Why making it in Bollywood is like playing roulette

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In the book ‘Bollywood Roulette: Inside the Struggle!‘ author Rahul Bajaj compares the gamble aspirational young actors and actresses take by moving to Mumbai to break into the film industry to a game of roulette – they are staking their future on a random chance outcome, playing a game. Some win big, many lose. Almost all have an adventure along the way.

And part of the adventure, in following your dream or playing roulette, comes from developing a strategy and trying to implement it. In Bollywood, that might mean planning where to audition, or what agency to sign up to. In roulette, it means where to place your bets and how much to wager on a given turn.

There are lots of guides out there to help you learn how to play roulette. But here are the basics. To win on roulette, you have to guess where the ball will land when it is thrown onto the spinning wheel. On an American roulette wheel, there are 38 possible options, with eighteen ‘black’ numbers, eighteen ‘red’ numbers and two ‘green’ numbers (0 and 00). On a European roulette wheel, there is only one ‘green’ number (0). 

13-02-27-spielbank-wiesbaden-by-RalfR-093 by Ralf Roletschek CC BY-SA 2.5

You can guess that the ball will land on an individual number, a colour, or one of the many combinations of numbers also available, like the odd numbers or the numbers 1-18. The size of your pay-out is just less than proportional to how specific your guess is. 

So what are some common strategies? Progressive strategies compel players to increase or decrease their wager based on how well they are doing. In a positive progressive strategy, players increase their bet when they win, and decrease it when they lose. In a negative progressive strategy, they do the opposite, decreasing when they win and increasing when they lose.

But we can be a bit more specific than that. The D’Alembert system, named after a famous French physicist, blends positive and negative progressive strategies by requiring players to increase their stake by one unit after they win, and decrease it by one unit after they lose, with the original stake and the units being selected by the player. 

The D’Alembert system merges two much more aggressive strategies – the Martingale and the Simple Paroli – which require players to double their stake after losing and winning respectively. These systems, although well-known, can quickly cause the required stake to rise above a safe level. The key idea behind these three strategies is to hang in the game until you make a big win (if you can keep up with the rising stake), then quit.

Sean Connery 1971 (cropped) by Rob Mieremet CC BY-S.A 3.0 NL

Other strategies focus on where you place your bets rather than how you change your stake. The ‘James Bond’ strategy, for instance, is to split your wager into 200 units and essentially make three bets at once – place 140 on the high numbers (19-36), 50 on the numbers 13-18, and 10 on 0. If any bet comes off, you make a profit, though in the long-term those profits would be less than your losses from the bets that don’t come off.

Just like trying to make it in Bollywood, none of these strategies can deliver guaranteed profits for you in the long-term. But for many years people have enjoyed giving it a go nonetheless.

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