placed and not understanding the lack of communication, updates or delivery. There's no profit in that, no future. Or, just to make it clear - even if you aren’t the person who has to answer the phone in your company, business or trade, - here’s something you could think about: doesn't anyone – any trading company, individual, person or animal out there – wonder why people keep phoning them up and complaining? Could it be because they are actually doing something wrong?