Thursday, November 13, 2014

High Stakes Platform Roulette

What do Las Vegas, Atlantic City, your local OTB, and the Long Island Rail Road have in common? Thrilling gambling! Odds in your favor! The chance to win big! The distinct possibility of losing your shirt!

You're probably wondering how the Long Island Rail Road fits into this category. In today's blog post, we'll explore "Platform Roulette," a challenging game of skill and chance. The rules are simple. You wait on the platform, hoping to be directly in front of the doors when the train stops.

To properly explain the game, I need to use crude drawings. Today's crude drawings came out pretty good, even if when scaled to life size, the people are 1.5 feet tall.

Train platforms all have yellow painted signs or pasted decals indicating, "Watch the Gap (WTG)," in front of a safety line. While it appears the MTA is looking out for your safety, they are merely looking out for their own protection from frivolous lawsuits. WTG is useful for the person who can't comprehend that one should step over the gap and onto the train. You may be saying, "only a person with the brains of an intellectually challenged goat would need such guidance," and you'd be right. This same goat brain also:

Needs the coffee cup warning that indicates "be careful, the beverage is hot!"
Needs the warning on a silica gel packet that says "do not eat"

I'm deviating from topic. Getting back to the point, the train doors typically open in front of WTG. When people are waiting for their train to arrive, they congregate around these spots.

Figure 1: People waiting for the train
In Figure 1, the people standing around WTG are playing at the safe tables. They're taking the 2:1 odds.

The people with pink heads are playing the 8:1 odds, standing away from WTG. They're hoping to hit it big if the engineer stops the train a little short of the platform end. If this happens, the doors will open misaligned with WTG.

When you play Roulette, there comes a point where the croupier says, "no more bets," and everyone waits to see where the ball will land. In Platform Roulette, when the train starts to pull into the station, "no more bets" has been called. The people move closer to the edge of the platform, creating a hermetic, arc-shaped seal around the expected door location. This ensures that no late arriving commuters sneak in front of them.

Figure 2: Train doors are aligned with WTG
In Figure 2, the train has arrived. In my crude drawings, the doors look like iPods from the "Clickwheel" era. The safe bettors receive a 2:1 payout, and perhaps get to choose a decent seat.

The 8:1 bettors will likely stand.

Figure 3: Train doors are misaligned with WTG
In Figure 3, the train arrived but didn't stop at the end of the platform. The iPod Clickwheel doors will open misaligned with WTG. The 8:1 bettors get rewarded for their risk with good seats, while the safe bettors grumble about the change in routine.

If the Long Island Rail Road really had Clickwheel type doors, Apple could be an official sponsor. With large marketing cash infusions, fare increases could potentially be averted. Unfortunately, the odds of Apple doing this are about 1,000,829:1. Moreover, the odds of the MTA properly managing a cash surplus are too astronomical to state.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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