Bets (Part 2)

I have been creating. But mostly for Christmas presents so I don’t really want to post my work in progress until after Christmas.

Here’s a taster of something that went right …

And something not so right. The hoop is too big and I just don’t like clunky knots in the middle of the web … I’ll try again.

So, in the last post I was explaining why it’s difficult to win at roulette. The wheel has no memory so each spin may end up with the ball in either a red or black slot. Over a long period of time, it is likely that the number of red and black wins will approximate equality. But doubling your losing bets in the hope of a win is hazardous because that long period of time may be very long indeed and, before long, you may be betting the price of a house to try and get your original €2 stake back.

I thought about this and, dismissing the gambler’s fallacy and the annoying presence of one green slot on the wheel that tilts the balance even further in favour of the casino, I set about trying to reduce the risk and even the odds.

My reasoning was as follows. The longer a run of wins of one colour, the more likely it is that the other colour will win sooner. So, for example, if you only start betting on red when there has already been a run of, say, five black wins, you increase your chances of a red win soon. Not foolproof by any means, obviously, but worth a try.

So I had a go, with some success, for a while, until I became greedy and started betting larger amounts per spin, came up against a long run of losing spins and lost it all again.

So, not to be defeated by my own incontinence, I further refined my strategy by limiting my daily wins. In other words, I’d wait for a long run of wins of one colour before I bet on the other colour and I’d stop once I’d won, say, a fiver. My reasoning here was that, if I limited my wins, I’d be able more easily to resist the temptation to increase my bets if things were going well. In any case, €5 x 365 is €1825, the cost of a nice holiday!

That kind of worked. The downside was the waiting time. Even though, online, I could monitor the progress of about five tables at the same time, long runs of one colour wins are rare enough and so I would have to spend quite a long time watching and waiting for a run of, say five reds, before I opened up the appropriate window and laid my bet on a black. Measured against the other potential uses of that time, it really wasn’t worth it. And it was too distracting, in any case. So I stopped.

Every so often, however, I’ll pop in and have a look. If I see a long run, I’ll have a bet, usually win a few euro, and then close it up again.

I invest in the stock market. That’s not gambling, per se, except at the extreme edges. I have an investment strategy: small investments in a variety of large (mainly US) companies that pay an annual dividend of at least 3%. I set targets, monitor my investments, reinvest the dividends and enjoy the magic of compounding. I have a massively diversified portfolio, the result of a harsh lesson learned during the 2008/09 crash when I lost a substantial amount of my savings. To make it more interesting, I have a small number of purely speculative investments that fall outside my strategy. Tesla, for example and Petrel, an Irish oil company. Recently, some news emerged about Petrel that got some investors very excited. I noticed it by accident and increased my stake marginally, just in case the news was significant. So far, the price has been volatile but generally positive. That’s been exciting and the feeling I had when increasing my stake and watching the share price increase, and then decrease, and then increase again, is close to the feeling I get when laying a bet on a spin of the roulette wheel. It’s a rush. It’s exciting. It sets my pulse racing. It fuels my fantasies. Lovely. But in a dangerous way.

Is any of this creative? Well, yes in a way, in that coming up with ways in which I can manage the balance between risk and reward in a way that doesn’t terrify me is an intellectual challenge. Nothing I’ve done is that original. Neither is most of the art I do. But, like the art, and like my approach to cooking, I consider a range of different options (recipes), distill them in my head, and come up with an approach that hopefully combines the best of what I’ve read. It usually works out fine.

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