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  The Only Two Shows in Town

Coin Flip

Head or tails? There are, when it comes down to it just two types of bet. Perhaps, it would be more correct to say that there are two poles that mark the two extremes of gambling. But irrespective of how cutely we sum it up, it still boils down to the same thing. There are, fundamentally, just two types of bet.

By identifying each we can begin to grasp what it is that makes gambling such an entertaining and absorbing activity. Here is how it breaks down.

The Calculation of Certainty
On the one hand there is mathematic calculation. At this end of the scale, it is a matter of weighting the likelihood of an outcome against the relative risk and reward equation involved in a bet on (or against) that outcome. Taken to its logical extreme, this is not a matter of gambling at all. Counter-intuitively, this is precisely the logic of the professional gambler.

Such cold blooded calculations are simply a matter of assessing where the generative margin lies. The full weight of this rationale emerges as soon as we turn the tables and see the picture from the bookmakers’ side of the table. There are numbers, there are margins and there are customers’ cash - everything else is merely a matter of scale.

A Certain Sort of Feeling...
At the other end of the argument is the surrender of rationality in the pursuit of profit from an entirely unpredictable outcome. Whether that takes place in the formal setting of a lottery or in a sporting environment, the ‘logic’ applies equally

There are only degrees of certainty involved. Greater leverage can be achieved in, for example backing the bigger and better teams in the UEFA competitions, or betting with a fixed odds bookmaker such as Ladbrokes, rather than simply picking a series of numbers, as in a typical Lottery.

The range of uncertainty may thus be controlled to a degree - Real Madrid are more certain to deliver than any sequence of six digits, but that uncertainty can never be fully quantified. There are simply too many variables and too much uncertainty in play.

The peculiar logic of this applies in those cases were even though we know the odds are against us, we are still happy to invest. Playing slots or roulette - whatever the reliance of chance when it comes to making a profit - we know that over the course of the piece the house will always win.

How it Works
The logic that leads us to engage in these activities is, in fact, the opposite of logic as we would ordinarily understand it. It is that sort of convoluted Alice in Wonderland thinking that makes understanding precisely what is going on in a gaming scenario all the more important. Breaking things down into their elemental, polar forms is one way to be able to see how that works.

The bounce of a ball, like the spin of a wheel and the toss of a coin will always be unpredictable. The range of outcomes may be fixed or it may not: you can do the math or you can simply back your gut. Most of the time we do a bit of both, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there are - when we break it down to bare essentials - only two types of bet: we could call them gambles and investments.

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