Just about anyone who’s into sports are familiar with crazy contests, like a fan taking a half-court shot to win a car or file a March Madness bracket for a shot at a million dollars. The odds of winning those contests are pretty small, but when someone does win, another person has to pay.
Usually, the person who banks on those odds is Bob Hamman. He runs Dallas-based SCA Promotions, and happens to be one of the best bridge players in the world.
Interview Highlights: Bob Hamman…
…on how a typical shooting contest at a basketball game may work:
"We give them a price per shot and we make an estimate of how likely the contestants will [make it]. On the average, if the contestant hasn’t played basketball and they’re coming in cold, their chances of making a half-court shot are really not that good, though sometimes they surprise you."
…on how he comes up with the odds:
"You start out with an assumption – say they’re 50 percent to make a free throw – then you start adjusting that for distance, and then it becomes a ballistics problem. The formulas we’ve used proved to be fairly accurate over the years. We try to be as scientific about it as we can. Of course, we’re scientific when we’re right and we’re unlucky when we’re wrong."
…how the card game Bridge plays into his work:
"Bridge is a very interesting game in the sense that you have to identify the problem that you’re working on, pretty much like real life. If you’re working on the wrong problem, lots of luck."