Can the Race Track or The Lottery be beaten?

These and other questions about gambling are explored in The Monkeybars of Life.

In chapter-1, Ernest DuPree tells a group of speculators:  “The Daily Racing Form is all that’s needed to review each horse’s past performances and then to reduce the Value-Field to no more than three contenders. Once these contenders are identified, you only need to wait for the odds to be in your favor and then you bet all contenders. The spread guarantees a return on your money most of the time.”

Moving around the table, Ernest continued, “Now, don’t be mistaken – handicapping horse races is like gambling. You are guaranteed to lose some time. Most people lose most of the time. Some fools lose all the time. A few people win most of the time. Nobody wins all the time. But a black man who knows what he’s doing, can make just as much money as anybody on any day or night at the track.”

Back at the head of the table, Ernest flipped the chart page and drew a huge dollar sign and a percentage sign. “Right here, tonight, I’m going to show you how you can minimize your losses and maximize your wins. You can start taking notes if you want.””

In chapter-7 Douglas begs Nate to write a computer program for the illegal lottery.
“What about a TRS-80 Model-II?” Douglas asked.
“What about it?”
“Could you do the numbers program on it?”
Nate rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “Doug, any computer can crunch numbers. But, it would take a very long time for some of them to run a program like the one you want.”
Douglas poured more coffee. “Think about what it would mean. We’d have enough money to do whatever we want.”
Douglas spoke softly, “You could finish your Gamma engine.”
“Douglas. Douglas!” Nate grabbed his brother’s arm, “You have got to get it through your head that, even if we find patterns in the past, it won’t mean they will be the same in the future.”
Douglas looked his brother in the eyes, “And you’ve got to get it through your head that I KNOW patterns repeat every year. I’ve seen it too many times.”

When Douglas showed up with an old Radio Shack computer, Nate got started programming the numbers project. The work went fast since he had already thought the project through. He created an input screen for the user to specify what dates to be analyzed. The program, then, sorted all the numbers that came out during the time period and displayed the frequency of their occurrence.

For weeks, two of Douglas’ girlfriends had been recording lotto numbers onto diskettes. So, Nate and Douglas tested the program with the data they had. The results convinced Douglas that the program could not make predictions; his disappointment was obvious.

“Nate, what would it take for a program to make predictions? And don’t say it’s impossible; they do it with the weather every day.”
Nate laughed, “Okay, there are neural-network programs that can find patterns and make predictions. But their results are only a probability – not a certainty.”
Douglas’s eyes bulged behind his glasses. “How much is the cheapest one of those programs?”
“There’s one called BrainMaker that sells for $200”, Nate said “But it might take weeks to run it on that old Radio Shack computer.”
Douglas put his hand on Nate’s shoulder, “You just tell me what you need and I’ll find a way to get it.”
Nate wrote the name of the software company, and then said, “And the fastest PC you can get.”

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