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Betting as science - Sahana Prasad, Bangalore based analyst and expert at Christ University - The Sunday Indian
 
An IIPM Initiative
Monday, October 23, 2017
 
 

Spot-fixing

Betting as science

 

Wagering in cricket has long been fueled by internet, bookie networks and money
SAHANA PRASAD, BANGALORE BASED ANALYST AND EXPERT AT CHRIST UNIVERSITY | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Spot-fixing | Betting | Science | Mahabharata | IPL |
 

“We are so much at the mercy of chance that Chance is our god,” Pliny the Elder wrote during the 1st century, thus exemplifying the early Romans who, along with the Greek, indulged in heavy betting on sports. They were followed by the English, Germans and Italians whose love for wagering took many forms. The recent hue and cry over betting in cricket has a long history fueled by internet, a strong network of bookies and a slew of controversies, money and sleaze.

Gambling in India has been prevalent from the early times. In the Ramayana, there are casual references to it which neither condemn or encourage. However, in the Mahabharata, it is clearly shown as a negative trait. Yudhishthira, the righteous king is lured into this game time and again, losing his possessions, riches, spouse, brothers and even his kingdom. This probably, was the origin of `loaded dice’ in which one side of the die is coated with a material. This makes one side heavy and whenever the die is cast, the heavier side falls down, thus leading to the win of one party always.

In Dyuta Sukta or an Ode to the Dice, mentioned in a hymn in the tenth book of the Rig Veda, there is a gambler desperately addressing a dice and asking it to spare him and stay away from him. The tale of Nala and Damayanti is again a tale of dice playing havoc with the life of a loving couple. The dice, supposedly doctored, lead to a series of unfortunate happenings in the life of the protagonists.

Probability, which is the fundamental concept in betting, can be defined as the likelihood of a certain outcome or an event taking place as well as the degree of certainty which can be placed on the occurrence of this outcome. Obviously, the higher the probability, more is the certainty of the event. In sports, probability implies confidence that a certain player or team can beat their opposition to win.

Understanding `betting odds’ is simple, though the way entire transactions are conducted is something else. Odds are a numeric way of expressing probability or the likelihood that an event will occur or not occur. For example, if the odds of a sports person winning is 10:25, it means that his probability of winning is 10/ (10+25) = 10/35=0.2857. These are also known as `true odds’. But in a gambling situation, the odds stated are not true, but different so that the person betting is put at a slight disadvantage.

`Odds makers’ calculate the likelihood of a team or a player winning. The bookies include their margins and commissions in these and there these odds are not `true’.  There are three kinds of odds, all of them dealing with the return one will receive on a given amount of money placed on a bet. These are Decimal odds, Fractional odds and Money line odds.

Gambling is illegal in India but this has not been a problem when internet helps to access an online bookmaker located abroad. Lots of options are now available to wager online in rupee and there are a number of cricket bets offered. There are a large number of sites which accept payment in rupees and have clear cut instructions on depositing money and placing bets. A thorough study of the teams and the players involved is essential to decide on the odds. This `historical’ data gives the odds of winning. The odds for the outcome of the game, test matches, batting performances, bowling performances etc will help in determining these odds.

A punter helps one to get into this scenario. The punter introduces a new entrant to the bookie and shoulders the financial guarantee of the new entrant too. This entrant can become a punter after a few matches and can begin introducing new persons. A punter can be associated with many bookies and sometimes, even the bookies are punters. Computers with internet, telephone lines and tape recorders aid in placing bets and to change the rates as the match progresses.

Bayesian inference has been defined as `the process by which the probability estimates for a hypothesis is updated as additional evidence is learned’. A right perspective on recent and fairly recent information is vital for successful betting; punters use it all the time, without probably realizing its importance. In betting, the evaluation of a team’s, player’s ability or odds, gets revised as additional information is gained. This additional information can be a change in the unexpected defeat, unexpected victory, and so on. Betting and gambling are an art and there is a lot of science and scientific method involved. It is sad, indeed that these are used only for fueling the greed and selfishness of man and have bred an industry of guile, deceit and subterfuge.

(Views expressed by the author are personal)

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017