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Intermediate Lessons

Fearless predictions from the Mad Genius Brain Trust

In a minute, you’ll be shown the most accurate odds in America. Forget those predictions by guess-heads on the network television panel discussions. They don’t have a clue. If you want to know for real, from a logical and analytical standpoint, whether O. J. Simpson will be convicted or whether Bill Clinton will be reelected president, read this.

About four years ago I founded my America’s Mad Genius Brain Trust. Its stated goal is to deliver "the most intelligent odds possible regarding what will happen next in America, the world, and beyond." I have worked hard to keep that promise. But about a year after I launched the brain trust, a reporter asked me how I had been chosen to head the Mad Genius Brain Trust. This seemed like a pretty bizarre question, because she already knew I was known as the Mad Genius. So, I faxed her the following:

Jill-Here’s the information you requested. A year ago, I noticed that the odds quoted in the national press, citing experts in various fields, weren’t very good. I concluded that "experts in their fields" were either not really experts in their fields or not experts at making odds-or both. It seemed to me that if you put together an informal group of authorities in different categories who could be called on for information and opinions, and you attached them to the most skillful and prescient odds maker alive, you’d have one hell of a brain trust.

So, I decided to form one, hoping I could later ferret out the most accurate and intelligent current-events line maker in the world and convince him or her to head my brain trust. Well, it’s not easy identifying the right person for this job. I considered asking Richard Nixon, because of his broad experience in foreign affairs, and because of our long-standing personal friendship, and also Henry Kissinger, for the same reasons. But I needed someone sharper. I reluctantly rejected Isaac Asimov and, then, Stephen Hawking, also. Asimov and I had never been very close, and I hadn’t had a serious discussion with Hawking in almost a week.

Frustrated, I finally made a list and developed a sophisticated computer program to evaluate the candidates. Imagine my shock when there was only one clear winner, and I was it! Silly me. Inadvertently, I had left my name embedded in the program code during testing, and thus it had been evaluated along with the others. Well, I just sat there and stared at the printout for a very long time. Why hadn’t I thought of this? Maybe when you’re modest, as some people say I am, you don’t realize how great you are until some stupid computer points it out. Needless to say, I felt honored when I offered myself the position as head of the Mad Genius Brain Trust. And I accepted humbly.

Within months, my Mad Genius odds had been quoted in a dozen publications, and I was doing a weekly radio commentary inside Larry Grossman’s syndicated show, where-luckily-many experts agreed that the odds were quite accurate.

Jill, I hope you find the previous information helpful. Let me know if you need anything else. — Mike Caro

I never did hear back from Jill. But, just between us, I really do take my brain trust predictions seriously, and I really do believe they’re dead-on accurate. Now, on behalf of the brain trust, here are our current odds:

Will O. J. Simpson walk? At the end of his first trial (assuming there is one), what are the chances that the result is either an acquittal or a hung jury? It’s about 3-to-1 against or 25.3% likely. This is slightly more likely than making a bicycle in razz when you begin with 4-3-2-A, which is 23.4%. (Note: The odds against an acquittal specifically are about 15-to-1 or 6.3% likely; the odds against a hung jury specifically are about 4.3-to-1 or 19% likely.)

Was there a second killer? Much has been made of the possibility of two knives used in the killing. Was there more than one killer? This means either Simpson plus one or more other persons or one or more other persons excluding Simpson. There might be a second killer, but it may never come to light. So, in order to make this a bettable proposition (not that we really intend to bet it, right?), we need to ask: What is the chance that the prosecution will agree that a second killer was involved or was likely to have been by the time of a verdict? It’s 7-to-1 against, actually 12.45% likely This is slightly more likely than flopping a least one card the same rank as your starting pair in hold’em, which is 11.8%.

Will Clinton be reelected? Predictions seem to be all over the board on this one, ranging from making Bill Clinton a heavy odds-on favorite to more than a 20-to-1 underdog. The real odds, the odds you can count on are these: It’s almost exactly 2-to-1 against Bill Clinton being reelected in 1996, actually 33.5% likely. This is worse than the 35.4% chance of making an eight in California ace-to-five lowball, drawing to 8-6-4-2, using the usual joker-added deck.

This is posted July 12, 1994. And, right now, Bill Clinton is drawing one card to an eight.

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