My old friend, Manfred Muncheimer of the University of Vienna's Mathematics Department, has the academic world in a frenzy with his latest book -- which completely denies the existence of constant odds.
"Those dummies all believe that if you play a roulette wheel for an infinite number of times, each number will hit equally," Manfred told me. "Of course, that leaves out the most important factor -- which number are you betting on? If you are going to put your chips on number 8, for example, 7 and 9 will be hit way out of proportion."
"But all the gambling experts tell us the same thing: Results are random and the odds can not be manipulated," I said.
"Ja," Manfred agreed. "But have you ever seen one of these experts actually win? If they knew what they were talking about they wouldn't be peddling their theories, they would be too busy living it up in Monte Carlo.
"For example, the odds that the next card in a deck will be an ace are 1 out of 13. This is a mathematical fact, except when you go into a casino. If the blackjack dealer is holding a face card, the odds that his next card will be an ace suddenly switch to 9 to 1. If you have that face card, your odds are only 1 out of 90."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Nobody really knows," Manfred admitted. "But if it weren't true, the casinos wouldn't have the money to comp big players for room and board."
"Does your theory have any impact on the ordinary guy?" I asked.
"Of course," Manfred said. "Once you realize that the odds can be controlled, you can maneuver them in your favor. For example, wouldn't you love to hit the progressive jackpot?"
"Sure, but it will never happen."
"It will with my system," Manfred told me. Just go into any casino and sit at the $1 slot. Invest $200 and play for three coins per pull. Of course, those three lucky $ signs will not show up. BUT, you can practically guarantee it by getting down to your last buck and playing a single coin. The progressive jackpot is sure to hit -- although not having played the max, you won't win a thing."
"How does your theory hold up outside of a casino?" I asked him.
"Perfectly," Manfred replied. "Everybody knows that you can make it rain, even if you live in the Sahara Desert, simply by washing your car, but are you aware that you stop it from raining just by carrying an umbrella? Or let's say that your phone hasn't rung all day. The odds are tremendous that it will remain silent for the next 10 minutes. You can change all of that just by getting into the shower."
"I can see where this could make quite a difference in your daily life," I agreed.
"You don't realize the half of it," Manfred said. "What are the odds against Michelle Pfeiffer sitting next to you on your cross-country flight? Astronomical. But you can whittle them down sharply by going fishing for a few days and getting on the plane without taking a shower. If Michelle, herself, is not assigned the adjacent seat a close look-alike certainly will be -- until she begs the stewardess to put her elsewhere."
"Most American men would love to be shooting the breeze in a bar with a top ranked NFL player," I told him. "Of course, it will never happen. All those guys are multi-millionaires who never hang around the corner watering spot. Is there any way to arrange it?"
"Certainly," Manfred told me. "Go into any bar in any city in the world and announce in a loud voice that 'Philadelphia is a fag city and no real man would be seen there.' Then turn around. The entire Eagles defensive line will be right behind you -- and, for a bonus, the Flyers will be right alongside of them, hockey sticks in hand."
"Does your theory only work on a personal level?" I asked him.
"No," Manfred replied. "You can even have an international impact. Convert $1000 into Euros and see how quickly the foreign exchange rate turns around and the Euro loses half of its value.
"Of course," he said, "as an intellectual, I have more lofty goals. I plan to use my theory to abolish war and establish lasting world peace."
"That would be wonderful," I admitted, "but how can you do it?"
"It's simple," Manfred said. "As soon as this interview is over, I'm calling my broker and investing heavily in armament stocks."