Thursday, November 22, 2007

supporting the second favourite

As my natural inclination seems to be to support the second favourite in Everything, it makes me wonder whether this is a successful strategy in terms of return on investment.

Take betting: if you bet on the favourite you get the worst odds but you will win most often. If you bet on outsiders you get a few spectacular successes but mostly no return at all. Perhaps the second favourite gives the best cost benefit ratio. I suspect that a lot of effort by statisticians has gone into this.

My guess is it is psychological cost benefit rather than straight forward numbers. If you support the favourite you get most victories but they are expected and therefore the euphoria is minimal, more like smug satisfaction at proving the status of favourite was correct. By contrast the defeats are devastating as they undermine the position of favourite. This explains why managers and fans of the favourites are the biggest whingers about unfair conditions, refereeing, cheating by the opposition etc. They seek to explain how a favourite has not won.

Some would opt therefore to support rank outsiders, which is fine because every little victory is worth a lot. But the endless defeats must get wearing.

Now the second favourite: when you win it is still against the odds but it happens relatively often. It's still painful when you lose, but this doesn't happen much more often than with the favourite. There is a particular satisfaction at beating the favourite who has more support, money, status, i.e. has everything going for it.

I would have to confess to being a pathological second favourite supporter in all things in life (it is not a conscious decision any more than being attracted to somebody - it's inbuilt - whether nature or nurture is an interesting debatable point)


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