Friday, August 17, 2012

Parrando's Paradox...

Parrando's Paradox comes out of game theory, an area of math that's always fascinated me even though I really know very little about it.  I've run across Parrando's Paradox before, always together with dense math that I didn't understand.  The idea of Parrando's Paradox is simple enough: in certain circumstances two games that are individually losing games can become a winning game if played together.  Not all losing games, mind you, and certainly not all losing games played together – just under certain circumstances.

For example, playing the slots is a losing game: if you play the slots long enough, you'll have less money than you started with.  Similarly, roulette is a losing game.  If it were true that you could make money by playing one round of slots, followed by one round of roulette, and continuing in that pattern, that would be an example of Parrando's Paradox.  In the example I gave, even the two games in combination are a losing game, so it's not an example.

There's a post on Data Genetics that explains Parrando's Paradox, complete with an actual example, in terms I could wrap my addled brain around (even some of the math!).  It leads off with “How two ugly parents can make a beautiful baby”...

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