Friday, March 18, 2011

And this is the way it is ...

After working as a designer for a slot machine company I realized that humans are nothing more than really mischievous - sometimes dangerous monkeys. I think that's why elephants hate us - but that's another post.

Angry Monkey from Family Guy
One of the dirty little secrets of the slot machine industry is we strip away the most talented mathematicians from universities. Okay, investment banking gets first dibs - they pay the most, but after that, casinos can offer so much more money, benefits and "cool factor" than the university system. It's sad and tragic.

Seriously, do you know what a person with a Masters degree in mathematics gets at any large university? How about 30k a year and class full of noisy freshmen who hate math. If you're lucky, you get to tutor some basketball or football players in how fractions work.

But in the casino industry, a game designer gets their own office - okay probably a large cubicle, whatever computer equipment they want, travel all around the world, triple the university salary and best of all, respect. I mean respect for abilities, talents, and education. Las Vegas appreciates math and they don't care about color or gender. Game mathematicians eat at the finest restaurants and stay at the lavish resorts. You are a combinatorial superstar.

Just a tip to any Native American who might read this post - stop what you're doing and go get your degree in mathematics - especially if you're a woman. The industry will literally throw money at you. Please send me an e-mail and I'll tell you exactly what to say when you walk into a gaming company.

How did I get off on that tangent? This is how my mind works these days. --> where was I?

Even the most talented mathematician (remember we hired the very best) has to admit they're not above being entranced by shinny objects. You come to a third-person understanding of how your brain works. The rational part, recognizes and even embraces the emotional, primitive side. That's why so many game designers play slot machines.

They don't think they're going to win - they like how it feels. I guess it's the same reason medical doctors drink and smoke. It's this kind of duality thing. Enlightenment must be the acceptance of the ridiculous irony in using a meat-filled, chemical squirting machine to reason.

I remember being in Sydney, Australia at the Balmain Tiger's RSL (a little casino dedicated to a rugby team) with a truck load of mathematicians and we're all gambling like mad. A bunch of us were "team playing" - which means - everyone pools their money into a giant fund and then you play high denomination ($5 a pull) slot machines.

Everyone knew the odds - intricately knew the probability of winning. Didn't matter much - we were feeding the monkey brain. Press the button - watch the lights - hear the sound - hope to be rewarded with a goody - then press the button again. As a side note, the current CEO of Shuffle Master, Gavin Isaacs was leading the pack at that party and I think he still owes me money. Gavin is great manager and really inspired me.

----> When I started this post, I wanted to talk about that I woke up at 3am with an insatiably need for Batman pancakes.


For a long time I was the only American member of the Balmain Tigers. I considered running for the board of directors and proposing having the annual meetings in Las Vegas.

A glimpse into the life of a math TA --> Physics forums 
Video from one of the slot machines I designed. ---> Eagle Rock 

One of the artists on the project, Pat was kind enough or cruel enough to put a caricature of  me on the inner tube. And yes I really do have chicken legs - Also you can hear the voice of one of the artist who passed away before the game was complete.

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