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Weighing odds is in our DNA

Cup Match: crown and anchor (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The odds of winning or losing have existed since humans walked the Earth.

It was an absolute in the prehistoric game of life where any event could turn into a no-choice betting decision. One surmises that our ancestral innate survival instincts, say in the quest for food in the face of clear danger, had to routinely weigh the odds in nanoseconds.

Will I eat or be eaten? Will I win or lose?

Sequentially, in archaeological discoveries of ancient civilisations the first gambling entertainment in the form of primitive six-sided dice was discovered in Mesopotamia (today comprising Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey). Long before the sophistication of the written word or currency, winners were paid in land, property, or substantive goods.

The Romans held lotteries, bet on numerous games designed for entertainment fun, along with chariot races, and the legendary fierce gladiator and gladiatrix (yes) duels. We know how those ended: win or lose, live or die.

Through the following millenniums, worldwide various other forms of popular gambling entertainment arrived: lotto, dominoes, playing cards and poker, fighting animals, horse racing along with the gambling houses and casinos to host the sport.

It has been a popular recreational activity in both US and the UK for centuries. The Queen of England, Elizabeth I, herself chartered a lottery that was drawn in 1569.

And here in Bermuda, we can experience the traditional crown and anchor, again a six-sided dice game, attributed to the English navy from the 18th century.

Gambling is intertwined with its close cousin – calculated risk-taking.

The first, gambling, is impulsive, can be addictive, entertaining and emotionally satisfying – if you win.

The second, risk-taking represents the reasoned ability by those mathematically inclined among us, to calculate the odds of winning.

Today, statistical probability modelling is a universal tool in the management of commercial and personal risk and insurance, the largest industry in the world.

Gambling has changed dramatically from the traditional roll of the dice – hoping they will tumble favourably; the rotation of the numbered balls in a lottery machine; the total population buzz participating in casino slots; the shuffling of the cards, the inscrutable faces deliberately not revealing “tells” in a high-stakes poker games; the old-fashioned bookie publicising odds and accepting bets.

Online gaming, around for a couple of decades, has seen explosive growth in the last few years, partly attributed to Covid-19 isolation and restrictions along with increased sophisticated internet delivery and applications.

Clever marketing makes the allure of the win dangerously persuasive, while it becomes a so very comfortable choice. Nothing like sitting around in your jammies, matching your poker strategies anonymously, or placing a few wagers on popular sports competitors.

You’re not betting, you’re participating in the success of your favourite sports team where all the statistics are displayed and updated in nanoseconds.

You can use virtual reality gaming where you can be an avatar to mimic a favourite player. Who wouldn’t want to pretend to be a famous athlete competing against other famous athlete avatars?

Join an online gaming club, share opinions and statistics, develop new friendships, belong to an exclusive community of like-minded sports-odds players.

Sportscasters, shame on them, blatantly encourage you to gamble on performance of your golf, baseball, football, etc, idol of the day.

I truly suspect that they have no choice. Sponsorships, advertising, and possible influencing the marketing of these service/products is there.

Artificial intelligence is employed to streamline opening and access to bank accounts, credit cards, even in specialised internet sites one can game in cryptocurrency.

All these scenarios heighten the physical and mental stimulation of the prospect of winning big-time, becoming rich.

The choices are endless. Today, you can bet on just about almost anything including war and politics.

The excitement can be intense. And in the pursuit of the win, it can become all too easy to run up a credit card bill, or diminish a bank account.

Much like the sheer pleasure of spending money on wants, gambling also stimulates the production of dopamine, the pleasure centre in our brains.

Some become addicted to that “rush”, the release of dopamine, the feeling of euphoria and cannot stop. Whether they win, or lose, does not matter; they will gamble continuously seeking to experience that next high that can resemble the response to a drug just like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin.

Fortunately, most of us will choose to enjoy in a small monetary way that momentary pleasure of winning and then move on.

Finally, besides commercial business interests, betting profits are used for the public good when distributed by non-profit operations of governments to communities.

Read how Jerry and Marge used their maths skills to win $26 million in lotteries, then distributed the winnings to benefit their community. It is a feel good amazing story of one couple working the system legitimately to benefit the many.

Lottery profits, particularly, are used for supporting public education, infrastructure, waste water treatment plants, bridges and roads.

More Bermuda road commentary next week focusing on the largest reader response ever recorded for one of my articles.

• The first six steps of Bermuda’s First Financial Literacy Primer, The Dawn of New Beginnings: Your Back-to-Basics Financial Review to Dramatically Improve Your Lifestyle, is now available for free PDF and podcast download and at Bermuda Bermy Island Finance Blog at https://marthamyron.com/, listed under Illuminations.

This is a new project. Kindly let me know if you cannot access or download a file!


North America Online Gambling Market Report 2023: Increasing Adoption of internet and internet-Based Devices Supports Growth

Wikipedia: Gambling

Roman Gambling – Gladiators, Chariots & Gambling in Rome

Crown and Anchor – How to Play, Chances and Payouts,

Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermuda islander with US connections, a presenter, author, finance columnist, YouTube creator and a former international financial planner with a Master of Laws in International Taxation and Financial services. Further information contact: martha.myron@gmail.com

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Published August 05, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated August 07, 2023 at 8:10 am)

Weighing odds is in our DNA

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