Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gambling- a game of chance?

Around a month back, I and a few of my friends had gone to Mahabaleshwar. And most of my friends know that I blog, and a few of them have started too. So there were talks about what I would write in my blog about our trip, with my friends saying that do write about this thing or that thing or don’t forget to mention our names etc. I knew that I wouldn’t write about our trip per se but there was one thing that stuck with me and thus in this way at least there would be some mention of the trip.

There is one thing we did in that trip that I was quite fascinated by later on. And as you can guess from the name of this post, it was a game. I don’t really know if it falls exclusively under the ‘gambling’ category but here is what it was all about................

Starting with the trip, it was quite a good experience overall and the places Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani – in Maharashtra, India are worth seeing. We did face some problems in the initial part of the journey itself but such things are almost a given. No trip is an absolutely smooth trip. The mountains and the valleys etc were the most wonderful part of there for me. See the picture below:

There is a special feeling being in the mountains- the peace and solitude that you can feel there is unmatched. It is a spiritual experience. It makes you aware that you are just a tiny speck in front of the mountains and thus in the entire universe, almost nonexistent. The amount of importance we attach to ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs seem exaggerated then. The boating, echo point, Pandava’s foot prints and locations where many movies have been shot etc were some notable features of our trip. Also there were a few foreigners paragliding and I had even taken a video which you can see on You Tube at- PARAGLIDING VIDEO

Alright then, about the game. Firstly I wasn’t too interested in the game because it was around midnight after a long day’s journey and I was more interested in catching some sleep and getting a much needed rest especially in the warm blanket in a cold place. But my friends were really keen. The game consists of a board large enough, consisting of many slots that are numbered. See the picture below:

Now the rules of the game are simple. You have to throw 2 white colored balls and they will fall in any of the numbered slots. But before that you have to mention what you are betting on. For example, firstly you have three options-

1) 6 and below
2) 7
3) 8 and above

Since the slots are numbered from 1 to 6 and you will be throwing the 2 balls, whatever slot they end up in, that will be counted. So firstly you put your money in any amount, like my friend first put in 10 Rs to bet on 8 and above. He threw the first ball and it landed on the slot numbered 3. Now he needed at least a 5 or a 6 with the other one to reach 8 or above to double his money. But he got only a 4 and thus lost his money.

My close friend and roommate Rajesh Sethi who has an unmatched enthusiasm was very keen and always targeted 8 and above option. But we all being new to this, did not know the exact rules or procedures of this game. Actually when you initially give the money, he gives a kind of a token representative of the amount and you have to keep it on the option you are betting for i.e. 6 & below, or 7 or 8 & above. He did get it right but didn’t put the token so didn’t get the money. He tried again and this time did the right procedure and got 20 Rs for the 10 he put in and then backed out. He even insisted that I too try my hand at it. I initially refused but since he said that he will sponsor the 10 Rs for me, I agreed. I put the 10 Rs on the option 6 and below meaning the 2 balls that I throw need to land in slots that add up to 6 or less. He seemed dissatisfied with this decision and tried to dissuade me from it and coerce me to bet on 8 & above. However I persisted and it proved to be a lucky decision. I got a 1 with the first ball and 3 with the other. I got 20, returned his 10 and thus got 10 for free. I withdrew from the game and didn’t play after that.

I found this such an interesting game. I had never done anything like this before. This was not just about luck, this was about probability as well; a very interesting concept. How do you decide what are you going to bet on and how much? And why would the owner of the game have such games in his place if he doesn’t earn profit. One thing is sure that in the end after all play the game, overall more people lose than earn and for the owner, he earns more than he loses that is why he is doing this business in the first place. The thing is that it is not divided into 2 equal parts so that the probability will be 50 :50 but it is in 3 parts.

- 6 & below,
- 7,
- 8 & above.
Thus the probability is distributed.
Now some connotations:

1) The minimum you can get is 1 + 1 = 2
2) The maximum you can get is 6 + 6 = 12
3) That means total 2 to 12 = 11 possibilities.
4) Thus the 3 options are 2 to 6, 7 , 8 to 12
5) So the possibility of any of the 3 options is less than 50 and thus in the long run you lose more than you earn.
6) If you put on 7 and get 7, you earn triple and if you don’t, you lose it.
7) For 6 & below, you need both balls to fall preferably in the slots 1, 2 and 3 to be safe. Get a 6 in any ball and it’s game over. Similarly bet on 8 & above and if you get 1 number in any ball, it’s again game over.

I would say that Probability is based on a long term and thus you might lose if you are playing just on that basis. I would advise you to play up to that point where you win. If you are getting more than what you have put in, it is best to exit. Though it happened with me in the first try itself, I still left the game there.

At least this experience gave me an idea why such gaming parlors, casinos around the world are so popular and what a potentially dangerous thing this is. You literally get sucked into it. The temptation of playing on and the hope of winning and the greed to earn even more than what you have got spell disaster to me. The wise thing to do is just take this as fun and enjoy it as a game and not get too worked up over it or be too greedy. Just play, enjoy, if you win a little, take it and leave or bet just little so that even if you lose, it wouldn’t bother you much.

What would be your strategy? Which slot would you bet on and why? How long will you play? What would you do?
Do drop in with your comments, opinions and strategy that you would follow and what you think of this concept.
Interesting fact - In eighteenth-century English gambling dens, there was an employee whose only job was to swallow the dice if there were a police raid!


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