Randomness

WSJ interview with Leonard Mlodinow discussing the role of randomness in our lives.

Excerpt:

Mr. Mlodinow: I believe there is true expertise in some endeavors, and not in others. There is obviously no such thing as expertise in predicting the results of coin tosses, but there is expertise in predicting the behavior of lasers. I feel that picking stocks or predicting Hollywood hits is more like the former. The process of building a company or making a film is more like the latter.
But there is a related question: Given that we are discussing an endeavor in which it is possible, how can you tell if someone has expertise? That is hard, because expertise plus bad luck can equal a failure, and lack of expertise plus good luck can equal success. The only way to tell the two apart is to observe the individual over a long time, which in statistics often means 100 or even 1,000 trials. This is obviously often not possible, so I recommend instead that we judge people by a thoughtful analysis of their intelligence, philosophy, work ethic, etc., rather than simply by their results.

Freakonomics - Phil Gordon Q & A

Phil Gordon

Here's a question & answer column from the angular Phil Gordon.

Excerpt:

Q: Is Phil Hellmuth really as unpleasant as he seems? Conversely, who are the top pros that are regarded as being the most fun to play with — not necessarily the ones you can clean up on, just the ones that you’d have a good time with? (I’m guessing Negreanu is at the top of this list.)

A: Hellmuth isn’t as bad in real life as he appears on T.V. I really like him. He’s a great family man, does lots of work for charity, and has a kind heart.

Unfortunately, he comes across like a complete a–hole on television. But, it’s great for ratings.

I really like playing at the table with Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, and David Grey — they have excellent stories and are very entertaining. As for Negreanu — things aren’t always the way they appear on television.

Follow Up to Post on Baseball Series (Warning: Technical Content)

I wrote a brief program in C# to answer the question,

4. In baseball, suppose the American League champion is better than the National League champion, such that it has a 55% probability of winning each game against the NL champ. Then the NL champ nonetheless will win a best-of-seven-games series four in 10 times. What is the smallest odd number, X, for which a World Series between these two league champs that is best-of-X will ensure that there’s a 95% probability of a just result — the superior AL champ winning?

Consider a 5-game series.  A team can sweep in three games.  To win in four games, the victor can lose only one of the first three.  That means there are three distinct win-loss sequences that result in a team winning in four games.

In general to choose k items (in this case wins) from a group of n (games):

n choose k = n!/(k! * (n - k)!)  {Note: x! is the product of all the integers from x to 1, so 5! = 5*4*3*2*1 = 120}

Google will actually do this for you, typing 5 choose 3 in the search line returns the answer 10.

So I figured out the chances a team would win a series in each number of games, and then added them.

Here is my code:

namespace Project40708
{
    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            int x = 3; //The shortest non-trivial series
            double prob;
            do
            {
                prob = 0;
                for (int i = (x - 1) / 2; i < x; i++)// This loop starts out at the earliest point which a team can win a series.
                {
                    prob = prob + step(i, (x - 1) / 2);// accumulates the chances of winning in exactly i games

                }
                Console.WriteLine("The AL team wins a best of {0} series with probability {1}", x, prob);
                x = x + 2;// The series are best of x, x is always odd.

            }
            while (prob < .950);
        }
      
        static double step (int x, int y)
        {
            if (y > x)
                return 0;
            double result = 0;
            if (y == x)
            {
                return Math.Pow(.55, y + 1);//This is a sweep!
            }
            result = step(x - 1, y) * x / (x - y) * .45;//I did this recursively.
            return result;
        }

    }
}

From WSJ: A Probability Quiz

A Probability Quiz

Carl Bialik, author of "The Numbers Guy" for the Wall Street Journal, has posted a reader quiz about probability.  Question 4 is of particular interest to me.

4. In baseball, suppose the American League champion is better than the National League champion, such that it has a 55% probability of winning each game against the NL champ. Then the NL champ nonetheless will win a best-of-seven-games series four in 10 times. What is the smallest odd number, X, for which a World Series between these two league champs that is best-of-X will ensure that there’s a 95% probability of a just result — the superior AL champ winning?

I think I have successfully written a program that calculates the answer.  My programming skills are suspect, but it seems to produce the right results for the simpler cases, if my rusty probability is correct.  I am going to hold off giving my answer as to not post an answer key and skew the poll's results.  (How's that for arrogance!  Like my mom is going to read this and then start an avalanche of poll responses.)

I get for a 3-game series the AL champ wins 57.5% of the time.  In a 7-game series that result rises to 60.8%.  Any guesses as to what X is?

April

April , the new disc from Sun Kil Moon, is being streamed on myspace  through March 20.  I wore out their 1st disc a couple years ago and freaked out a home game when we were using my mp3 as "background" music and someone just set it to most played.  You see it's not exactly party music to most people.  Yet I am so super excited that I am actually using verbs here on B.a.D. So if you are so inclined, go get your slowcore on! Not sure why I like this artist when most in this vein i don't like at all, i guess it's mojo or sumthin...

Hopefully this musical opiate will help me wrap up my final projects for school, then Thursday morning off to Reno bitches!  I will be slumming as much as I can, maybe $10 NCAA wagers and free coffee-like substance while my homie crushes the $1000 NL tourney that I'm too prudent to play. Or low limit omaha with the locals - no smiling please! you whippersnapper.

Reno, broke, and sober 5 great Nights!  think how awesome my trip reports will be!

Jason Lives!

So after suffering a rough beat I was down to 55 chips in a SNG, 4 players left.  I ended up winning the sucker.  I think my opponents were a wee too tight defending their blinds...

I think the new disc by Brand New Heavies put me in a good mood, and helped me suck out!

Internet Gaming Rules Face Long Odds

Cindy Skrzycki has an article at the Washington Post on the problems with UIGEA.

It's not easy making rules for a U.S. law intended to deter illegal Internet gambling by choking off the flow of funds to offshore sites. That's because no one seems to agree on what the law covers.

Officials at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve found that out after sifting through more than 200 comments from banks, gamblers, church groups and members of Congress on recommendations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The basic sentiment was that their Oct. 4 proposal, which depends on financial institution enforcement, won't work.

The outcome will affect 23 million online gamblers, some 2,500 Internet sites and the growth of an industry with an estimated $15 billion in annual global revenue. The law bars financial institutions from processing payments involving Internet gambling -- with the notable exceptions of Indian gaming, state gaming and horse racing.

Read the article here .

Pandora

I've been a night owl the past couple nights, staying up until morning alternating homework with sit n gos.  I think I found a station on Pandora that works for me.  (Pandora is an automated music recommender and internet radio service.)  I entered "Jellyfish" and so far it's been very tasty.  I haven't had to "thumbs down" at all yet, and even got a Dukes of Stratosphear tune!