Why Good Gamblers Make Good Businessmen
Let’s start the story at the beginning. Sometime in 2005 I was on my way back home on a Thai Air flight from Jakarta to Heathrow, via Bangkok. In Bangkok I was joined by a casually dressed, youngish Englishman. One look told me he had some money because his clothes and shoes looked expensive, as was his seat on the plane. After a while we got talking. I told him what I did, he told me what he did. It turned out he was a professional gambler living in Thailand. I was immediately captivated by the glamour of his profession, he seemed keen to talk and while away the hours, I was keen to listen. So in the intervening 12 hours I got a pretty good insight into the life and strategies of a professional gambler.
Well, surprise surprise, it’s not all glamour and it’s not all luck. The man was a statistician by education, a former mathematics teacher of all things, who had turned a knowledge of statistics to his advantage in the arena of sports betting อนิเมะพากย์ไทย. The trick to making a profit in the longer term was, apparently, to have an ability to identify when the bookies have got the odds wrong. That’s when you place your bet. They don’t all come off, but the odds start slanting your way as opposed to the way of the bookie. Being able to identify when the odds were wrong involved a working knowledge of statistics, and a better knowledge of the event than the bookie appeared to have, and that usually involved some very painstaking research. He was based in Thailand because (he said) the bookies in South East Asia get the odds wrong more often than they do elsewhere. Makes sense.
So what were his strategies? Well, here are some that I can remember:
* Bet with a clear head. If you have a favourite team, leave it alone
* Avoid accumulator bets. With each accumulated event, the odds lurch further the way of the bookie
* Do your research. Pick, say, ten football teams a year and study them continually. Find out which games they tend to win, which they lose, which players appear to be key, injury situations etc. This will all give you a clear advantage over the lazier bookies
* Stick to sports you like and understand. You’ll have to study hard, but it will be easier for you if you happen to enjoy the game
* Steer clear of boxing
So what are the business lessons?
I thought about this for a while, and this is what I think, for what it’s worth. First, as a guiding principle, we should always accept that management decisions should wherever possible be based on hard facts and evidence. But we should also acknowledge that a lot of management information is both unknown and unknowable. Business, in other words, is one big lottery. Certainties are very rare, and for every success there is a failure. If all management information was knowable there would be a scientific formula to remove all elements of risk from the decision making process. But it isn’t and there isn’t. Just like the world of professional gambling, all decisions carry an inherent risk. Professional gamblers, good ones that is, don’t just accept risk, they understand it. They also accept occasional failure as an unavoidable fact of life. HOWEVER the most successful gamblers use as much Management Information as they can get their hands on to slant the odds their way.
That, I propose, is probably as close to an absolute definition of “Management Information”, its uses and limitations, that you’re ever likely to get.
As definitions go, it is a bit on the long side. Sorry about that, but hope it gives you some food for thought.
Shaun Sayers is managing director and founder of Capable People. Capable People is based in Durham, England, with partner offices in Pune and Chennai (India), Dubai, Karachi (Pakistan) and in Lagos and Port Harcourt (Nigeria).
Capable People specializes in management systems improvement, specifically in the areas of quality, occupational health & safety and environmental. Capable People is an IRCA registered training organization and offers several different IRCA registered auditor training courses within its portfolio.