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October 18, 2015


And use a two-headed coin.

Always call the turn.

I dunno what tail to tell.

Who's on first?

Jeff Dobbs

Well, I was involved in six coin flips last night at the pool tournament. Four heads and two tails.

Jeff Dobbs

When You're Hot You're Hot.

Jerry Reed, 1971


Thank you, Jerry Jeff Walker back.

Who's gonna collect my welfare? Pay for my Cadillac.


Landsburg has a good discussion of this at his site:


It's not an issue of perception, it's an objective result having to do with the fact that the mathematics of probability the expected value of a ratio is not the same as the ratio of expected values. I know, you were promised no math.

Beasts of England


There's no gambling at Bushwood, sir!


Thanks, jimmyk! This English major will treasure your explanation forever!


Thanks, jimmyk! This English major will treasure your explanation forever!


ok, jimmyk. pls explain the probability of the above.


Ok. Two out of three, then.


I wouldn't bet on that...


I do not know if someonrposted this before, as it is a couple of days old, but Kissinger has a great op-ed piece--almost an essay, really--on the ME over at the WSJ. See here.

Well worth reading.


I don't know of any gambler suffering the fallacy that a bad streak must, somehow, be followed by a good one. Nor the other stated "fallacy", that winning streaks possess momentum that keeps them going. Both ideas seem like nonsense that no self-respecting gambler would have any part of. But that's not saying there's no such thing as luck, which is a completely different and undeniable animal - ask any pit boss nervously lighting matches in hopes of stopping a long run at the craps table where crowds of cheering gamblers are riding the coattails of a grinning shooter bathed in luck's light. Heck, public gaming companies that report bad earnings will sometimes cite customer's good luck as the culprit.


Will the Pats score 60? Brady's Dad hopes so



I don't know of any gambler suffering the fallacy

hrtshpdbox, I don't think the debate is over pure luck 'streaks' like coin tosses, roulette, etc. But there's no law of probability that rules out hot streaks or slumps in sports. That's why one has to look at the data, and use correct statistical analysis. In the analysis, the 'null hypothesis' is that free throw shooting, say, is random like a coin toss, versus the alternative that players have streaks. To do the comparison you have to understand what randomness implies for the statistics you examine. That's where some studies have gone wrong.

The interesting thing about the Landsburg link above is that apparently the jeenyuses at Google got this wrong in its test question for applicants.


Why do they throw out two possibilities for "an insufficiency of heads?" I'm pretty much a math illiterate but if anyone told me that was an element of the analysis I'd say no thanks I'm not buying whatever it is you're selling.

Roy Lofquist

I get a real kick out of these guys. I'll bet their favorite sport is tiddlywinks. These are human beings we're talking about, not robots. Anybody who's ever played the game knows that some days are diamonds, some days are stone. The ball can look like a pea or a dinner plate. The basket can look like a teacup or a washtub. But I guess if it keeps them off the streets there not much harm done.

Beasts of England

Are we gonna have a Patriots v. Colts thread?


Why did the line open at only Pats minus 7.5? That seems crazy to me. The bookies always seem to know something, though. A buddy says that the NFL is going to screw Brady for saying bad stuff about Coke. At this point anything seems plausible.

Roy Lofquist

The bookies don't know nuthin'. Eleven gets you ten. They just balance the books. If they start with Oshkosh+6 and get 10 bets on one side they change the line to get 10 bets on the other side. They don't care who wins. They collect their 10% either way.

Miss Marple 2

The only local news I can report is that Jim Irsay requested fans not fly a blimp referring to the Brady incident over the stadium today.

Miss Marple 2

Second bit of local news is that they are letting it be known that Luck will probably play today.

If he doesn't, that big investment in him will be shown to have been very foolish. You will remember that Peyton Manning was odds on not to get through another season or two without serious injury.

So much for odds.


Was Irsay concerned that the cold temperatures might deflate the blimp?

Miss Marple 2


HA! I think he was concerned that Indianapolis would be poking the Patriots in the eye with a stick.

What fans would spend money for a blimp?

NUTS, I say!



What time and channel are the Pats on? I can't for the life of me figure out how to find the programming on Comcast.

Tom Maguire

NO MORE FUZZY MATH: OK, there is a Reader revolt in the comments section at the Times. One example:

There is an obvious mistake in the coin toss example. The reason that the authors came up with a 40.5% probability that a heads follows a head is because they took a simple average rather than a weighted average. Each sequence has a different number of opportunities and this is information that needs to be included in the calculation. For example, HHHH has 3 opportunities for heads to follow heads (HH=3 + HT=0) while HHTH has only 2 (HH=1 + HT=1). If you weight each sequence by the number of opportunities, you will get the 50% probability that you expect by intuition.

That was my halftime insight, too late to make the Times comments.


I'm not sure that comment is a refutation. The exercise, as I understand it, is to look at a sequence of four coin tosses, and calculate the expectation of the percentage of times that an H is followed by an H (meaning that you throw out the observation if the first three tosses are T). Each of the 16 outcomes is equally likely, as is each of the 14 with an H in the first three tosses. So weighting isn't the right thing to do for that exercise.

Dave (in MA)

Jane, Sunday Night Football, 8:30 NBC
Next week, your Jaguars are on at 9:30 AM, live from London.

Strawman Cometh



The Kissinger article was a clear and useful read.

Man Tran

My favorite 'luck' story was from a Montecarlo Night at the Cowlumbus Porsche Club that was hosted by a buddy in his photo studio. We were sitting at the blackjack table and having a 'random' luck experience all around. The dealer was eventually replaced by Martha, a local business owner of some success and a decent event driver. Not a wallflower by any means. Well, she cleared the table in about 20 min. and killed the game for the evening. I've never seen anything like it, except for in the movies. (No money involved.)


jimmyk and the other math heads here???????????????


I have Jaquars? Who knew?

Dave (in MA)

You get to pick from among 3 teams while we're stuck sharing ours with 5 other states.

Sweet little puddytats.

It's OK, Jane, these ones don't eat dogs.


I pick the Pats. Amy just sent me a pix of it snowing in Sturbridge. It's only 79 here.


You get to pick from among 3 teams while we're stuck sharing ours with 5 other states.

Too bad one of those states isn't New Jersey, because the fans of both NY teams who play in NJ get to call those teams as their own.


But.." Two out of three"..

♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ain't bad.. ;-)



I would submit that Landsburg has a terrible discussion of the Girl/Boy problem.

He gives the Google problem and then "refutes" it with a totally different problem.

Can you "simply" explain why the ratio for Boys and Girls in the Google problem is not 50%?

(If a small population makes the difference stark, how about an explanation using just 4 couples.)

Red Zone.

Time out the hot hand. Can't have it overinflating the ball.

jimmyk on iPhone

Mockmook, will try later. Busy watching Mets-Cubs and Homeland. The boy-girl thing is the same idea as the coin toss--the average of a ratio is not the same as the ratio of the average.

Thomas Collins

See Miss Maple, 2? I told you I was being generous. In any event, it's a great game, and I have enjoyed the treats you sent me, so no hard feelings no matter what happens!



Appreciate the consideration of my dilemma -- I'm sure I'm missing something "basic" (dare I say, some nuance).



BTW, I'm sure part of my problem is I don't understand what you are getting at in this sentence:

"the average of a ratio is not the same as the ratio of the average"


The existence of a hot hand implies the existence of a cold hand, so the test should be how many times is an H or T followed by another instance of the same result. I'm pretty sure this would even things out. As widely noted, the reason they are getting skewed results is that they are working with short strings.



I believe that is the point -- hot hands are followed by cold hands -- they must even out.

But a coin is always 50/50, no hot nor cold hand (but, of course, they still even out).


The notion that shooting a basketball is a random event is ridiculously stupid.

There are days an athlete is on and days when he is off. When Tiger Woods was the best player in the world, he hit shots closer and made putts more often than he does today. It ain't random.

There are days when a pitcher has better command and days when he doesn't. Try to tell him that his pitches are all random on both kinds of days and he will laugh his ass off at you. Because mastering the fundamentals and techniques of a skill is not something that occurs equally at all times.



Yes, a more interesting question is the time period for these "hot" periods (and perhaps that is what the studies were touching on).

Does your typical basketball player have hot streaks within a game? Or, are his hits and misses mostly random within a game (or better yet, within a half)?

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