The House Advantage

As I watch Amy scurry around and put the final touches on our Homer house before we leave to go home to Boulder, I thought I’d stay out of the way and write a quick final book post on The House Advantage.  I read a bunch more books the past two weeks but ran out of gas reviewing them all – see my Shelfari bookshelf if you are interested.  But The House Advantage was worth mentioning.

My friend Niel Robertson – the CEO of Trada (which we are investors in) introduced me to Jeff Ma (the author) and then also sent me a book.  It turns out that I know Jeff and lived next door to his sister when I was at MIT.  You also may know Jeff – he’s the main character in Ben Mezrich’s excellent book Bringing Down the House and the inspiration for he main character in the movie 21. It also turns out that Jeff is an accomplished entrepreneur.  He’s had several successful companies, the most recent being Citizen Sports which Yahoo recently acquired.

The subtitle of The House Advantage is “Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business”.  In it, Jeff takes on a topic that most business people avoid – statistics.  He uses his experience with both the MIT blackjack team, sports statistics, and his friends experiences in these areas to explain very important statistics concepts in very clear and straightforward ways.  He’s a great writer – rather than resulting in a dull book about business stats, it’s a spicy read full of stories of Vegas, sports, high speed car chases, airplanes exploding, terrorist drug lords, extreme dance parties, and … well – ok – Vegas and sports.

As I was reading it, I kept thinking “every CEO I work with and every investor I’ve ever met should read this book.”  After I finished, I thought “every academic researcher who has ever written a paper should read this.” None of the statistics concepts are complex, but they are regularly misused, abused, and confused.  Or ignored.

As a bonus, the book includes the Basic Strategy Chart for Blackjack.  How many business books can claim that?  Seriously, this is an outstanding book – Jeff – well done!

  • Alright, picking it up today!

  • thanks, i just got it on my kindle

  • Looks like the book is a good one for stopping to be afraid of Statistics.

    On a side note, am pleasantly surprised to see that Boulder Public Library has a copy of the book – which was released less than a month ago. Impressed!

  • Great stuff here! At least there’s a bonus that gives out basic strategy chart for Blackjack.

  • I really enjoyed the book as well, Brad.

    I love how the book starts out with Jeff Ma’s experience of losing $100k on a hand even though he made the right percentage play, how he struggled with his emotions thereafter, and what he’s learned from that experience.

    As Jeff explains, how one deals with loss tells you a lot about that person and also that you need to have faith in the data and in your convictions to weather the inevitable variance, the ups and downs, inherent in the game – very relevant to both investors and entrepreneurs who need to maintain a long time horizon.

  • Good review. Just ordered my copy

  • Statistics? The topic is very simple, I had my subject before about stat and it's pretty great. Well, it's based from experience since I love math though.

  • Brad, I for one, am looking for you to return to the planet Earth after spending your requisite time in Alaska:)

    Welcome back, man….

  • Great to hear some praise for this new book. I haven't had a chance to read HA yet but find Ma's story very fascinating and have HA on my to-read list. If you are curious but not ready to make the leap and buy, check out some of his recent interviews. I found the TechCrunch one to be a good nutshell overview.

  • You just need to learn strategies and ways on how to integrate things. In that way, you can surely make use of the facts that you’ll get from your researches which can be very reliable for you.

  • So I finally had a long enough flight to read and finish the book.
    I must say that you get a lot out of it, the way he presented statistics really fascinated me, but I must also say that it bored me to death.

    The author repeats himself thousand of times in a chapter and constantly goes into detail about mostly useless stuff. There's an entire chapter debating wether to go for it or not (and I still haven't understood what it means).

    Lovely core messages, with some awesome real-life scenes from his blackjack career but really needed some pro editing imho.