Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2012

NFL Lowdown: Week 8

After all the gags, I talk about the Gambler's Fallacy at the end. That is always good for some heated discussion here at FO!

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 26 Oct 2012

54 comments, Last at 03 Apr 2013, 2:19am by Cathedralplumbing


by dryheat :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 8:13am

You know, I saw some things on TV or just from afar that I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

So apparently the Saints' coaches don't review game film. That, more than anything, might be a reason for their slow start.

by DGL :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 9:29am

It's been a while since a discussion of the gambler's fallacy, so I knew we were due for one.

by Bobman :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:13pm

Awesome. Me too. In fact, I had money riding on it. Made me a sweet profit. Now, where to spend that buck....

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 10/28/2012 - 11:40am


by DavidL :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 9:32am

I call dibs on "Shelby the Political Correctness Turtle" for the next round of Loser League.

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 10:40am

F U Tainer my Seahawks are going to win 7π to -7e^2πi

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:04am

Isn't -7e^2πi just -7? That's almost more implausible than scoring 7π points. Although if any team could do it, it would be the Seahawks.

by Dean :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 12:12pm

How did ^π get factored out?

by jimbohead :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:29pm

e^2pi*i = 1

for reference: http://xkcd.com/179/

by MJK :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 4:35pm

You guys need to either embed LaTeX code in your posts, or use some parentheses. What your wrote expands to -7 * (e^2) * 2 * pi * i, which is decidedly NOT just 7 (or -7). It's both complex and irrational, like this particular thread. :-)

by jimbohead :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:10pm

man, I would love it if we could embed latex on here. Doesn't that require a site-wide plugin though? how much whining do you think it would take for us to get Schatz and co. to implement?

by armchair journe... :: Sun, 10/28/2012 - 10:42am

Being neither a mathmatician nor a programmer, the idea of "embedding latex" imparts a decidedly different image then what I believe you all have intended..


by Insancipitory :: Sun, 10/28/2012 - 11:56am

Catholic Match Girl no doubt frowns on your shenanigans as she forgives them.

by RickD :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 9:21pm

If you see e^2pi i, that invariably means e^(2 * pi *i). This term is central to complex analysis. (e^2)*2 * pi * i doesn't have any natural meaning.

We can thank Euler for the formula e^(ix) = cos x + i sin x. (Obviously you know that.)

Part of the reason that the parentheses are unnecessary when mathematicians are talking to each other is because you don't ordinarily do mulitplication in a formula after you do exponentiation. The standard form is (coeff)e^(exponents).

And yeah, this convention would fail with LaTeX (which demands parentheses, by which I mean brackets). Do people still use LaTeX? I haven't used it in a long, long time.

by DGL :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 9:44pm

My college roommate was a math major and said that if he ever ended up teaching math, he would hope to get a job in Houston so he could start a high school math team and call them the Houston Eulers.

by jamie_k74 :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 11:09pm


by BlueStarDude :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 10:47am

Mike, I'll grant you that a narrow victory over the Panthers is nothing to crow about, but if the Panthers are so bad why pick them to win last week?

It's funny, I don't think you've picked the Cowboys all season but you have them losing only by 1 to the Giants this Sunday. I figure they'll lose by about 30 (say 40-13).

by Ryan D. :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:22am

I think it's fair to assume that Mike didn't know that the Panthers were going to have to beat the Cowboys AND the refs in the final three minutes.

by erniecohen :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:30am

On my browser (IE 10), the article says that red as coming up on the 83rd spin. However, when I copied and pasted, it showed correctly as the 27th spin. (82 straight black would almost certainly indicate cheating.) The article should be fixed up.

Quoting from the article,

"By the time red came up, on the 27th spin, a few intrepid gamblers made a tidy sum, but dozens of others were wiped out, and the house made millions on the Gambler’s Fallacy, a false belief that a streak of good luck must somehow quickly even itself out."

I don't understand why a few intrepid gamblers made a tidy sum. The odds don't change according to how other people bet. If the intrepid gamblers were betting on red, they would have been busted long before the 27th spin, and if they were betting black, they would have busted on the 27th spin. In any event, no intrepid gambler would have made out because of the Gambler's Fallacy.

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 12:07pm

Well, if someone came in only a few spins before red came up, and they kept raising their bets after each loss, they may have gotten lucky and made a profit.

Alternatively, if they were betting black and trying to ride the hot streak, perhaps they kept their bets steady, so finally losing on the 27th spin wouldn't matter.

by dryheat :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:02pm

Since red/black only pays 2-1, Nobody made a tidy sum unless they picked the right time to put an irrational amount of money on a coin flip. Anybody who kept betting on red because it was "due" would have -- at best broke even -- and that's assuming they had a bankroll to keep doubling their bet over and over again to get back to even.

by Not Verified (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:35pm

If you keep doubling then quit once you win, then you end up winning your initial bet amount.

by dryheat :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:54pm

Yes, bad mistake on my part. Still don't know who wins a tidy sum other than a guy whose initial bet was a tidy sum on a coin flip.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 2:03pm

The guys who bet on black 28 times?

by Dean :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 2:10pm

Always bet on black.

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 3:39pm

Except when taxes are on the line.

by Theo :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:41pm

Starting off with one dollar, to win that 1 dollar, you'd have to bet 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 all the way to 67108864 on the 27th and 134217728 on the 28th spin.
So no, they would have won only the large sum of their original bet, having to bet ridiculous amounts in the process.

by Eddo :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 5:56pm

To be pedantic, red/black pays 1-1.

by Theo :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:33pm

"few intrepid gamblers made a tidy sum."
Just like on almost every spin at the roulette table...

by RickD :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 9:29pm

"it showed correctly as the 27th spin. (82 straight black would almost certainly indicate cheating.)"

So...27 blacks in a row is possible, but 82 isn't?

I'm always curious about what the minimum level of improbability is. [This comes up in discussions of "intelligent design," but I digress.]

It's easy to understand how people made a "tidy sum." Two ways come to mind. First, you'd have gamblers riding the "hot streak," doubling up every time, who reach some point where they decided to cash in their chips and walk away. I personally would do that if I had 2^20 dollars from an initial $1 bet. I wouldn't insist on turning that million (roughly) into a billion.

The other way a person could make a "tidy sum" is by playing the "double your bet until you win" strategy. It's a great way to gamble if you have an endless supply of money. In practice, it's a terrible way to gamble.

by tuluse :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 12:23am

Casinos also have max bets to stop people from doing that.

by William :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:44am

Too lazy to link an account over at SOE, but that's not a Packer executive being quoted there saying '42-7'. Bob McGinn interviews executives and scouts from across the league. Usually he'll indicate AFC/NFC exec/scout, and will always mention Packer personnel as being such.

by jw124164 :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:46am

The Steelers-Skins section was comedy gold.

by Bobman :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 1:10pm

Typical Tanier gold: "as a Titans lineman, he will have 100 percent responsibility for Chris Johnson’s failures and some marginal impact on his successes." So true.

I understand the crowd will be so loud in London this week, that the coin toss conversation will go like this:
Bradford: Is this Wembley?
Brady: No, I think it's Thursday.
Brady: Me too, let's get a beer after the game.

(stolen from PG Wodehouse)

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 2:37pm

Raiders 34, Chiefs 10

B. Quinn going to be pummeled. By rlelentless Raiders sack attack

by akn :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:21pm

If I kept getting attacked in the sack I'd feel pretty pummeled myself.

by Marko :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 6:26pm

Did anyone else notice how many games he predicted would end up something like 22-21, 22-20, 23-20, 24-21, etc.? In fact, he had two games as 22-21.

by kyleawest :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 6:38pm

Tanier hit one of my pet peeves this week. England and Britain are not the same country.

by RickD :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 9:37pm

He doesn't specifically say that England and Britain are the same. It's just that at one point he's talking about the English and the next he's talking about the Brits.

He could say (mapping England -> New York and British -> American)
"New York’s fascination with the NFL began, and for most of the nation’s population ended, with the 1985 Bears. Colorful stars like Jim McMahon and William “The Refrigerator” Perry introduced Americans to a brash, blustery version of the sport, and the Bears became international heroes when they crushed the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. So while many American fans know a great deal about the modern-era Patriots..."

Of course that would be awkward. Probably a good editor would want either "England/English" everywhere or "Britain/British" everywhere.

For what it's worth, "English" would be preferred. The English refer to themselves as the English, not as British. "British" is just a fake word to collectively refer to three populations (English, Scottish, and Welsh) that really don't want to be referred to collectively for the most part.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 10:56pm

"For what it's worth, "English" would be preferred. The English refer to themselves as the English, not as British. "British" is just a fake word to collectively refer to three populations (English, Scottish, and Welsh) that really don't want to be referred to collectively for the most part."

Well then perhaps they should disband that whole U.K. thing...

by dryheat :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 8:04am

It looks like Scotland may do just that -- assuming a pullout of the UK necessitates a removal from Great Britain. Which I suppose will leave a Good Britain behind.

by Moon Hippo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 7:56pm

Scotland is pretty cool, so it may even be Below Average Britain after they leave :)

by Marko :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 11:37pm

Apart from the whole England/Britain thing, is this even factually correct? I know that the Bears (especially the Fridge) were a big deal in England, but I thought that was only because they played in the first American Bowl (against the Cowboys) in Wembley Stadium in the preseason in 1986. That was a little bit more than 6 months after their Super Bowl XX victory.

Did a lot of people in England watch the Bears' Super Bowl demolition of the Patriots? Or did they become a sensation only because they played in the American Bowl after they won the Super Bowl? I thought it was the latter and that part of the fascination with the Bears was that people in England had never seen anyone like the Fridge before. If that's the case, then people in England didn't know much about the 1980s Patriots, which would make the premise of his paragraph about the Patriots historically inaccurate.

by tuluse :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 12:34am

It sucks when facts get in the way of a decent, well average, joke.

by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:31am

I consider myself to be both English and British. I know several Welsh and Scottish people who also consider that they have a dual national identity. I also know folks who don't regard themselves as British at all and some other people with family from all over who feel pretty British. When talking football/soccer or rugby nobody is British and there is plenty of jingoism for all.

It's the Irish that really dislike being called British and even then some of the Unionist population of Northern Ireland regard themselves as British over Irish. You also get 'British' people in Gibraltar and on the Falkland islands. It is, to be frank, a bit of a mess, which is kind of typical of the way much of British/UK society is organised.

by MJK :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 10:39pm

England is the term for a formerly independent kingdom that is now part of (one of the members of) the United Kingdom. It is a political designation.

Great Britain is the island that happens to contain (most of) England, Wales, and Scotland. It is a geographic entity, not a political one.

So a person can be both English and British. In fact, almost everyone (except for those English from the non-Great Britain islands that are part of England) that is English is also British.

It's analogous to the fact that most of us are both "Americans" (i.e. citizens of the political entity "United States of America") and also "North Americans" (i.e. residents of the continent "North America").


by Theo :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:27pm

I just received NHL94 for the Super Nintendo, now THAT is a good sports game.

Someone tell Mike they have working TVs outside of the US. We have seen the Patriots change.

Teacher's fallacy: not all the math and logic in the world can overcome the stupidity of a gambler.

by akn :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 7:28pm

When Tanier was writing previews for the NY Times, he came off as a sportswriter trying to be a comedian, and it worked quite well.

These days, his previews feel much more like a comedian trying to be a sportswriter, and it doesn't seem to work nearly as well.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 8:53pm

He's more serious with his other articles on sportsonearth.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 12:26pm

I agree with this. I think his NYT previews did a good job of interspersing humor with bits of analysis, while the SOE previews have no analysis and are just a series of gags based around some news story for each team. A lot of them are funny, but the humor worked better when it was mixed with some genuine insight about the games.

by Michael LaRocca (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2012 - 8:45pm

So if David Wilson fumbles one out of every 10 balls he touches, and he's fumbled three times in a row, the Gambler's Fallacy would indicate he shouldn't be benched because the odds are so... No, wait, that's why John Fox never benched Jake Delhomme for throwing five interceptions before the National Anthem was done. (Why yes, I do live in Charlotte. How ever did you guess?)

by Israel P. (not verified) :: Sun, 10/28/2012 - 9:19am

Gamblers' Fallacy? Bob Prince called it "Hidden Vigorish."

by Jerry :: Mon, 10/29/2012 - 2:28am

The Gunner probably wasn't allowed to mention gamblers.

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