SKEPTIC: You’re uncommonly cheerful for a Monday. You must’ve had a heckuva vacation.
BELIEVER: Cue the theme from “Rocky.” You’re looking at a winner!
SKEPTIC: What did you win?
BELIEVER: This man has finally developed a system and Vegas is finally paying off.
SKEPTIC: Well, hello high roller. Hit it lucky on the craps table?
BELIEVER: Nope. Slot machines.
SKEPTIC: Ah, three in a row on the one-armed bandit. Lucky you.
BELIEVER: Yeah, I guess they used to have arms. Now you just stick in a card and hit a button. Much more modern. Very scientific—you should appreciate that.
SKEPTIC: So, the casinos have figured out the same thing as the credit card companies—you don’t think you’re spending as much when it isn’t real money. It’s just plastic, after all. That way you play a lot faster, too. So why exactly do you think they call these rip-off machines “bandits?”
BELIEVER: Hah! Now I’m the bandit. I’ve got a “system.”
SKEPTIC: Oh? A system, huh? You know what surprises me about Las Vegas?
SKEPTIC: That they’re still in business.
BELIEVER: Why do you say that?
SKEPTIC: Because every gambler I know always talks about all the money they’ve won. Charlie told me last week he won six hundred bucks. Cindy said she won a fifteen hundred. How much did you win?
BELIEVER: As crabby as you are, I’m surprised anyone talks to you at all. Cindy won fifteen hundred? Wow! I’m going to have to find out her system. I’m happy I took in twelve hundred.
SKEPTIC: Okay, I’ll bite—what’s your system?
BELIEVER: Promise you won’t tell?
SKEPTIC: I promise.
BELIEVER: If the casinos figure it out, I might get banned.
SKEPTIC: As you might put it, cross my heart and hope to die.
BELIEVER: Okay. It’s my hot and cold system.
SKEPTIC: Sounds like a treatment for a twisted ankle.
BELIEVER: Nope. I did research, you gotta appreciate that.
SKEPTIC: Data is good.
BELIEVER You see they got a whole bunch of quarter machines lined up and instead of diving in, I just watched for a while.
BELIEVER: And after a while you start to see patterns. Most of the machines pay out about as much as you put in. I skip those. How can you make money on those machines? But once in a while one of them starts payin’ out big-time. I even saw a guy draw a crowd. I never saw nuthin’ like it! It was rainin’ money on this dude.
SKEPTIC: Lemme guess. He leaves and you grab his machine, right?
BELIEVER: No! Hah! Got you! You think you’re so smart! No, I go to the other kind of machine. I go to the “ice-cold” machine. Here’s my logic.
SKEPTIC: There’s logic in here?
BELIEVER: Shut up. I figure the hot machine is all tapped out. I figure it’s the cold machine that’s just groanin’ with cash, ready to vomit it up to whatever lucky guy is standin’ there, and—ka-ching!—I make sure that someone is me.
SKEPTIC: Obviously, you never heard of the Monte Carlo Fallacy?
BELIEVER: What’s that? Some new James Bond flick?
SKEPTIC: No, also known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, related to the “Law of Averages.”
BELIEVER: You know more laws than a lawyer. Quit the secret code. What are you talking about?
SKEPTIC: Lemme give you an example.
BELIEVER: Oh great, here comes the lesson.
SKEPTIC: You told me to shut up, now you shut it. If you flip a coin and you get 5 heads in a row, what are the chances that you get another head?
BELIEVER: Sounds like a lucky coin. Probably another head.
SKEPTIC: Nope. Guess again.
BELIEVER: Oh, I get it, sort of like the slot machine, you’re due for a tail, right?
SKEPTIC: Nope again.
BELIEVER: Well, you gotta get one of them.
SKEPTIC: Precisely, and it don’t matter if you get twenty heads in a row, the likelihood of getting one more head is exactly fifty percent.
BELIEVER: What if you get fifty heads?
SKEPTIC: Very unlikely, but it’s still the same. They call it the Monte Carlo Fallacy, because a hundred years ago black came up a barely believable twenty six times in a row. Drew a huge crowd of gamblers all betting like you that it had to hit red. In the end the casino made millions of Francs.
BELIEVER: Well, I wasn’t in Monte Carlo, I was in Vegas.
SKEPTIC: Uh, hunh. So, when you talk about “hot” and “cold” machines it’s the same thing.
BELIEVER: You’re just jealous because you don’t have a “system.”
SKEPTIC: You know who has a system—the casinos.
BELIEVER: Yeah, what about the free drinks?
SKEPTIC: All part of their calculation. And, let's face it, those drinks don't exactly sharpen your judgement, do they? Who do think pays for the casinos?
SKEPTIC: You do. You, and people like you.
BELIEVER: I told you I won.
SKEPTIC: And how many times have you been to Vegas?
BELIEVER: I dunno. Maybe six or eight.
SKEPTIC: So, how much did it cost you to win that twelve hundred bucks?
BELIEVER: What? But, I had to develop my system, damn-it! Hey, I know while I’m hot maybe I’ll buy a couple of lottery tickets. You in?
SKEPTIC: There’s just no getting through to you is there? The lottery is the same thing. It’s just a tax on people too stupid to understand math.
BELIEVER: I’m trying to share my hot hand with you. What do I get? You call me stupid. Well, kiss my ass
SKEPTIC: (sigh) It gets lonely in an evidence-based universe.