Betting on the Numbers

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In 1941, when I started my first job at The American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York, I met a numbers runner for the first time. An individual would come to the area where I worked and take bets from workers. There was a game the workers played. If I guessed what the number to come out the next day was going to be, I’d get $540 for every dollar that I bet. The number to guess could have three digits from 000 to 999. This was a marvelous reward, I thought, and I tried doing it for a while. I didn’t win anything so I reduced the amount bet to ten cents and made ten bets each day. My reasoning was that I had ten times as much chance to win. My bets were no more successful with this strategy than they had been before.I thought about the problem and hit upon an idea that I thought might work. I asked the runner if he could give me a list of the winning numbers for the last several years. He was able to do this and did. I divided the numbers into 100 groups of ten numbers each. (There are 1000 possible numbers between the numbers 000 and 999.) I numbered each group from 1 to 100 and made a table that showed how many times a number had won in each group. Some groups had one or two winning numbers, some six or seven, some none. I felt …