There is a very common betting strategy called the Martingale — you can apply it to red/black on roulette, or blackjack, or any simple game with close to 50/50 odds – where, if the odds are truly 50/50 and you have infinite wealth, you will never lose. Unfortunately, the odds are never really 50/50, and nobody has infinite wealth… so, in the long run, you will actually always lose. And when you lose, it’ll be ugly.
Martingale is more commonly known as the strategy of doubling down, and here’s how it works: Say you’ve decided to bet red on roulette… so you bet 10. If you win, you’ve won 10. Now you bet another 10 and hopefully win again.
But if you lose, you bet 20. Now, when you win, you’ll not only win what you just bet, but you’ll also win back your original loss. And when you win, you can go back to betting 10.
If you lose again… well, now you have to bet 40… but, no worries, it’s 50/50 or whatever, it’s due to come in, etc. And with that bet of 40, you’ll win back everything you’ve already lost… right?
As we’ve learned, exponential growth gets ugly… in a hurry. 10/20/40/80/160/320/640… if you thought it can’t possibly come up black 7 times in a row, you’d be mistaken… it happens far more often than you think, and now you’re having to bet 1280 just to win back everything you’ve lost… and just to profit 10. Eventually you hit the casino limit. Eventually you run out of money.
So, no… doubling down doesn’t work, because there’s no finish line; because infinity is nobody’s version of a finish line. For whatever reason, people still tend to employ this strategy, and I’m not just talking about casino gambling. Today itself provided two examples.
One small example would be this morning’s Wall Street Journal editor defending the disgusting Jill-Biden-bashing piece that I wrote about yesterday. Instead of just apologizing for his appalling lack of judgement, he’s saying it’s no big deal, he’s blaming “team Biden” for the backlash and he’s accusing critics of playing the race card. He’s doubling-down on his mistake, and now he’ll appropriately face further backlash… to which the WSJ will respond with an apology, or, they’ll double-down again. There’s an ugly finish line to examples like that, depending how far they’re willing to take it. Eventually people start unsubscribing. Eventually they lose advertisers. And eventually, when they’ve shredded themselves into the ground, they meekly apologize.
Whatever the reason that prevents them from backing down… business decision, reputation concern, fragile ego… if they could simply admit when they’re wrong, that would be the end of it. But no, they double-down… and without a bottomless wallet of excuses to support their bad judgement, they eventually lose… and it’s much worse than it should have been.
Which leads us to the much bigger example of doubling-down to the point of insanity, and this one also hit the ugly end of the line today – and that is Donald Trump’s insistence that he’s won the election. Today, after numerous and continual double-downs of bullshit, he’s out of ammo with which to bet red. Now the electoral college has cast its votes, as expected, confirming Joe Biden. Now what?
I guess the equivalent would be the guy who’s been betting red on roulette all day and just watched a streak of 15 black show up. He’s out of cash, screaming and yelling that it’s not fair, and as he’s being dragged to the door by security, continues to scream he’s being robbed and denied the opportunity to win it all back.
It’s not altogether a bad analogy. The guy in both examples started with a bad premise, executed poor judgement, doubled-down on it for as long as he could… and will continue to blame, to whoever will listen, everyone else except himself for the outcome. Both deserve to be shown the door.
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