Other than a weekend playing “Keep Up with the Power Equipment” (which we will get to in a moment) I spent a couple of hours Sunday morning working on “The Luck Problem.”

Remember last week’s column?  “Math in the Afterlife“?

That symbol (or sigil) I brought out of the dream realms has been bothering me.  Oh, I still get work done, pay the pills, chase Elaine around, play with the Cat, and keep up socially.  But there’s a concept I want to show you that has my deepest attention…


Let me lay it out as a graphic.  Pretend this is titled “How We Humans Think About Luck.”

That seems pretty simple, right?

Most people live on the left side of the “what is luck?” question and they are perfectly happy with the pursuit of higher (and higher) mathematics in order to explain their observations.

Which still leads only to probabilistic expectations that (and this is key) on average work out.

When they don’t, or when there is a large variance from expectations (the outlier or black swan events) then we dig up more mostly rational more complexly formulated explanations for why “outliers” occur.

Lynn McTaggart’s book “The Intention Experiment” comes to mind.  Peach of a book.

But, suppose it is wrong?

This is where we jump to looking at the right-hand side of the problem:  What if there is something in “group think” that is keeping us from seeing a different (and far more efficient) technique for seeing probabilities land manipulating them (more or less) directly?

Well, now we’re into the quicksand.

We “know” empirically that there IS some kind of global randomness coherence.  The Princeton Noosphere/Global Consciousness Project says on its webpage here that:

“When human consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. We calculate one in a trillion odds that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures. “

Which gets me to explaining the two hours I spent Sunday morning playing five-card draw poker against a computer.

I’m a pretty good player, in that I am algorithmic.  That is:  I have a set of rules that determine when I hold or draw, and when I raise my bets.  My “rule set” works very well most of the time, incredibly well a small fraction of the time, and I get my ass kicked about the same small fraction.

But here’s the piece that is fascinating:

After I have been playing for, oh, 20-minutes, or so, I get into a “mental zone” where I find the tiniest amount of time between committing to a play and KNOWING in advance how it will come out.

Yeah, weird, huh?  But I’ve had enough precognitive experience with dreams of a road closure due to a fatal accident and resulting detour, to the Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Horizon spill a full 18-hours (and so posted) in advance of the accident, to recognize the “real-deal precognition stuff” when it smacks me upside the head.

When I am playing at my best (as happened Saturday afternoon when my mind was fairly unloaded with background processes) I ran a stake of $5,000 up to over $200,000 using my playing algorithm.

Sunday morning, however, was a complete and utter disaster.  I took an  $11,760  stake and ran it to zero in a matter of 35-minutes.  (I hope I mentioned this is digital scrip, not real money?)

Let me show you where “The Space” is so it will be clear what we’re talking about.

The computer deals me a hand:  Say it’s four clubs and a heart.

As soon  as I press the “deal” button, I know the tiniest bit in advance of committing as I touch the key whether or not the decision was a winner, or not.

In another iteration let’s say I was dealt a pair of 10’s, a Jack, and an Ace.

In the payoff table for this hand (in this program) I know that if I hold the Ace or Jack (or both) what my odds will be of a “win.”  But we need to be very precise when we talk about “winning” in gambling jargon.

That’s because gambling terminology may hold a clue as to how we think about probabilistic outcomes.  Here’s why:

In Case 1.  I hold the Ace and the Jack.  I draw a single Ace (or Jack) and the machine happily reinforces the idea that I have won with “two of a kind.”

But have I REALLY won?

In a sense (lower case “yes”) because I won my wager back.  But, in a larger sense, “no” because I only returned to where I was at the start of the hand.

This (exploitable by the gaming industry) difference between a REAL “WIN” (where you get your money back PLUS something) clouds our view in gaming.

In Case 2.  I throw away everything EXCEPT the pair of 10’s.

In a statistical sense, I know there are five cards from 52 that were dealt as the hand began.  And I also know that there are two 10’s remaining in the deck.  So grossly, my odds on a 3-to-1 payout on my wager at 2-out of- 47 (remaining cards).

There is a chance (another calculation I won’t bother you with) that I might miss on the 10’s but be dealt a pair of any other card value, and thus the odds are really better 1 to 23.5.  The discussion of statistics runs off into the weeds about here.

What DOES MATTER is that as soon as I am about to make the keystroke to “lock in” the decision, I know even before the cards are turned whether or not it will be a winner.

What I spend the concentration time on, therefore, was trying to “reach out and touch” that stuff that goes on in that space between “precognitive knowing” (before the card is shown” and when it is “actually shown.”

Much has been written about ways to improve your psi abilities – where psi is the beyond normal realms of mental activity.

But this is something we can all practice on with something as simple as a computer card game that is relatively random.

In my experiments so far – thousands upon thousands of hands – I have found there to be no noticeable difference statistically between outcome and staring at the cards for a minute or two per hand with all the strength and commitment you can muster.

BUT there is this “space of knowing” between when you commit and the tiniest fraction of a second as the event arrives where there is a HUGE difference.

Schematically, it looks like this:

“That Barrier” is my present area of focus.  I’ve gotten fairly good at knowing (as after I have committed but before the card is turned) how it will come out once I have committed to a course of play.

But what I haven’t figured – and it’s an exercise that I’m trying to quantify so it is repeatable with greater regularity – is how to “hold commitment just so while sensing the outcomes.”

It’s an almost ghost-like task.  It is so hard to remain “clear” – no wishes, no hopes, no biases, no expectations, rather just a pure sensing and just at the point of decision.

How many times in card play have you told yourself “Hell, I KNEW that would happen…..

Turns out, you probably really do know at some deep levels.  But we seem to have an inbuilt “barrier” that keeps us from being god-like self-actualizers because that “barrier” is what keeps it from becoming so.

And this circles us to the very top of this morning’s discussion, doesn’t it?

“Is our understanding of Luck Wrong?”

Are we trying to use a mathematical approach to what is a psychosocial phenomenon of actualization?

The cards are trying to tell us something:

At some point, mathematical tools become trying to pour a cup of coffee with a Skil saw.

We need to see the problem more clearly and go tool-shopping.

(We’ll have the power equipment discussion tomorrow…)

Write when you break-even,