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The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win Big In Business Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 6, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, July 6, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ma, the math whiz and subject of Ben Mezrich's bestselling Bringing Down the House, turns his savvy to business. A former professional card counter on the MIT blackjack team, Ma used statistics to beat the game, and his enthusiasm for the power of data and for overcoming emotion to make the best decisions proves persuasive. Though his lessons aren't particularly new, his methods and thrilling stories of card counting in Vegas gives his book a compelling boost. He instructs leaders to recall that past performance, like a dealt blackjack hand, has an impact on the future; to avoid groupthink and a hot hand, or overconfidence, at all costs; and to prioritize what the data says. Even those who do not consider themselves math types can benefit from posing business issues as follows: a simple question helps focus a complex mathematical model and that complex mathematical model helps solve a very important business problem. It's a spirited—if simplified—approach to decision making. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for The House Advantage:

“From the minute I met Jeff Ma, I knew that my life was about to change; a mathematical genius who had turned Vegas upside down with a system that has since made him an international sensation, Jeff taught me more about money in a single neon-laced weekend than I could ever learn from a library full of CEO biographies. A perfect companion to Bringing Down The House, Jeff’s book opens a window into a world where high-level statistics mingle with heart-pounding gambling tales. To put it simply- this is a business book like no other you’ve ever read before.”-  From the Forerword by Ben Mezrich, NY Times Bestselling author of Bringing Down The House and The Accidental Billionaires

"Few things like experiencing the ups-and-downs of beating the casinos at blackjack can better equip one to understand risk and reward in visceral and concrete way. The House Advantage  is an efficient and enjoyable read that reflects Jeff's nuanced understanding about how to run the numbers in a real-world context. " – Nate Silver, Statistician and Founder of FiveThirtyEight.com

"Jeffrey Ma has written a work of philosophy in the guise of a business book...The House Advantage is an urbane blend of human observation and math smarts, business sense and common sense." - William Poundstone, author of Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)
 
The House Advantage sets the standard for explaining how the use of data and analysis is revolutionizing how businesses and sports teams will be successful in the future. Jeff uses his unique combination of theory and business savvy to illustrate this important trend in a way that is packed with entertaining stories and practical examples to get started. Sports and business executives ignore this ground-breaking book at their peril.“ – Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets
 
“Read Jeff’s book if you want to understand what analytics can do for your business. His gambling and sports analogies tie well to business themes and reveal sound analytical thinking. Going on your gut just doesn’t cut it today.” - Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS
 
"There's nobody else on earth who could have written this book." - Rob Neyer, ESPN.com
 
"Since graduating from MIT, Jeff Ma has excelled in professions as diverse as card-player, options trader, and internet entrepreneur. His experiences make for an absorbing read about the indisputable role of statistics and objective analysis in the making of smarter business decisions.  Jeff’s story is compelling evidence as to why leaders in every field should believe in “The House Advantage.” - Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics

 
Praise for Jeff Ma:
 
"Finding the statistical kernel that tells a truer story seems to be Ma's speciality" - Justin Berton, San Francisco Gate
 
"So, who is Jeff Ma? He's a charming, intelligent guy who has gone through all of the ups and downs of the "City of Sin" and lived to tell his tale." - Brian Tallerico, Deadbolt.com
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230622720
  • ASIN: B005DI6L16
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,645,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
We're not designed to think unemotionally nor about abstract statistics. But Ma's book shows us that if we do learn to do so, we can achieve something we are designed to pursue--success. This book outlines and explores just how to do that. It's a great read for various demographics: the not-so-business savvy who wants to become so; the "layperson" looking to find ways for making better life-decisions; or the expert businessperson looking to uncover an edge in bringing down their own sort of house.

Ma describes things for the reader that will get you up to speed on both your gambling--i.e. the nuances of 21--and your business-speak--i.e. I finally learned what an option is and then how it relates to volatility and the Mexican economic crisis' affect on the U.S. dollar--without turning the expert off in either arena. Not an easy task as a writer and is done exceptionally well here.

The book is of the same genre as Lewis' Moneyball (a book Ma cites as life-changing in the Acknowledgments). Ideal for the neophyte interested in economics, finance, etc., combining the highfalutin world of casino gambling with modern day finance. In a sense, Ma urges us to put our faith in something that we believe in--which is rooted in clear thinking and statistics--and forge ahead, regardless of the valleys that may occur in the arena of "ups and downs."

Ma uses well-told personal anecdotes to explain cognitive errors common in academic psychology such as the gambler's fallacy and confirmation bias. Clearly not a man of superstition, frowning up on the "same-roller" phenomenon in craps and the concept of `statistical atheist', making sure the reader knows he's not involved in magic or some form of voodoo.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone with a very similar background to Ma's (engineering background, entrepreneur funding a company while playing poker professionally, and heavily involved in sports analytics from a predictive standpoint) I found this book to be an an articulation and formalization of concepts that every successful gambler has honed and inherently understands and has a tough time explaining to the general population. By definition, gamblers have trained themselves to evaluate the EV of every situation and make the most +EV decision while remaining emotionally detached from the results. Successful gamblers also understand bankroll management and non-results oriented thinking. We're trained to learn from trial and error, to correct mistakes via feedback, but variance has an inherent way of throwing these feedback mechanisms off. The way to better decisions, as Ma says, is to understand the underlying mathematics, ask the right questions, and maintain discipline.

Perhaps the most glowing recommendation I can make about this book is via my own personal experience. For the past couple months I've had a conversation with my father, a trained engineer and a brilliant man, about poker and investing. Each time, I tried to make the case for non results oriented thinking. The first example, I brought up the fact that I was up a large amount playing poker in Vegas and ended up marginally up. His statement is that I should have quit while ahead while my argument was that as long as I had an advantage (I was +EV in the game) I should try to realize this advantage by playing as many hours as possible, because in the long run, I'd hit my hourly expectation. He argued while that was true, my time horizon in Vegas was 1 weekend.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who has read many different books and articles on the subjects of investing, gambling, sports analytics, and business, I think Jeff Ma has done an incredible job of melding his experiences as a blackjack winner, successful entrepreneur, and sports consultant to write a fascinating, cohesive book with practical applications for anyone looking to effectively solve problems across various diverse areas of interest.

The book does a great job of taking some of the most common problems that can derail a successful venture and showing you how to achieve better results using an objective reality-based approach to problem solving. To help, he uses numerous real world examples through discussions with an interesting array of successful players in business, sports, finance, and gambling (see the list of impressive blurbs for the book) to help drive home many important principles that somehow get overlooked these days (for example: this past financial crisis).

Throughout the book, Ma shows how focusing on objectivity and data will help you make better decisions but, even more importantly, he is not a slave to numbers and constantly points out that making the right decision is way more than just access to and using numbers, it's also about asking the right questions and making sure you're interpreting your data properly so that it makes sense. His chapter on correlation versus causation is especially good at this as it points out just how important it is to think through what numbers mean as opposed to blindly following them.
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