spoken about the value of identifying useful information in a gaming context.
secure an advantage for observant players willing to do the work to sift
available data and identify what’s useful.
rarely comes free, however; it takes work and practice to filter out the noise
of surrounding data and we see the same situation in the real world (outside of
gaming) where we are constantly overwhelmed by a barrage of facts, statistics,
news and opinion.
I’m not here to influence your position on any particular topic but I’d like to offer an approach to avoiding the avalanche of conflicting facts and statistics by approaching this avalanche of data with the cold stoicism of an advantage player.
months as the pandemic has persisted, I’ve noticed a consistent lack of
consistency in the information surrounding COVID-19.
Rather than commit to any kind of conclusion, I decided to look at the situation through the cold eye of an advantage player.
who sit down to play a game are distracted by the obvious or misled by their
own instincts, while experienced advantage players pay attention to other
aspects of the game in order to improve their odds at the table.
Out here in
the real world, it’s easy to be buried under that avalanche of data or to find
oneself attracted to (or consumed by) one perspective or another based on our
own individual biases.
decided to understand the situation rather than become overwhelmed by the
constant flow of conflicting opinions, seemingly inconsistent statistics and
constant pressure to take a stance or declare one’s position.
The Big Problem With Twisted Information
News and media
have always been tainted by some sort of bias but historically, such imbalances
were tempered by a professional obligation not to misrepresent the
journalistic ethics were hardly universal, I don’t recall having seen such
deliberate obfuscation or twisting of information to serve clearly stated
And yet, here
we are in a FOX versus MSNBC world where people self-filter sources of
information based on who or what is telling them what they want to hear.
we buy, the TV channels we watch, the people we ‘friend’ online and the
websites we visit all create a personalised echo chamber filled with what we
want to hear and how we’d like to hear it.
This type of
thing is fine when following a sports team but when trying to understand what’s
actually happening in the world, there’s a real danger to creating multiple
streams of propaganda unencumbered by reason or responsibility.
might vote for, if you were truly reasonable you would recognise that your
voting habits are affirmed and encouraged by the sources of information you
have pre-selected based on how they resonate with your pre-existing opinions.
politics becomes polarised to the extremes with enormous detriment to society.
pandemic, politicians have been most guilty of mishandling statistics, data and
scientific opinion followed by an unquestioning media on one side or a
stubbornly opposed media on the other.
It can be
argued that intentions are good but when supposed leaders use fear with
distorted data to encourage compliance in a situation where people are already
fearful, the wider repercussions of these distortions might be felt for
This trend towards
skewing and twisting information to serve one narrative or another has only
served to dial up public anxiety.
But if we can
learn to step back far enough to look at the situation in the way we would a
game, we might better understand the truth of our current predicament.
The Statistics Game
trend over the last year (prevalent but not so obvious or immediately damaging
in the recent past) has been the misrepresentation of data and statistics.
I’ve seen the
same facts presented by different sides to support different conclusions and
even when we can detect deception, our thinking gets easily tangled and we soon
find ourselves back in the weeds, struggling to understand what’s what.
In Three Card Monte, it’s easy to lose track of the winning card when mixed with two losing cards, but what if there were 50 losing cards? Or 100?
perspective, the value of any piece of information is exactly like that winning
card in a game of Monte with an infinite number of losing cards since there are
so many sources of opinion, definition, bias and outright deception that
attempts to skew all available facts.
To beat this
game we need to filter out that noise, stay out of the weeds and accept the
data without judgement or emotion, which is extremely hard to do.
Here are some
questions that made all the difference to my understanding and while the
answers are not always what I’d want them to be, any decisions I make based on
those answers will at least start from a more accurate position.
- Historically, how long have similar pandemics lasted?
- What is the Infection Fatality Rate and who is most vulnerable?
- How effective are current treatments and how have they improved?
- Which Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (if any) are effective based on actual data?
- What are my sources of misinformation and what is their probable motivation?
- Where are the sources of hard data and how can it be reliably understood?
- When do I have enough information to plan or act with confidence?
These are just
a few of the questions I’ve tried to answer but it’s all too easy to fall into
a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories or cynicism by giving in to fear or
I’m not here
to offer my own conclusions but to invite you to step back from your own
opinions and re-assess constantly.
This is how to
approach any scenario where we might be manipulated; by treating it as we would
a game, you make more informed decisions for a more rewarding long-term
The Card Counter’s Tell
knowing that such stoicism in the face of negative trends does not always pay
A friend once told me how he was back-roomed in a casino after a losing streak at blackjack.
counting with reliable accuracy but while the odds were in his favour, there’s
no guarantee the right cards will land in any one round of play.
that statistical advantage is sure to pay off but at the moment that security
escorted him from the table, my friend was down several thousand pounds and had
yet to see a profit.
the manager, my friend had to accept he’d been busted and agreed not to return
but as he was leaving, he asked what tipped off the casino manager.
He had yet to
win any money so wondered how the casino knew he was a card counter.
Soon after he
arrived at the table my friend lost £10,000 on a hot shoe that just refused to
pay off but he knew that the table would eventually turn so simply bought in
for more money and kept playing.
That was his
He’d lost a
large sum of money but didn’t even blink before buying more chips and the
manager immediately recognised this as the hallmark of a card counter who had
faith in his system.
cold, unemotional understanding of how the game works proved to be his downfall
but out here in the real world, when confronted by a barrage of bias, it can be
extremely valuable to step back and analyse any situation without attempting to
reshape information to fit our own perspective.
Doing so might
bring cold comfort but we can learn to make better-informed decisions, which is
what advantage play (and smart gambling) is all about.