Gambling for Losers

In order to encourage fresh-faced school students to pick a Physics degree out of all the possible courses they could University, one of the most persuasive arguments admissions tutors have always trotted out is that it would qualify them for highly paid jobs in the financial services sector. This argument is backed up by surveys of graduate destinations, and is explained by the fact that banking and insurance companies are crying out for numerate people with the ability to analyse complex and often chaotic systems with quantitative rigour.

The most recent episode of the so-called “Credit Crunch” is the fall-out from the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank which caused heavy falls on Wall Street yesterday and corresponding panic overnight on Asian markets. Apparently far-eastern stocks were affected by the sudden realization that many companies had liabilities arising from the Lehman crisis. It’s interesting that this was all hidden until the bank actually folded…

Anyway, with inflation rising, shares falling and the economy stuttering into recession I wonder how many recent physics graduates may be regretting their choice of career. The rewards may be high, but the risks are high too. I’m glad I remained a physicist, even if my own portfolio appears to be flying south for the winter.

Not that I’m sanctimonious about gambling, as long as (a) it’s with your own money and (b) you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. I like to bet on various things, and I have a fool-proof system. I usually only bet on events where there are only two outcomes (e.g. football matches) and where I actually support one of the two teams. I bet on the opposition to win, on the grounds that if my team wins I lose the bet but am happy anyway. If the opposition wins then I am financially compensated for my loss.

Being a supporter of Newcastle United, this strategy has stood me in good financial stead because a bet on the opposition is more often than not a good one. Last Saturday’s embarrassing home defeat to lowly Hull City resulted in an especially handsome dividend.

On the other hand the strategy doesn’t always work. A few day’s previously I made a substantial investment on Croatia to beat England in their World Cup qualifying match (in Zagreb). The odds weren’t great and I was sure that Croatia would win. Surprisingly, England won 4-1 and I lost £100.

You can criticise my interest in gambling if you like, but I think this form of betting is more more reputable than the murky dealings taking place on today’s stock markets. And if I happen to lose a bet, it’s not going to make a big hole in anybody’s pension.

One Response to “Gambling for Losers”

  1. […] it’s a bet on the future behaviour of the shares. This violates one of my two rules about gambling, namely that you should only gamble with your own money and it is a bit surprising it was ever […]

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