2008 World Series: Odds and ends

I can't deny it, I'm no mathematician. I might spend most of the day looking at piles of discs embossed with numbers, and sometimes add them up, but there's always a margin of error included in these calculations that is hopefully forgiveable, even if it can sometimes be as wide as Las Vegas Boulevard.

Even so, I like to think I know a story when I see one, and an unlikely story is even better. And despite having a brain more inclined to use a calculator to spell out rude words (664751x8 turned upside down, for instance) following Team PokerStars Pro over the opening two days of the HORSE event has provided what seems to be a mathematics-based humdinger. As mentioned, eight members of Team PokerStars Pro were in the field of 148 that started the $50,000 event, and at the most recent break, with just 98 of the field still in the hunt, there were still all eight of the team-members alive and kicking. What are the odds on that?

Well, of course, I have no idea. "It's pretty unlikely," nodded all the sages on media row, scratching their chins and looking deliberately the other direction, flicking through their dictionaries and the safe haven of words. But fear not, because we have the kind of human calculator in the Team's ranks that could definitely figure this one out. Right, where's Bill Chen?


Fortunately, I caught up with him just as he was helping out the dealer with the race to rid the tables of the 100 chip. I described the problem, handed him my notebook, and two minutes later, he handed it back with this written on it:

98 x 97 x 96 x 95 x 94 x 93 x 92 x 91
148 x147 x146 x145 x144 x143 x142

"That'll give you your probability," Bill said. "It's probably about 20 to one."

So, I ran it through the calculator, and, after a few choice words when assaulted by the intermediate calculation of 6345015248033280 / 1337331545464320, then when I typed it all in wrong and had to start again, I was left with this number: 4.7445. Now, this much I can just about do, because if you multiply that number by Bill's 20, you get something very close to 100, which suggests to me that he was right all along. It's about a 20 to 1 shot, which is mightily impressive.

Of course, as a wholly predictable footnote to all this, by the time I actually got all these calculations done, my story had been unfortunately rendered slightly out of date. Greg Raymer took three tough beats, one at the hands of Mr. Chen, to lose 300,000 of what was previously a comfortable stack. His final 25,000 went in just after the break, and they never doubled. The 2004 World Champion was the first Team PokerStars member to be eliminated.

Sorry for Greg, but that now still seven from a field of 90. Can anyone figure that out? Bill!