Lady Luck

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Lady Luck: The Birth of the Friendly or Fickle Friend of Every Gambler

By Charles L Harmon

Let’s set the stage for a new kind of mathematics yet to be discovered back in its day. We’ll call it the mathematical theory of probability or it’s also known as Lady Luck for our purposes concerning gambling. For gamblers, it seems like she has been around forever, and in a sense that’s true, but her origins in mathematics were not known.

Investigating the matter further, her rather informal debut can generally be pinpointed to a set of circumstances, meetings, letters and writings, over 350 years ago, in 1654.

The setting was France in the town of Poitou and also the court of Paris. That’s where a distinguished French gentleman, Antoine Gombaud, Chevalier de Mere, Sieur de Baussay lived and spent much time. People admired his philosophical skill, his advice on subtle matters, and assuredly he had a charming personality to go along with it.

Of course, like most well off gentlemen of that time and place he would drop by the gambling rooms every so often where his inquisitive mind would have him busy trying to figure out answers as to why certain things occurred when rolling dice.

try this quizDe Mere was puzzled by why it wasn’t favorable to the house (place of gambling) to bet the player would throw at least one double six (six showing on both dice) in twenty four throws of the pair of dice.

Why, – it conflicted with his theoretical results. His results differed somewhat from a very old gamblers rule. That rule purported to tell the critical number of trials or throws where the odds changed from adverse to favorable.

It gets rather tricky to explain here in writing, but the end result was a conflict between the gamblers old rule and the actual odds or occurrence of double sixes occurring within twenty four throws of the dice. Some think, to de Mere’s dismay, he found this out the hard way.

It would take too many throws of the dice to solve the problem empirically and the gamblers rule, so de Mere consulted with Blaise Pascal, another Frenchman, at sort of a house party, as to whether or not he was right.

Pascal, among other things, was a mathematician. He solved the problem put to him by de Mere and proved the odds were slightly against the house if it wagered on 24 throws, but were slightly favorable for 25 throws of the dice.

Pascal also solved another harder and more significant problem proposed to him by de Mere, an old, famous problem that was so far unsolved. In English it was called the division problem or the “problem of points.”

Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.
John Dewey

Expressing it in everyday language – How should the prize money be divided among contestants if it proved necessary to call off a game, contest, or tournament before it was finished when the contestants had only “partial” scores?

Pascal introduced that it should depend on the probability that this particular player would win the game – if it were carried to its normal conclusion. He worked out in detail, with examples, how the probability of winning could be calculated from knowledge of the nature of the game and partial score of each contestant.

Pascal wrote about these matters to another famous Frenchman, Pierre de Fermat, who had a great reputation as a mathematician and was a distinguished jurist at Toulouse. The resulting exchange of letters went further in working out the mathematics of chance and became well known in the learned society of their day.

Within a short time the young Dutch genius, Christiaan Huygens came to Paris to discuss these problems and solutions. This helped to rapidly advance interest and activity in the new field of probability.

The results of which were so highly advanced over any previous thinking about probability that the whole sequence of events can be regarded as the real start of the mathematical theory of probability. Thus in the highly fashionable, but somewhat disreputable atmosphere of gambling rooms of the seventeenth century was the birth of Lady Luck.

Copyright © Charles L Harmon


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Lady and Superstition

Lady Luck and Superstition


Once in a while you hear something about Lady Luck. In fact if you are around gamblers a lot you might hear her name mentioned frequently. Here is a question about Lady Luck when it comes to sports. Yes Lady Luck is not only associated with gambling.


Question about Lady Luck

Jenny asks…

Does lady luck really love the Indianapolis Colts or what?

The only team, that gets as lucky as the Indianapolis Colts as far as having the referees cheat for them, is the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Jaguars suck.

Luvli Mystii answers:

You’re calling out the Colts and Jaguars, and you hate the Titans. I’m going to guess you’re a Texans fan? I wanted them to be in the playoffs actually, I think they’ll get it next year.

I don’t think it was badly called, there were a couple bad ones in my opinion but then again I don’t agree with a lot of calls in a given weekend of football.

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  1. Reynaldo Heuwinkel

    Thanks for making the effort to line all this out for people. This particular post ended up being quite useful to me.

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