House of Beelzebub


The Sports Book

The One-Armed Bandit
“My luck is about to change…”

Consider this to be my anti-gambling rant. I love certain professional sports. NHL, MLB, NBA, love them. I enjoy watching them, the skill, artistry and raw power of the athletes is intoxicating. I love the dancing numbers, the stats, that are generated by these athletes. I love turning them over, like rocks in a field, and seeing what crawls out. But professional sports are becoming an object lesson in how to lose all your money.

Legalized gambling is monopolizing pro sport

The advertisements are unavoidable. Some of the main characters in the advertisements look like RL drug pushers, and that’s appropriate, because that’s what they are. There is a tsunami of addicted gamblers building that will wash over our financial, health care and legal systems. Our science and medicine has not progressed to the point where they can offer a cure.

An ounce of prevention

What happens in casinos is already well documented. Casinos attempt to deal with problem gamblers by designing the software of systems, such as slot machines, so that the more you play them, the lower your chances of winning become. The industry would have you believe that they are attempting to discourage problem gamblers from playing those machines, but it looks far more like a system that exploits people who are no longer in control of their actions.

But sports gambling doesn’t have that problem right? Right? Well sort of

The simple truth is that the odds makers for corporations whose business is betting on sports are mathematical engineers, called actuaries. The odds systems are designed so that, no matter what happens, the house, the corporation, never loses. So what does this mean, practically? It means that no matter how good you are at predicting wins, losses, goals, points, or whatever it is you are betting on, if you persist, you will lose money. It’s a mathematical certainty.

Sports books specifically design their software to siphon off your money

Let me give an example. Let’s say you are really good at this gambling thing. You are good at picking winners. So you place ten bets with a money line of -200. That’s the old 2 – 1 odds that you will win this bet. So for every successful bet of a dollar, you will get back your dollar with an extra fifty cents. Safe bets. You’re good at this. But you’re still going to lose some of those bets, and it will be more than you think.

Cha Ching!

You win 6 out of 10 of the bets you’ve placed.

You’re doing well!


Now let’s add up the money.

You placed a dollar on each bet. You won six times. You get $9 back.

You lost four times. The total amount you bet was $10.

So even though you’re good at this, you still ended up a dollar short.

And here’s the thing, it wasn’t “bad luck”, it was the way the system is designed. It is designed to siphon off your money. In actual fact, you might have been lucky. If you place ten bets with a money line of -200, you will probably, typically, only win half of them, or perhaps even less, even though the odds are in your favour.

Luck always runs out

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how good you are, all that matters is how lucky you are, and luck always runs out, in the end. It’s a mathematical certainty. It’s the way the systems are designed, and they are designed by actuaries, using cold, hard formulas. The house absolutely never loses. Never. The more money you gamble on sports, the more you will lose. It is an absolute, dead certainty.

You might actually be better off to buy the occasional lottery ticket. You are not likely to ever win, but if you do, you can quit and live off the winnings for the rest of your life, if you win big. Your typical sports bet doesn’t offer that kind of payout, unless you pour ruinous amounts of money into it, in which case your chances of winning big are probably no better than they are of winning the lottery, while your chances of losing everything and ending up covered in lice and sleeping on a grate somewhere, are extremely high.

Technicians Poets and Plebes

Language is constantly evolving. Academics and pedants are constantly annoyed, constantly “tut tutting”. The spelling of hallowed words change, new words are born, the very meaning of words change, so that a child reading something written a hundred years ago has a very good chance of completely misunderstanding what the author hoped to communicate.

So who is responsible for language, it’s form and meaning? Who is the driver of the evolution of language? Unfortunately for the academics and pedants, for the most part, I don’t think they are it. Technicians, poets and plebes, these are the people who drive linguistic change, for better or worse, or just as a matter of fact.

First the technicians.

They are the people who have specific, technical communication requirements. They need to be able to communicate certain information, precisely and unambiguously. Technology is constantly changing, and so must the language required to pass on information about that technology.

But it isn’t just IT specialists and engineers. It is doctors, lawyers, plumbers and electricians, pilots and nurses, explorers and obstetricians. Every profession, in fact every job, has it’s own communication needs, and as these needs change, so must the language used to pass information from one technician to another, and often these changes in language escape the confines of the profession and enter the mainstream.

And then there are the poets.

But of course, it isn’t just poets, it is artists of all kinds, who are constantly playing with language, twisting it into pretzels, desperately searching for new ways to describe old ideas, tunnelling and scraping for new ways to use old words, and new words to shed light on old ways. And occasionally the words of poets escape the confines of art, and enter the mainstream.

Finally, the “plebes”.

But the greatest drivers of linguistic change are the “plebes”, the every day, ordinary, imperfectly educated, tired, just trying to make it to the weekend, or survive the horrors of personal relationships, pay the bills, change the diapers, make sense of the world around them, Nameless Average. The people who misuse commas, have atrocious spelling, worse grammar, and don’t care about the difference between their, there and they’re.

These are the people who, like falling rain, are the greatest sculptors of the landscape of language. And then the poets see their work in all it’s beauty and play with it, and the technicians can’t find the linguistic widget they need to describe the widget they have, and create a new word, phrase or acronym that suits the purpose and that falls from a cloud in to the faceless mass of humanity, and language continues to change, as it always has, as it always will.

technicians poets and plebes