Josh Nagel’s blog

August 4, 2009

IPod odds are fun for everyone

My old buddy Lyle Colane is sort of a gambler’s gambler. If you simply want to hang around an action junkie, he’s your guy.

If you want to talk odds and edges and getting the best of it, he’s not your guy. Lyle doesn’t know or care much about the odds of any gambling exploit, which explains in part why he’s always comped the $4.99 “ham” and eggs special from the folks at Bob’s Terrible Casino, who are always happy to see him. 

This is a guy who once tried to convince me he had found an edge in Keno because he “always plays the same numbers.”

Do tell, I responded.

“Seeing as the house’s numbers change every time the Keno guy hits the button on the ball popper, exactly how does this work in your favor?” I asked. 

“Because if I never change the numbers, they are bound to hit eventually,” he said. “Everyone else says their numbers hit as soon as they change them … I don’t have that problem. I’m not a chaser.”

Nor does old Lyle have much of a bankroll, I digress. But so long as he never pays for Terrible’s terrible breakfast special, he has no complaints.  

Well, last week I heard from him again when he believed he stumbled across an oddsmaking epiphany of sorts. He told me had accidentally downloaded the Lady Gaga song “Poker Face” twice from Itunes the last time he logged on. (Once would have constituted an accident for me, by the way.)

First, he was furious that Apple would not refund him the extra $1 (this buck could have been either another 5-spot or his tip at Terrible’s, so he was pretty steamed), but then he was amused at the following discovery.

“So this song gets loaded to my play list twice,” he said. “Now, I notice, when I hit shuffle, it comes up way more often than all the other songs.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Seeing as this song appears on your play list twice as often as all the others, I’m betting it comes up precisely twice as often?”

“Right! How did you know?”

Well, the math on that one sort of speaks for itself. But then I got to thinking about other sorts of IPod odds, and I realized there was something to it. I mean, there are times when I believe the shuffle gods are messing with my head.

For instance, if you have 1,000 songs on your play list and exactly two of them are Rod Stewart tunes, what are the odds of them coming up back-to-back during a purely random shuffle? Astronomical, of course, but the shuffle robot loves to tickle my oddsmaking sensibilities by doing this once in while. This one hits way more often than it should, which gets me thinking 10-team parlays might not be such a bad idea after all.

There are more simple equations, however. If your 1,000-song play list includes 25 Green Day songs, then the moment you hit shuffle there is precisely a 2.5-percent chance that Green Day will come up.

I got to thinking, a combination of boredom, beers and some shrewd oddsmaking could land me quite a windfall from Lyle and his friends if I played it right. At that moment, the game IPod Odds was on.

Keep in mind, this game works much better if you try it on stupid people. The key is, knowing the true odds, charging a substantial juice, and knowing the biases of your particular players toward certain artists and tastes.

The first step: Sync your play list to exactly 1,000 songs or the nearest even number from which you can make some easy, home-cooked odds. Place your IPod on a decent docking station with a remote control you can use in shuffle mode. 

The second step: Figure out the true IPod probabilities, then offer your friends prop bets that they can’t understand at a ridiculous level of juice for yourself.

Step 3: Enjoy the music and your newfound money.

Step 4: Be sure to remind your friends that it was all random. 

For instance, in the above example, let’s pretend your buddy is a huge Green Day fan. If you offer him a “one-timer” on the IPod – meaning you hit “play” once in shuffle mode – he’s going to be predisposed to believing Green Day will hit. Given that the true chance is around 2.5 percent, you should offer him about 45/1 odds. That is, if you played the game straight. You offer him 25/1 and he jumps at it.

Suddenly, “Poker Face” comes on – it was twice as likely to hit to begin with – and you take his $10. Happily.

Here are some other fun prop bets courtesy of yours truly from IPod Odds, for your entertainment (and hopefully business) purposes:

The over/under for song length: Set the number at 3:45 (the real average is 3:30, but people love betting overs) and give your buddies even money on the over. You’ll make a killing on the under.

Genre of the next random song. Ramp up the juice here. If the play list is 10 percent country, then you should be paying about 9/1 for this to hit. You’ll be giving your buddies 5/1. Well done, pardner.

The over/under for characters in a song title: Set this at 15.5 and give a break in the juice to the under. The over hits here more often than you’d expect.

Where will the next artist fall alphabetically? Offer odds on A-M and N-Z, just balance the juice based on what you know. If you are heavy on Springsteen tracks, adjust the price to get some action on the A-M side. 

Will the next artist be a band name or an individual? Again, the balance of the play list from which you are setting the odds needs to understood going in. If it’s about 50-50, then play off your opponent. The Green Day fan will be betting band name every time. Take his money.

Well, it goes without saying that IPod Odds is bound to become the next big thing for amateur bookmakers and the degenerate gamblers who love them. You don’t have to thank me now, but please remember, you heard it here first.

Good luck to everyone.

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