I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Tragedy of the Commons

A couple things happened this week that finally forced me to put my butt in the chair and spit out a post. The first was an article zooming around the Internets, about a math teacher who gave the following extra credit assignment.

You can either have 2 points extra credit or 6. Choose one.

___ 2 points

___ 6 points

However, if over 10% of the class chooses 6, then everyone will get zero.

This problem is often looked at in game theory classes, and is known as the "Tragedy of the Commons." It teaches us that over 10% of the people are selfish dickheads. Rarely does a class ever get the extra credit. You can see real life examples of this in areas that get over-fished to the point that no one can fish there anymore, or a great blackjack game that gets burned out because too many people exploit it too much. Because we are APs it is easy for us to say, "I better burn this BJ game now because if I don't someone else will." Yet we look at the fishermen and say, "Come on guys. Soon we won't be able to eat Tuna."

The second thing that happened was a conversation I was having with some friends about another AP. One friend said about this other person, "He won't share anything with anyone. He feels that anything he tells someone else costs him ev." My bet is he would opt for the 6 points. This reminded me of an incident from one of my first blackjack teams. I had discovered a promotion, and ran off to play it. I called some of the other members of the team and told them to go. (This was before cell phones and it was much harder to get ahold of everyone back then.) Anyway, some of us played it, and we did quite well. Later at a team meeting one of the guys who had not played the promo started arguing that the people who played it should not be given any hours for the play. The players earned based on hours played, so he was arguing that we shouldn't be compensated at all for having played this promo, which was clearly worth more per hour than our card counting. The counters I played with were very smart guys, and new how to build a persuasive argument. It shocked, and appalled me when I realized that all he really was arguing for was for him to make more money personally when the bankroll broke. I knew we were struggling to get an edge over the casinos, but I didn't think we were trying to do it to each other. It was like learning there is no Santa Claus.

My point in all this is not to point out that some people will act in their own self interest. What is important is that you understand yourself. When I saw the first question I answered 2 points without a moment of hesitation, because I have learned over the years that I am much happier being part of a group than I am on my own. I would much rather earn $200 and hour playing with one or more partners, than $400 an hour playing alone. As I have repeatedly told my kids, my goal in life is not to die with the most money. My goal is to be happy. And it is HUGE positive ev to figure out what it is that makes you happy. Once I learned it, it made me.... happier! #Winning!

But I also have to say that I could not disagree more with the people who think that sharing costs them ev. I believe the opposite is true. I can not believe I would have earned what I have if people had not shared information with me. And the reason they share with me is I share with them.  That doesn't mean I share everything with everybody, but there are more games available to play than any one person has time for. Currently I don't count cards. So if I find a really good count game why wouldn't I give it to someone who I know will appreciate it?

I also have an extra credit assignment for the class. Can money buy happiness? If your answer is "No" then you're doing it wrong. Watch this TED TALK and find out.


Colin said...

I absolutely love this blogpost. Thanks for putting the time aside to write it!

Ben C. said...

yes. great post. These things are not discussed very often but these are some of the most valuable things that we had the privilege of learning through being an AP.

Lancehac said...

I mostly agree w sharing an AP oppty, in principle. BUT, you GOTTA know 100% who you're sharing with. E.g., the video poker double-down glitch shared with a friend, THEN THEY HAD A FALLING OUT!

Sorry it has to be this way; however, 99.5% of people I have known in life are CRAP!!! Been so burned by so many people I've known in life because I was too trusting - LESSONS LEARNED!

Too much at risk to rely on someone else's integrity/judgment....that's just how life has shown me.

One alternative would be for me to exploit the AP oppty myself and be generous with the ones I "trusted."

Moral of story: if I wouldn't trust you with my bank account, I'm not trusting you to play it cool with a good AP oppty.

bigplayer said...

Except in real world advantage play the first 10% of people to get the action down will get 6 points, the next 90% will get 0 points. either way if there are 100 advantage players there are only 60 points available for distribution. For the 10% of the people willing to blast it getting 6 points is better than settling for 0.6 points so that all 100 AP's can get a piece of the action.

Yes, sometimes a play will get burned out that might last much longer, but from my experience promotions and good games are usually a zero sum situation (or close to it). There is only so much a casino is willing to give out in the case of a promo or lose in the case of a game that's under attack. In that case, the early bird always gets the worm.

Unknown said...

Surely the best strategy is to quickly team up with just under 10% of the class and to announce loudly that you are all going to bid for 6.

If one more person bids for 6 the no-one gets anything and everyone knows it. This maximizes the EV for you and in fact maximizes the average EV for the whole class.