VestsNow before the more weary and jaded of you parents out there start high-fiving, it was only laser-tag at our local Laser-Quest. It was my son Tom's 15th birthday, and I took him and his friends out to one of their favourite past-times. Since I had bought a package for eight, and we didn't quite have eight, I forced myself to take one of the spots.

The way it works is that multiple groups go into the play area with vests and lasers. The lasers score a hit when they tag one of the flashing sensors on another player's vest. At this point you feel a vibration and you are down for five seconds — you can neither shoot or be shot. A computer tallies all the hits, right down to exactly who shot whom, how many times, and on which sensor. The hits are scored and at the end of the game, the rankings are displayed on a monitor, and each player is given his own score-sheet with their results. At the beginning of each game, each player is assigned a code name of his own selection, which is then loaded into the laser gun with an activation key. Since my first pick "Pooh Bear" was taken, I opted instead for "Hannibal" … What?

The kids, especially the younger ones, just like to run around a lot, often in packs. Knowing this, my approach is basically to lay low and snipe; just wait for them to come to me. A cluster of kids is a "target-rich" area, and you just shoot into it and can score a lot of points if you can keep firing without pause. You hear a lot of "Awwww"'s when they get hit. (Although the downside is that there are a lot of them, and you'll likely get hit as well as they overwhelm you). I like to set up high on the outside perimeter facing inward with a good view of at least two corridors, and also down into the middle of the play area (there are two levels, so its a three-dimensional game). I had a great spot in the first game, just beyond an intersection (good for surprising) and looking down a zig-zagged corridor with diagonal in-croppings that forced player to slowly zig-zag down it rather than quickly go straight. But there was enough of a gap between corners that by steadily firing down it, you hit most of the players trying to go through — either coming or going. I did have a corridor behind me and knew I'd be hit (and was) if someone came up from behind, but there was much more activity in front of me, so I scored hits many more times than I received. Out of about 35 players, I came in second. (Another adult came in first, so its not just me.)

In the second game I was more mobile. Although I scored a lot, it wasn't as many as the first game, and I got hit more often. Even so, I still managed to come in third. There was one group of three little girls, maybe 8-9 years old, that I bumped into enough times, that eventually when they saw me, they would yell "It's him! It's him" and go screaming off in the other direction. So I'd chase them little bit for effect and shoot their rear sensors. I think I scored a lot of points off those poor kids. (And I think one of them was Pooh Bear).

I think I earned a new respect from Tom and his friends. "Why does your dad call himself Hannibal?"

Relevance to the markets? When we were milling around afterward comparing scores, the kids asked me what my hit ratio was. It was 8% in the first, and 7% the second. They were wondering how I got such a high score with such a low hit ratio. I explained to them that it was sheer numbers. When you saw a target, your chances improved if you kept on firing rather than trying to carefully aim and just squeeze off singles. The market analogy would be figuring out how to limit your losses (accepting getting shot occasionally from low-traffic areas), determining your opportunity and edge (concentrating focus and fire on the high-traffic areas), and exploiting the advantage to its fullest regardless of win percentage (firing frequently regardless of the many misses). It worked for this type of game, and would also work for a market trading style designed to exploit a statistical advantage where turnover increases overall profitability.





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