When I feel like some self-flagellation I do on occasion repair to programming in the R statistical environment. This works depressingly well to deflate any hubris or the mis-appelation or appropriation of clever authorship, which completely fortuitous stock selection always, despite knowing better, engenders in me. When I’m done tussling with what for someone with even modest intelligence is probably the simplest of tasks in R, I inevitably long for something more direct and possibly less painful, such as a chain with a bunch of very sharp knives attached.

Backgammon victorys will go to the better player “in the long run,” but that can mean quite a long time and some suffering, if you play for too much money in the meanwhile. The other day, in a tantalizing but rare victory in R, i managed to roll a pair of dice six thousand times to determine the percentage of either seven or eleven coming up. That roll out gave the answer as 19.2%, 3% below the correct “long term” result. It kind of reminded me that in backgammon and in the markets “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley.” Or as the Chair told me many years ago about the realities of statistical trading, “when they take you, they really take you.”

I’ve played backgammon for over 40 years, a bit longer than I’ve been in the market. In my youth, there was easy money in the game. Now, also somewhat like the market, the dream of low lying fruit has attracted so many clever players that the free bucks are extremely hard for the average or slightly above average player to find. Years ago more than a few folks I know made a living from the game. Those that are still professional gamblers now play poker, and I imagine the freebies are fast vanishing in that arena as well.

Now I play vs. robots almost exclusively. They play very well, very fast, and don’t whine about improbable but inevitable adverse dice outcomes. In addition to being far better at calculations than I, some are even mischievously (I’d say malevolently) programmed to insult your particularly dumb plays with the one number that turns your error into instant and ignominious burial.

Fortunately in the stock market i get to wager with a few benefits not present when facing a powerful neural net. In backgammon I’m the idiot, but in the market even as an idiot i can buy brains, not compete against them. I can even buy “the grind” as holdings in AB and GS and MER over the past few years pleasantly demonstrate. So even in a world of giants, in the stock market there still is plenty of room and profit for lesser beings, thank goodness.

incidentally, for outstandingly good robot or human backgammon competition I’d recommend gamesgrid. There are also many free backgammon sites.


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