Kucharski’s book, which necessarily oversimplifies an extremely complex subject, is no cure for that ignorance, but gamblers...

THE PERFECT BET

HOW SCIENCE AND MATH ARE TAKING THE LUCK OUT OF GAMBLING

A lucid yet sophisticated look at the mathematics of probability as it’s played out on gaming tables, arenas, and fields.

Scissors cut paper, rock smashes scissors, paper covers rock: we all know the game, and some of us have a sense of when to play which of the three choices. Game theory, writes Kucharski (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), would hold that the optimal strategy is simply to choose randomly, by which you would come out even in the long term. However, most of us are more predictable than that: if we win with rock over scissors, then we’ll choose rock next time. We may shift our strategies, but we’re not playing randomly—and in any event, Kucharski observes, “the irony is that even truly random sequences can contain seemingly nonrandom patterns.” Sure, card counting works to some extent, but most mathematical behavior is a kind of learned guesswork and a lot of hunch playing. The author doesn’t reveal secrets of winning so much as he looks at the myriad ways the math is working against us. “Finding a biased roulette wheel,” he notes by way of example, “isn’t the same as finding a profitable one,” but even so, finding a roulette wheel that “churns out numbers that are uniformly distributed” generally requires collecting a vast body of information about that wheel, something that computers are better at doing than people. The same is true at the parimutuel racetrack, the boxing ring, and every other venue for wagering: having sufficient information is key to making any sort of bet that isn’t a mere stab in the dark. Even the most seasoned of bettors is thus usually to be found somewhere along what mathematicians call Poincaré’s third level of ignorance.

Kucharski’s book, which necessarily oversimplifies an extremely complex subject, is no cure for that ignorance, but gamblers and math buffs alike will enjoy it for its smart approach to real-world problems.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-05595-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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