Taking a pure guess can win you a correct answer and sometimes it does. But, it’s a gamble 100% of the time. And, to emphasize this point, Andy Rooney of CBS’s 60 Minute’s fame developed his “50-50-90” rule. Simply put, whenever there is a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there is a 90% chance that YOU’LL get it wrong!
Whenever it comes to games of chance, however, the “50-50-90” rule seems to be the BEST advice that people consistently ignore. And, yes, some games of chance, such as poker, do involve a bit of skill. But, the cards we receive in the DEAL are purely random. Skill enters the picture ONLY in terms of how well one plays those cards.
As well, random chance (LUCK if you prefer) plays a part in our daily lives. And, even though more than one motivational speaker has proclaimed that there is no such thing as luck, they’re wrong. Luck is a real component in our lives. What’s important to remember, on the other hand, is that luck can be good OR bad. And, EITHER way, it’s mostly a very small component of our successes OR failures.
A very successful NFL football coach, the late George Allen acknowledged the degree to which luck determined his successes and failures when he said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Ultimately, though, how “lucky” we are or are NOT depends on two things: how WELL we play BAD hands and how BADLY we play GOOD hands.
I could go on for several paragraphs minimizing luck’s role in life’s successes and failures. But, it’s not the point of this article. And, besides, it would be a waste of space. Those who have figured it out don’t need it; and the clueless won’t understand it, let alone believe it!
My goal here is pointing out the truly STUPID; the people who delve into purely random games of chance as though they have some magical effect over the draw. And, because I was bored stiff last night, I watched an episode of Deal or No Deal that my wife had Tivo’d about a year ago. WOW! Talk about solid research.
And, trust me, while that show is no longer running, if there was a Dumb Sh*ts Hall of Fame, many of its contestants would have been inducted on the FIRST ballot!
Now, please understand me. I’m not criticizing the show. Its premise was great; contestants who knew what they were doing won boatloads of money; and the host, Howie Mandel, was superb in his role. I’m sure they paid him plenty and he was worth EVERY dime of it. Many of the show’s contestants, though, amounted to virtual poster children for the numerically challenged.
The set-up was simple. Twenty-six female models held twenty-six brief cases numbered 1 through 26. Each case contained a money amount: 1-penny through $1-million. The contestants picked one case that Howie placed on the contestants’ table to be opened last if things got that far.
The object of the game was for contestants to keep eliminating dollar amounts and either accepting a banker’s buy-out offer or rejecting it, hoping that the contestant’s case above held the $1-million. Click here for more details. Just keep in mind that as long as contestants opened cases on the left, the banker’s deal went up; and it went down whenever they opened cases on the right.
As well, the entire game was based on pure RANDOM chance. There was NO skill involved!
And, while Howie often spoke in terms of odds and probabilities, they were meaningless in the practical sense because, even had any contestants made it to the last two cases with the $1-million still in play, the chances of that $1-million being in THEIR case was 50-50, commonly referred to as a coin toss!
For example, in Deal or No Deal, there were 26-cases, but only one of them held a million dollars. So, the odds of opening the million-dollar case on a single pick out of 26 were 25:1 (25 to 1). The probability of picking that case was 1 divided by 26 (0.0385, or about 4 times out of 100-tries).
This all sounds great until you consider that a contestant had to open cases continually or accept a deal. So those odds/probabilities were changing significantly, mostly in the banker’s favor. But, the problem was that many contestants became disillusioned by the thought of impending riches instead of concentrating on randomness and its impact on expected outcomes.
Danny Dumbass—NOT his real name—had reached a point where ONLY 4-cases remained unopened. The amounts still in play were $750, $500,000, $750,000, and $1-million. The banker’s offer was $506,000!
And, while Howie pointed out the fact that there was one chance in four that Danny’s case held the $1-million, Danny was too glassy-eyed with financial lust and ignored the fact that there were THREE chances in four that his case did NOT hold the $1-million.
Some of His family members along with his best friend (all with him on stage) URGED him to refuse the deal because he still had three HUGE-valued cases left. “You can do this,” they screamed as though he had control over which cases held which amounts. “I’ve got your back,” his best friend yelled. And, so, Danny said… “NO DEAL!”
And, since he had refused the deal ($506-THOUSAND), he had to open one more case. I doubt, however, that he considered the fact that he was MORE likely to open a large-valued case on the right than he was to open the $750 case on the left simply because there were THREE amounts on the right and only ONE on the left.
Well, he opened the $1-million case. Moans filled the studio and the offer dropped to $334-thousand. He probably didn’t consider a diminished offer, either. “It’s OK,” they told him. “You still have two HUGE amounts left,” they said. He agreed and, once more, declared, “NO DEAL!”
Obviously, Danny had never heard of the “50-50-90” rule. The next case he picked contained $750-thousand. More studio moans! The offer dropped to $250-thousand. But, he didn’t take it. Instead, he gambled $250-thousand that his case contained $500-thousand. It didn’t; he went home with $750!
But, he was OK with it because, according to HIS warped logic, coming IN with nothing and LEAVING with nothing left him no worse off. Such thinking is rationalizing at its WORST and STUPIDITY squared!
Yes, he did come in with nothing. But, at one point, the banker had offered him $506-THOUSAND. It was HIS money; all he had to say was “DEAL.” But, HE! DID! NOT!
Deal or No Deal is about regression to the mean. Whenever you’re given a group of numbers from which you must randomly choose, the mean value of the group of numbers becomes crucial; that mean becomes the expected value (the most likely outcome over the long run).
The HIDDEN object of the game was to obtain a banker’s offer that was within 80- to 90% of the mean (expected value). Forget about winning the million dollars, a very remote likelihood. Instead, concentrate on figuring out the mean of the values that are left (Simply keep adding up the remaining values and divide by the number of cases still in play).
Contestants should have taken the deal whenever the banker’s offer was equal to the highest expected value for the remaining amounts or, at a minimum, within no less than about 85% of it.
Danny—and a host of others, I observed—didn’t do this. Such people not only ignore the “50-50-90” rule, they have no clue as to a sound definition for “WINNER!” Welcome to the Dumb Sh*ts Hall of Fame, Danny!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.