A Conversation for Why you Lose at Roulette

Your amendments

Post 1


I'm the author of the piece, and it's my first submission for the Guide, so I don't know if I'm supposed to comment on your amendments, or if those amendments are negotiable. But supposing they are, you might like to consider the following points.

In the fifth paragraph, my final line originally read "including all the sub-sections of the Laws of Chance". The capitals were intended to evoke an imaginary and semi-mystical body of knowledge, some kind of malevolent god that every roulette player has to beware of. This is heightened by the preceding term "sub-sections". Your decision to remove the capitals diminishes the effect.

Your heading for the next paragraph, "Outwitting Statistical Certainty" (for some reason it's twice the size of the other headings), simply reproduces word-for-word a phrase from the opening sentence, with only four words separating the two instances. The effect is one of galumphing repetition. If you think a heading is needed for the paragraph, I would suggest something like "Bending the Arithmetic".

You have also amended the first sentence in a way which is damaging to the meaning. My original reads "Well, are there ways of outwitting statistical certainty? Why, yes. These are called 'systems'". My choice of words for the reply to my own question is intended to convey irony bordering on sarcasm. There is no way of outwitting statistical certainty, as my investigation subsequently shows. But you have replaced my formulation with a single flat statement, "There are ways of outwitting statistical certainty", which conveys no hint that the statement is false. I suggest you restore the original to preserve the meaning. Note also the first word of the question, "well", is not a dead word that can be cut out. It's a word that someone uses to prefix a question when they are standing hand-on-hips and addressing an imaginary circle of listeners. And that was my purpose in using it. It makes a contribution to the ironic tone of voice. In fact, now I think about it, I would like to go further and make a change of punctuation. I would like it to read "Well - are there ways..." Changing the comma for a dash gives us an even bigger pause before the question arrives.

The next paragraph, with your added header "Martingale System", originally opened with a sentence, "Now then, the Martingale System is the least regarded..." Your version has the first two words removed, presumably on the grounds that they are dead words. There seems to be a belief amongst your editors that dead words can be identified just by keeping a list of old favourites and scanning any sentence to see if they contain them. That is not how you spot dead words. A line like "hopping on one foot like a shot-put thrower" (Norman Mailer) can be compressed to "hopping like a shot-putter", not because there is anything wrong with words like "foot" and "thrower" but because any information they contain is already covered by other words in the sentence. A dead word is one that makes no contribution. However, there is more to writing than conveying surface meaning. There is also something called "tone of voice" by which the writer steers the reader into reading a sentence or paragraph in a particular way. My words "now then" are intended to pre-empt any objections that choosing the Martingale system for analysis is shooting at a sitting duck. Those words serve the function of a call to attention. It means that I am expecting objections, but that I will justify what I'm doing in due course. "Now then" means "bear with me".

The final heading, added by you, "Why Do Casinos still Run Then?" (which is missing a comma) has an unfortunate effect on the meaning. The first paragraph of that section begins with this sentence: "Because in truth there is no system". It is a continuation, and conclusion, of the previous paragraph. But by inserting an interrogatory heading, it appears to be an answer to a question. "Why do casinos still run, then? Because in truth there is no system". It's nonsense. There should not in any case be a heading there at all. To introduce one is to break up the flow of the argument that carries forward from the paragraph above. If you think the piece needs another heading somewhere, it should be at the last paragraph, something like "The Eternal Winners".

The one-line penultimate paragraph originally read "Final result over a year: you lose 1/37 of your money." This is a direct conclusion to the paragraph immediately above. It is a sentence telling you where all progression systems finally lead. So I don't know why it was thought fit to re-write it as "Remember, though, that the final result...." since the fact has only just been deduced. The only thing that the reader is expected to "remember" is that the same thing applied to "flat-betting" - i.e, bets with no progression - a few paragraphs earlier. But there is no need to say so. It is fresh enough in the mind for the fraction "1/37" to ring an immediate bell. Bearing that in mind, the sentence as I wrote it tells the reader clearly: with or without progressions, the result is the same. Your emendation only serves to obscure that message.

Your amendments

Post 2


Hallo Ketman... great article, and I suggest you don't worry too much about the changes. Anyone who's interested in the article will read your posts as well - and the editors will get around to fixing it sometime soon.

One thing which comes to mind is that the fourth paragraph about luck could be a lot less cumbersone if it included a little more maths... hmm... perhaps add that every time you quadrouple the number of tries, the standard deviation is halved... and add a footnote to the effect that the standard deviation is a measure of how spread out the results are, and you can expect to find about two thirds of the results within one standard deviation of the mean.

Hmm, maybe that doesn't read better, ah well. It could be nice to have something more concrete in there, though.

Anyway. Thanks for a good read!


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