Statistical Edge: A Cut above the Rest

vincentI have repeatedly praised the effectiveness of the ADAPT program, and firmly backed the products of Coaching Actuaries. I personally believe that without purchasing ADAPT, I would not have passed my Probability test on the first try. That being said, I have been preparing for the Financial Math exam, and have been thinking a lot about the future. I have been particularly mystified by probability, even months after taking the Probability exam. I am amazed by this invisible force that continues to work in our world without any form of maintenance. It firmly supplies casinos across the world with regular revenue by simply relying on random numbers. When someone pulls on the handle of a one-armed bandit, odds dictate that losses will be greater than wins in the long run.

I used to regularly purchase lottery tickets, until I checked their odds and computed my chances of winning in an excel spreadsheet. I realized that lottery systems are not truly randomized in the same way that flipping a coin is with equal probability heads or tails. Lottery systems are designed to give an edge to their creators so that there is an average amount of money lost per ticket. If I purchase a $1 lottery scratcher ticket, I am expected to receive less than one dollar back on average. Prizes are designed with losses disguised as wins. In my own experience, I have purchased at least $100 or more $1 scratcher tickets. Not all of my purchased tickets were loser tickets, if they were I would have lost interest in playing the lottery altogether. No, some tickets yielded winnings of $10 and even $25, which is why I continued to play. With dollar signs covering my eyes I failed to realize that I was playing a losing game, I was blind to the fact that these small winnings still left me with less money that what I started with.

Most gambling games are a work of mathematics and psychology. Operant conditioning dictates that people are more likely to repeat a behavior when it is reinforced in a variable, rather than routine, schedule. The modern casino draws in a person psychologically, and maintains its bottom line mathematically. I have been on family trips to Las Vegas, and have caught a glimpse of the brightly lit slot machines and the felted card tables. I have seen people making demands to these cold steel machines that cheerfully absorb stacks of money only to produce insignificant returns. I have seen people slandering and even threatening card dealers because of the chain of poor cards being dealt to them. Why do most people in these establishments seem to be losing more money than they win?  Probability is the reason. “Nobody beats the House,” because the “House” has sharpened an invisible power of the universe into a point and turned it toward the checkbooks of all who enter.

Despite this ominous power, a small group of well-educated college students entered Las Vegas pointing this power back at the almighty “House”. In a battle of odds, they waged war on the card tables, playing with perfect strategy and precision. Eventually, the casinos became the ones losing and at the mercy of young men and women. How? Probability. No matter how big and established an institution is, it is still vulnerable to the unseen powers of the universe.

This is the purpose of an actuary. Companies will pay handsomely to ensure that they are backed by these powerful forces of mathematics. This is why we, the aspiring actuaries, labor for hours to hone our skills within the realm of finance to be called upon in the future like ancient oracles. Finally, this is where Coaching Actuaries comes in, their ADAPT program gives an advantage to users taking SOA/CAS exams so that they can reach that goal of being an awe inspiring actuary in whatever field they choose. In the same way that the casino has an edge over the average player, Coaching Actuaries gives the edge to the student against the SOA/CAS exams. In choosing between being an average test-taker, and a test taker with an edge, the choice is clear. Choose Coaching Actuaries.