Counting cards, TED talks, and analyzing home runs; an interview with Dr. Ed Meyer

Photo by DAVID LIAM KYLE/Sun News4 col x 5.4

 

Last week Terrapinn introduced a new speaker, Dr. Ed Meyer, who will be participating at the Trading Show New York 2014. We were fortunate enough to ask Ed several questions revolving around his unique quant and sports background.

 

The interview

Lots of sports bettors have found themselves in the poker rooms and at the blackjack tables. Do you have any experience with casino gambling?

While a graduate student at CWRU, I was asked not to play blackjack at the Monte Carlo Casino in Las Vegas because I was winning too much money counting cards.  My brother Tom developed a base-two chip-stacking system, so I would know the simple count if I walked up to the table just by looking at the way he stacked his chips.

 

Outside of teaching at the university, have you ever presented anything abstract in an educational setting?

I have presented a TEDx talk on teaching problem solving skills to youngsters.  Too often in formal education, students are given answers to remember and protocols to follow rather than problems to solve.  With the advent of the internet, today’s employers are looking for creative problem solvers.  That is, people that can have a NEW idea.  Schools do not give youngsters much of an opportunity to have a new idea.  I worked as a recruiter for Imperial Chemical Industries for several years and sometimes I felt like telling the candidate, “You should sue the school.  I don’t know what you have been doing for the last four years, but it hasn’t been developing the skills that we are looking for.”

 

You’ve published the solution to the famous “Two Envelope Paradox” in the Journal of Recreational Mathematics. What do you attribute to your success in this area of thinking?

For one, I have a pathological desire to solve puzzles and paradoxes.  Once I get started, it is hard to stop until I have the solution.  The two-envelope paradox was a famous problem in risk management.  To solve it, I tapped into my social capital.  I discussed this problem for several days with Professor Michalewicz of the University of Adelaide and author of a book on Puzzle-Based learning and I also have had a long e-mail correspondence on the problem with Timothy Falcon Crack, Professor of Finance at the University of Otago in New Zealand, author of the book, “Heard on the Street – Quantitative Questions from Wall Street Job Interviews.”

 

I heard you’ve had unbelievable success with your NFL teasers (45-16 last season). Would you be willing to reveal any of your secrets at The Trading Show New York?

Certainly.  There are many popular theories for playing NFL teasers that are are exactly wrong, which is why sportsbooks can keep making money on them despite the fact that they are vulnerable.  In 1990, I wrote a six-part series on how to beat NFL teasers for Card Player Magazine and I thought for sure that it would not be long before we could stop making money on these plays.  However, more than 20 years later, we are still scooping up a handsome profit.  I’m confident that the audience at the Trading Show New York will understand exactly what I’m talking about.

 

You’ve developed the Sports Data Query Language (SDQL), which allows anyone with internet access the ability to perform research on data from box scores. How long did this take and has your system ever tried to be replicated?

The genius behind the program is my brother Joe, who has a PhD in physics from Brown University.  It took us about ten years to finally get it right.  The main reason why it took so long is we had several occasions where we started over from scratch because we couldn’t get the speed or the power that we needed.  Originally, we weren’t going to show anyone the SDQL, as customers would simply select parameters from a series of drop down menus, with the SDQL running in the background.  However, the customers wanted more and more capability and functionality that simply is not available with drop-down menus.

 

You’ve worked with ESPN to analyze long home runs and you’ve even determined the optimal position of the home run porch at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. Was this a walk in the park compared to creating the SDQL?

Yes, the computer program I wrote to analyze long home runs only took a couple of months compared to the years creating the SDQL.

 

Have you ever considered a quant job in the finance/trading world? Why or why not?

First of all, I really enjoy being a professor and challenging young people with hard problems.  At Baldwin Wallace University, we only have about ten physics/engineering majors a year so I get to know them really well and I have a lot of one-on-one time with them.  In fact, a couple of years ago, I wrote a puzzle book with one of my students,” The Gedanken Institute Book of Puzzles.”  Second, I think beating professional sports is probably a greater intellectual challenge than beating the market.  So, in a way, I am already working in the “trading” world.

 

To learn more about Ed and his fascinating background, come to The Trading Show New York 2014 where Ed will discuss the synergies between sports betting and trading, and even reveal some of his betting secrets!

 

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