clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The House Advantage

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

I mentioned 'The House Advantage' a little while ago - it's former MIT blackjack player Jeff Ma's first book. Before I go on, I probably have to disclose that I've known Jeff for years, contributed a section on NBA strategy to the book, and that Jeff also sent me a free copy of the book.

At any rate, even though I'm fully-versed in the story of the MIT blackjack team, Jeff's book is a thought-provoking read for someone like me who (you'd think) works almost exclusively in data-driven businesses. Obviously in sports, there's a lot of uncertainty in our analysis - for example, can anyone tell me who the best player in the NHL is? And even our NHL 'data' is based on observation; who's to say that other observations might not be correct? Getting to 60% confidence is a huge accomplishment in sports.

But in my day job as an electrical engineer, we have the opportunity to be far more confident. We get statistics and tolerances from our manufacturers in advance. We spend huge amounts of time matching simulation to results. We can even skew our results to their statistical limits and make parametric measurements. And yet, there are still people who talk about what their 'gut' is telling them - qualitative arguments with no data to back them up. There are so many businesses that could benefit from having more data, so it seems crazy to not make use of the data that you do have.

So that's it - it's an interesting read, and you'll come away from it wanting to challenge anyone who says they're using their 'gut'.