Fortuna and the Free Market
“And thus does Fortune’s wheel turn treacherously
And out of happiness bring men to sorrow.”
~ Geoffrey Chaucer
Imagine you and another man are standing around a roulette wheel at a high-end casino. You place $50 on black and the other man places $50 on red. The ball had landed on a black or red number the past dozen times, and you are confident it will land on either black or red once again. Both you and the gentleman are hoping to double your money. Your odds are not 50/50, however. In an American roulette wheel, there is a single zero and a double zero, both green, nestled among the other 36 numbers. The odds of hitting these are slim, and so you and the other man push that probability out of your minds.
The attendant calls for final bets, and at the last minute, an elderly lady places $5 on zero. The wheel spins. The ball lands on the green zero, and the elderly lady walks away with $180.
Dumbfounded, you and the other man each place your last $100 on the same colors as before in an effort to win back your losses and come out ahead. This time, the ball lands on black. You walk away with $200, while the other man leaves penniless. You know, however, that it could have just as easily been you leaving with an empty pocket.
Every day at the roulette table, that merciless turn of the wheel makes some people rich and others broke. I have seen a man win thousands of dollars over the course of an hour, only to lose it all in a matter of minutes. What never changes, however, is the cold probability that decides a gambler’s fate. Gamblers are famous for courting Lady Luck with all kinds of strange tokens and gestures, but every gambler knows that someone has to win and someone has to lose. For every story of a gambler who strikes it rich, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of untold stories of failure.