The Belmont Club

Speculation Alert:

Thus he himself names it, but this analysis at The Belmont Club is as good as anything I've seen or thought about the missing recon forces. There's something big going on in the area, and we've had a run of bad luck.

"Bad luck" is an element of Clausewitzian "friction," one that can never be eliminated from the battlefield. However, it can be managed in some ways, chiefly, training and force selection. As demonstrated by the loss of Navy SEALs, however, training can't remove the problem -- just reduce its scale.

Wretchard's advice on roulette is a simplified version of the advice given to me by a former professional roulette player I knew in China.

He was an Australian national, and had since given up the high-stakes game for the more certain payoff of playing the Australian social welfare system: the fellow had managed to take advantage of the very problems of psychology we were just discussing in order to con the Aussie gov't into believing that he was unemployable through reason of insanity, and thus they provided him with a nice pension for the rest of his days. It would have been only modest in Australia, but by moving to China, he was able to live quite well on the same sum.

The principle he was advocating -- and I pass it on to you, not so much in case you should play roulette, as because it is a useful concept in many areas of life -- was to increase your bet in the face of any loss so that when you did finally win, you would be ahead. This means, in effect, not "doubling up," but tripling up.

In other words, say you are betting on red. You lose a dollar. The next round, you bet on red again, but you now bet three dollars: one to replace the one you just lost, one to cover the bet you are now making, and one "for yourself." If you win, you are now not even, but up. If you lose, you increase your bet again: this time, you bet twelve: four to replace what you've lost (1 + 3 on two rounds), four to cover the bet you are making now, and four "for yourself." &c.

Eventually, the odds are that you will win. When you do win, you're ahead for the whole game. Then you start back over at one dollar, and continue to bet one dollar each time until you lose, at which point you start back up the ladder. (Of course, instead of "one dollar" you can bet any amount -- one hundred or one thousand dollars, if you have the money.)

This, he explained, was the real function of table limits -- to close off the ladder at the top end, so that the house retained the advantage. Even that can be overcome, he said, through the (illegal, in most casinos) use of a cartel: a set of fellows who are each ready to step in and throw the maximum amount of money on the bet when it reaches the top of the ladder.

This had worked well for him in his younger days, but was far more labor intensive than the simple collection of cheques (as it is written in British English). Still, the principle is solid enough for occasions, like war, when gambling is inevitable.

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