Part 134

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE. This week I explain how the house always wins in gambling. Also, an eventful week for my health. In addition to the usual financial updates, I look at how the income from my ISA has increased over the last five years. First, the Quote of the Week:

Quote of the Week

“The House Always Wins”

Almost everyone, whether a gambler or not, will have heard the phrase, “the house always wins.”  I wonder how many people think about this statement on a deeper level, rather than using it as a throwaway statement to explain their perceived bad fortune.  

Far from being a throwaway statement, it explains how and why casinos and gambling companies make such huge profits.

Take a standard single-zero roulette wheel, which has slots numbered from 0-36, resulting in a total of 37 possible places the roulette wheel can stop.  The numbers 1-36 are then subdivided into odd and even numbers, and red or black numbers.  

Many different bets can be placed in roulette but I’m going to stick with the basics to illustrate the point, although the principle stands for all bets in this game. 

So, let’s look at the way the roulette wheel is structured:

0 – one slot

Red numbers – 18 slots

Black numbers – 18 slots

Total slots – 37 slots

A simple bet that can be placed is to predict whether the ball will land on red or black.  You might think that this is a 50/50, but it’s not.  Although there are an equal amount of red and black numbers, there is a slot for zero (usually coloured green).  So, the actual odds of winning a red or black bet are not 50% but rather 48.6%.  If you win, your stake is returned along with an equal amount in winnings, i.e. bet £1 on red, if it comes up red, you get £2 back.  

The 1.4% advantage that the house has is known as the edge.  It might not seem like a lot, but with the amount of money flowing through casinos it can soon add up.

Assume there are 100 £1 bets.  If the odds play out in this closed system as they should, 49% of bets will be won by the punter and 51% by the house.  From the £100 total wagered, the house pays out £49 (the initial £1 stake not being their cash to start with).  However, from that £100, the house retains £51.  It’s a fractional edge, but if you increase the amounts wagered from £1 to £20, or £100, and factor in that these bets are being placed several times each minute, it’s easy to see how casinos are money-printing machines.

The Law of Large Numbers

The above example is very basic, but across every game in a casino, to every market offered by bookies online, the house always has an edge.  Sure, mistakes happen from time to time, but these are very much the exception.  

The Law of Large Numbers is the idea that given enough time results will always regress to the mean.  An example of this would be on an old Derren Brown show I watched (I can’t remember which) where he flips a coin ten times and every time it comes up heads.  How is such sorcery possible?

Derren Brown went on to explain that the viewer was only seeing a short sample of the hundreds, maybe thousands of times he flipped the coin on camera until they had a stretch of ten successive flips where the coin landed heads or tails in a row.  Visualise it like this:

A “random” snapshot of coin flips:

HTTHTHHHTHTTHHHT

How some people think 50/50 odds work:

HTHTHTHTHTHTHTHT

Derren Brown’s example:

HTHHHTTHTTTHTHHHHHHHHHHTHTTHTTHTTHTTTT

It’s easy to cherry-pick a small sample of a large data set to support your argument, but over a sufficiently long period, data will regress to the mean.  If you flip a coin three times, you could get heads twice and tails once.  This does not mean this is a lucky coin which will always give a return of landing heads two-out-of-three flips.  The next three flips could all be tails.  However, if you complete a hundred flips, or a thousand, you will see that the results start to approach a 50/50 ratio for heads and tails.  

How does this relate to gambling?

The casinos and betting companies take advantage of these mathematical laws to make their money.  They know, and accept, that people will sometimes win big.  Why do you think these examples are publicised? It’s a form of advertising to get more punters logging on or through the doors.  Over time, with enough bets being placed, the gambling industry knows it is guaranteed to make money.  The individual person might win big and come out on top, but the chances of it being you, dear reader, are tiny.

The National Lottery in the UK had the catchphrase, “It could be you!”.  It could, but a more accurate phrase would be, “it has to be someone.”

The Law of Large Numbers is so important to huge parts of our lives, yet hardly anyone knows about it.

Like with nuclear war, the only way to win at gambling for the punter is not to take part.

Weekly Update

I haven’t had a great time of it lately, and when I spoke to my GP I was signed off work and sent to the hospital for tests.  Everything is mostly fine but I was told my QRisk score is higher than it should be.  I had no idea what a QRisk score was, but it was explained to me that it predicts the possibility of a cardiac event in the next ten years.  My score came in at 11%, which means I have an 11% chance of a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years.  This is not good.  I’m doing the right things though, through eating better and exercising.

On Wednesday I met my Dad to talk through some property stuff, as he’d been to view a house for himself and to talk through some autism-related stuff.  For those who don’t know, my Dad has a great blog charting his journey from being identified as autistic and how he’s learning about it on the go.  Go to darrenscothern.com to check it out.  

Anyway, we had a bit of lunch and a catch-up and then he offered to drop me back in the city centre.  We were driving along in moderate traffic and we pulled to a stop as traffic ahead of us had also stopped.   We heard a bang behind us, followed a second later by a louder bang as our car was pushed forward.  It seems we were the front car in a three-car pile up.  It could have been much worse, and luckily we both escaped with minor-to-moderate whiplash.  This wasn’t just a gentle bump and we were rocked strongly by the impact.  I think part of the reason we escaped more serious injury is that we were both laughing at a joke and our bodies were relaxed.  Injury is more likely when you are tensed up.

This is not the first time we’ve been hit in this way.  Years ago my Dad was driving me to the hospital for physio following shoulder surgery.  I was pretty out of it and doped up on pain meds.  A car slammed into the back of ours, and that resulted in neck pain ever since.  So, I was not in any mood for the other driver’s bullshit on this occasion.

One thing I’ll point out is that the drivers of the two other cars involved were both wearing sandals.  It doesn’t take a huge amount of intelligence to realise that driving in sandals, flip flops, or slippers is peak level dipshittery.  Fortunately, their mistake impacted another car, and not a child or pensioner crossing the street. 

Later in the week, I went to view another property with my Dad.  This was a fair journey out of the city; half an hour there and back.  The listing mentioned nothing about the property being tenanted.  Well, guess what?  That’s right, folks; the property was currently occupied by a tenant who did not want to move.  The agent outside told us that the tenant was unhappy at having to move, and was upset that the landlord was selling up.  Also, the age and type of boiler could not be determined as it was inaccessible for the moment.  Within a minute it was obvious this was a non-starter. Had my Dad bought the property, and the tenant refused to move out, it could have been a long struggle to evict him.  There’s also the fact that if the tenant was unhappy at moving, he would be less likely to leave the property in good repair.  

I don’t get what agents hope to achieve by misleading people with property listings.  This wasn’t a minor mistake, such as the fitted dishwasher being Samsung and not Smeg.  It’s a significant point when the property is up for sale with a sitting tenant.  

My week ended with a walk around the neighbourhood with my girlfriend.  It was a sunny day, and there’s lots of local wildlife we like to check up on, including a pair of Canada Geese that have nested nearby.  We are waiting to see how many goslings hatch.  Also, there are many ducks that are being followed up and down the river by ducklings, not to mention the moorhens nesting, and the pair of mandarin ducks that have made this area their new home.  Some streets around us have thick hedges and low hanging tree branches.  With the sun in my eyes, I did not see the sign hiding behind some branches and I managed to scrape the corner of the sign down the side of my scalp.  So now I have a bright red scratch running down my head which stings more than a little.  Hopefully, it gave someone a laugh.

This Week’s Tory Shambles

Oh, Nadine Dorries… the gift that keeps on giving.  Earlier in the week, Dorries was appearing before MPs to discuss the privatisation of Channel 4.  She has already made a complete arse out of herself regarding this a few weeks ago.  Well, this week she doubled down.  She stated that 96% of survey responses support the privatisation of Channel 4.  However, John Nicholson MP had to point out that the government’s white paper on the subject stated that 96% of responses were in opposition to the privatisation of Channel 4.  

On Twitter, @HowlandRob highlighted a part which made me facepalm into next week; Dorries explained that 53% of people were unaware that Channel 4 was publicly owned, to which the Committee Chair pointed out she needed telling at an earlier meeting of the committee.  Need I remind you that Nadine Dorries is the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, & Sport.  These are not just basic errors that everyone makes from time to time.  These represent a catalogue of errors that suggest incompetence.  She is the walking, talking, embodiment of Dunning-Kruger.

I could leave it here, but Nadine Dorries seemingly lives with her foot firmly planted in her mouth.  During the same meeting with MPs, she stated that several other people, in different parts of the country, use her Netflix account.  Anyone who has not been living under a rock for the last ten years knows that people routinely share their streaming passwords (or is that down-streaming, Nadine?), even though it’s against the T&Cs of many providers.  As Londo Mollari from Babylon 5 stated; “Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package.  How efficient of you.”

On 18th May, Kay Burley of Sky News was interviewing Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, who let’s not forget, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine claimed that the UK would not recognise Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh; two areas that are firmly Russian.  It’s as absurd as Sergei Lavrov claiming that the UK has no sovereignty over Yorkshire and the Humber.  Anyway, I digress…

During the interview on 18th May, Kay Burley asked Truss to comment on her colleague’s statement that if people work more hours they wouldn’t be poor.  Truss claimed it was a “mischaracterisation of what she said.”  Burley replied that the colleague, Rachel Maclean, had made the point twice.  Truss responded, “I didn’t see the interview.”

The mental gymnastics at play here are astounding.

Support Mortgage Advisor on FIRE

I love writing this blog, and I’ve met some great people because of it.  Maintaining a website costs money though, and if you want to say thanks for the content I publish, consider a donation to my virtual tip jar on the link below:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/davidscothern

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 119.7kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books (3/10)

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) ✅
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC) ✅
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844) ✅
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605) (in progress)

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before (5/10)

  1. John Birmingham ✅
  2. Nicole Perlroth ✅
  3. Sabine Durrant ✅
  4. Luke Smitherd ✅
  5. Max Skittle ✅

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading:

What I’m listening to: Nothing but the Truth by The Secret Barrister (audible), Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

What I’m watching: Our Father (Netflix), and Meltdown: Three Mile Island (Netflix).

I have recently finished Fake Law and Nothing but the Truth by The Secret Barrister.  His first book, Stories of the Law and How it’s Broken is brilliant, and also terrifying.  There is so much I didn’t know about the way the justice system works, and all these books are fascinating.

We watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix earlier in the week.  We started with Our Father, which tells the story of a fertility doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate many women in the US.  I will not say more than that to not spoil the show.  It was grim viewing.

On the subject of grim viewing, we also watched the four-part documentary on the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.  I thought I knew the basics of this one, but I was not even close.  If you thought the recent(ish) show about Chernobyl was interesting, I’d recommend you take a look at this one as well.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £19,250.00 (up £650.00 from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £41,728.66 (down £403.87 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £100.00 (up £50.00 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,305.11 (down £92.02 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £218,291.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £140,863.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £470,537.77 (up £204.11 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £164,067.27 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £105,338.22 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £269,405.49 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £201,132.28 (up £204.11 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £1,900.14 (target £6,000).

Pay day has been and gone, meaning I was able to invest some funds into my Premium Bonds.  We estimate we need around £20,000-£25,000 each for our next BTL purchase as a minimum, so until I get to that figure I’ll be focusing my efforts there.  This week also saw a few bits of investment income come through including a decent dividend payout from some stocks I own.  Hitting £6,000 income from investments by the end of the year is probably a bit out of reach, as our timetable for a second BTL has been delayed by outside factors.  However, as long as I am increasing my income from investments year-on-year, I’m moving in the right direction.  My updated projection is that I’ll achieve around £4,500 in investment income this year.

Income from my ISA

I received my quarterly investment report from my ISA provider, and it prompted me to dig deeper into my ISA’s performance.  I don’t sweat the small stuff with my ISA, and I know that in the long term it will perform well.  One set of data that did stand out was my average monthly income from the ISA over time.

I started this blog in late 2019, and as I’ve posted, I’ve continued to learn.  A combination of education and compounding returns has served me well.  However, the elephant in the room is Covid-19.  Throughout much of 2020 and 2021 the stock market was hammered by the pandemic and many dividends were cancelled.  Those missing dividends would have drastically increased the income figures for 2020 and 2021, and would have allowed for even more compounding.  It should also be noted that this year’s figures are skewed because I just received the first of two dividend payments from a stock I own.  The sum received this week is not representative of a typical week or month.  This means that in June, the average will almost certainly drop.  

That’s all for this week, and thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media.  

Biolink and other links

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink:

bio.link/davidscothern.

Also, check out Darren Scothern’s blog which talks about autism, being autistic, and general mental health:

www.darrenscothern.com

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