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I was in Reno this weekend with some friends and family, one of whom is widely recognized as the luckiest gambler in the universe. Let's call her Jane. Jane has reportedly won so many jackpots at slot machines that her track record seems to defy all reason. She's a gambling legend. I decided to put Jane's skills to the test in front of two witnesses: my wife, Shelly, and me. I gave Jane $50 and asked her to combine it with her own $50. Her assignment was to score a big win for our collective investment while my wife and I observed her technique.

Shelly pointed at the high roller slot machine room, where the $100 wouldn't last long without a win. Jane needed to feel the right vibe before picking a winning machine, so she asked us to follow her while she felt out the room. Jane is like the slot whisperer. I think the machines actually talk to her.

As you might expect, the high roller slots area was relatively empty. Far off in a darkened corner was a lone, bearded, creepy gambler. Jane walked straight over to the machine next to the creepy guy in the darkened corner and declared it to be a winning machine. I tried to wave her off, not wanting to spend more time than necessary in a darkened corner with a creepy guy, especially since the entire rest of the room was empty. Shelly stepped in and insisted that we let Jane pick the machine that spoke to her, without our unlucky influence. I reluctantly agreed. Jane sat down, inserted our $100, and started hitting win after win. Two minutes later, we split $600. WTF?

I took my $250 net profit and gave it to the control group for this experiment, i.e. me. I lost $200 on a variety of different slots in less than ten minutes. I didn't see another jackpot, big or small, that night. Jane had won about five jackpots in two minutes. I won none.

The freaky part happened the next morning. I was up early and took a long walk to a bagel shop. On my way back, I was crossing a huge empty parking lot, looking at the clear blue sky and snowcapped mountains. Suddenly a meteor crashed into the atmosphere directly in my view plane. The meteor streaked across the sky with a bright green trail of fire. It looked as if God had used the Earth to light a match. Seconds later, I heard the sonic boom. It was literally the coolest thing I have ever seen. Apparently this was the tail end of the Lyrid meteor shower. But unlike the nighttime meteor showers I've seen before, in which the meteors looked like fireflies in the distance, this meteor must have been relatively massive, and very near. Wow. It was a once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Across the street from me, facing the wrong direction, were four college students who missed the whole show. I was lucky to be looking in exactly the right direction. Wait. . . lucky? Lucky!!!

I decided this was a sign. I went back to the slots and hit them hard. I lost, and lost, and lost. I was down $200 in minutes. I tried one machine after another. I was confused. Jane had proven that luck exists, and I just saw my lucky meteor, so how could I keep losing? Then it hit me: There might be a pattern here.

If you recall, Jane picked the slot machine that no one else would have picked. Even if the creepy guy hadn't been in the far corner, how many of you would have entered a square room full of available slot machines and picked the one that was almost in the corner? Most people would probably play something nearer the middle of the room. If you preferred the corner, like the creepy guy, you would take the actual corner, not the machine one over from it. In other words, Jane picked one of the least attractive machines in the room, and it turned out to be "lucky."

From a business standpoint, it makes sense that the least attractive machine would pay best. If you're designing a casino layout, you know you can get suckers to play the losing machines in the best locations, and the ones with the most attractive lights and sounds, all night long. The casino can maintain whatever gambling odds are legally required over the entire body of slot machines while using psychology to steer people away from the ones that pay best. All of my losing spins involved machines that somehow appealed to me on a visceral or spatial level. What I needed was an undesirable machine. So I looked for one.

That's when I spotted a slot machine sporting the worst graphics I've ever seen. It was one of those full-screen types with a changing matrix of images. The artwork looked as if it had been created by a 13-year old for a school project. The graphics were so bad that you couldn't even tell what the images were supposed to represent. It looked intentionally unattractive. And I remembered from the prior evening that this machine had sat empty while most of the machines nearby were occupied. I had passed it up several times myself. If my economic theory of casino design was right, this was my winning machine. I sat down and fed it my last $100, which quickly turned into my last $25. And this is the part of my story that gets strange.

On what would have been nearly my last spin before quitting for the day, I hit a $400 jackpot. That was my biggest lifetime win at a slot machine. The machine's graphics went into celebration mode. At the end of the animation cycle, the onscreen image changed to a Western desert sky at twilight. The final animation was a meteor streaking across the sky, exactly like the one I had just seen. Freaky.

I don't actually believe in luck, or omens, or magic. I know that every part of my story can be explained by chance, or perhaps the economics of casino design. On the other hand, I also don't believe that reality is necessarily fixed and immutable. I can't rule out the possibility that we're experiencing some sort of Schrödinger's cat situation, in which all possibilities exist simultaneously until an observer intervenes. In any event, it was a fun weekend. I spent my winnings on a nice massage. And no, I didn't get lucky during the massage. But I like to think that in some parallel universe my twin did.
 
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Apr 28, 2012
That logic process doesn't work. If ugly machines paid out more, then everyone would play them. In fact, ugly machines get played less, contain less money, and pay out less often. So they are not logically any more likely to pay out. However, apparently you believed that at the time? You saw a meteorite and were feeling like that day was different. Then you tried for a lucky break but no go, but then you convinced yourself that with power of reason you thought of a system that would find luckier machines. YOu believed that and then it worked. Ironically, I find it interesting that your mind decided to find the ugliest most unattractive machine. That was your strategy.

Whereas your lucky counterpart seems to look for that machine that attracts her. I am guessing the machine that attracts her is not always the machine in the corner or the machine next to a creepy guy. It just happened to be that time. So logically, her method is no more logical than yours was. The only similarity is you both believed it would work. Maybe she is just better and thinking positive than you are. She is able to believe in something that on the face of it seems illogical and impossible. Yet it works. Your logical mind meanwhile is working over time to try to figure out how to figure out logically how her illogical method could really work.

I suspect that the answer may well have something to do with what happens in the famous double slit experiment (aka Young's experiment) whereby observation clearly effects reality. Scientists like to assume that what happens in the quantum level has no bearing on what happens in the macro, but imo, logically, one ought to assume just the opposite. But maybe the opposite is just too freaky and so the mind rebels..
 
 
Apr 25, 2012
Don't know if someone else posted already, but there was a recording of your match:
http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/25/nasa-meteor-over-california-and-nevada-was-size-of-minivan/?hpt=hp_t3
 
 
Apr 25, 2012
WAIT! "I lost $200 on a variety of different slots in less than ten minutes."
"I was down $200 in minutes."
"I sat down and fed it my last $100"

Dude you spent $500 only to get back $400. If god gave you a sign, it was telling you - NOT to gamble, because gambling is the ultimate refuge for those who seek confirmation bias.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 24, 2012
I now read newser every day thanks to you, and I'm disappointed that you did not think of this first:

http://www.newser.com/story/144695/how-mega-millions-can-save-our-political-system.html

Why not have a $2 million prize awarded randomly to a person who votes from each state. $100 million is nothing to the Fed Government, and it would get a lot more people to vote. The odds per state (based on population) are also way better than any lottery odds of winning $2 million (maybe not for the 4-5 largest states, but still). No purchase necessary!
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
Well of course you didn't get lucky on the massage table. Any time you pay a woman for her services, there is no luck involved. With the lone exception being when a Secret Service agent pays for sex, then its accepted that she just really really wanted him badly.
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
The Universe is messing with you. It's kind of a jerk that way.
 
 
Apr 24, 2012

One cannot say for sure whether a series is random or not until one has a)the ability to recognise the pattern in the first place and b)information about the entire series from beginning to end.

For eg, a series of numbers like 1,3,5,7,11,13..... is not random. It is simply a series of prime numbers but may seem like a series of random numbers to somebody who lacks the ability/knowledge to recognise it as such.

Secondly, take a coin tossing example. It is known that heads and tails will occur randomly if one tosses a coin a large number of times with the probability of a head or a tail being occuring being 50% for each. But it is also known that if one tosses the coin a lesser number of times, say a mere five times, it is possible that all five may be heads or all five may be tails. An observer who has seen only five tosses may conclude that the series is predictable and not random, while in reality it is random. Since nobody has complete knowledge of the universe from beginning of time to its end, nobody can say with certainly whether the events which are occuring in time are random or not.
To sum, what may seem random may be not and what is not random may seem random - and nobody can know for sure which is which.

Somebody mentioned earlier of an author who argued that "horoscopes are real." In vedic astrology, there are some combinations mentioned, which if present in your horoscope, can make a man lucky in gambling. I have been studying astrology since some time and it does seem that influences operating in a person's life and the probability and the timing of events can to some small extent be correlated to a person's horoscope. As it is said, "Only a person who has not studied astrology, will ridicule it."
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
"It's tragic magic,
There are no coincidences,
But sometimes the pattern is more obvious."

The Bonzo Dog Band, title track from "Keynsham"
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 24, 2012
Klingons have a belief that a person is born with a limited amount of luck and once you use it up, then that is it.
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
nah - you're just making it up to !$%* with us, trying to turn us into dancing monkeys
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
So if Jane had have just used her own $50 and 'started hitting win after win' she would have kept the whole $600 for herself.
Instead she has to share half her winnings with her rich friend.
So was that bad luck?
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
A bit over a year ago, I was caught up in a pattern that changed my life.

Over a single small moment of time, part of this pattern made world headlines for a couple of weeks. Everything seemed so close and personal for the involved, and yet only 10 words in all where ever spoken. Most of everything was so extraordinary and subtle. I still feel the loss but there seemed to be some sort of entropy involved.

As to rather Its controlled fate, random coincidence, god.

I don't know.

There is no way for me to know.

I'm too finite to know.
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
erm...one = won. That's an embarrassing typo.
 
 
Apr 24, 2012
To me it seems the only thing certain here is that no matter what the outcomes of your 'experiment' (and I don't think it deserves to be called even that), you would have come up with an explanation for why things worked out the way they did. I, on the other hand, don't see why none of your experiences can be anything other than coincidence. Meteor showers happen worldwide, sometimes in Vegas. Millions of people go to Vegas every year to play slot machines. It is absolutely certain over a large enough subject sample that one of them will see a meteor earlier in the day, and then win a slot machine with a meteor theme attached to it and expect there to be some deeper meaning. There isn't. If you had seen this meteor earlier in the week, month, or year, my guess is you'd STILL have made the connection and interpreted one event as meaningfully linked to the other. 400 dollars is a trifling amount, especially in Vegas. The fact is if you one a million dollars you'd be way more certain that this had some deep spiritual meaning, but even then, this is simply a matter of your squishy imperfect meat brain desperate to attach a pattern to something to mind bogglingly huge to comprehend.

You're just one out of several hundred million people who A. went to Vegas; B. saw a meteor shower there; C. won on a slot machine; and D. happened to see a meteor graphic on a machine that in all likelihood displays several hundred graphics of diverse pictures within a comparatively short cycle. When you think of it that way it would be absolutely absurd if that didn't happen to at least a few people every time the least likely event (a meteor shower) occurs. You happened to be one this time.

Usually I'm pleased with your rationality during anecdotal synchronicity but in this case you dropped the ball. At least it hasn't made you an alien, angel, or Jesus convert with a surprisingly small amount of money to show for a new ludicrous belief.
 
 
Apr 23, 2012
Wow! In ANOTHER parallel universe, a) parallel you did get lucky during your massage; b) parallel you wrote the same post, with the exception of the second-to-the-last sentence, in which you came clean about your happy ending; c) parallel S h e l l y read the post and went Lorena Bobbitt on parallel you; and d) parallel you then began to write posts which had a decidedly different. . . bent.

OK, sorry about that last line.

There are patterns in the universe. Take a look at chaos theory - there are patterns even in randomness. It stands to reason that, if there are patterns, that some people may be more sensitive to those patterns than others. What it sounds like you did was recognize a pattern that affected you, and leveraged what you'd learned from someone (Jane) who was sensitive to a pattern that gave her success at gambling.

Now if I could just find a Jane of investing. . .
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2012
http://www.newser.com/story/144561/astronomers-meteor-caused-calif-nevada-explosion.html
 
 
Apr 23, 2012
I'm not sure how you can seriously entertain the idea that we may all just be part of a great big computer program and then be so skeptical about intangibles like luck, omens, and magic.

It's all part of the program, and the program ensures we can never find the proof.
 
 
Apr 23, 2012
If a funny old guy in a futuristic car visits you and takes off his face, don't be surprised.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 23, 2012
Nature has patterns. Humans can't always perceive those patterns, so they assign meaning in ways the can understand. "Randomness" in nature may be a humanly contrived perception.

About gambling - there is really no such thing as a string of random numbers from a mechanical or electronic device - like a slot machine. In fact, slot machines are built with a "payout" percentage. Nevada state law is a minimum payout of 75%. Casinos advertize higher payout rates, but those ads can apply to specific machines. If I owned a casino, I'd make those machines look as undesirable as possible.

So what gambling really involves is perceiving patterns. Some people have that perception, consciously or unconsciously. Some can pick horses. Some can pick numbers. Some can pick winning teams or loose slot machines. The rest of us are better off avoiding casinos.

About meteors - there's are optimal times for seeing them. Your best chance is when your patch of sky is headed, edge on, into the debris cloud that makes the shower. That means twilight and dawn. At those times, during showers, if you stare at the same place for a few minutes you will see a meteor. I learned about it on Phil Plait's "bad astronomy" site years ago, and it has always worked.

About your big meteorite and the meteor animation on your winning slot - things line up. Pragnanz leads humans to assign meaning to the event.
 
 
Apr 23, 2012
Assuming it's the same one (time frame and location fit), it was a relatively massive meteor - about the size of a washing machine.

http://www.kens5.com/home/West-Coast-abuzz-after-washing-machine-sized-fireball-sighting--148452435.html
 
 
 
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