Reiter: Astro-matic Baseball: Can Houston’s rebuilding plan work sooner than you think?

From Ben Reiter at Sports Illustrated on June 30, 2014, with mention of longtime SABR member Sig Mejdal:

In the late 1980s, when people got too drunk and were kicked out of the other casinos in Lake Tahoe, they ended up at High Sierra, a place where there was no such thing as being too drunk. Sometimes they staggered over to a blackjack table manned by a young dealer named Sig Mejdal.

Mejdal was an undergraduate at UC Davis, studying mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering. During the summers he’d head 120 miles east, clip an oversized bow tie to his collar—“Looked like a dead cat around your neck,” he says—and sling cards at Tahoe’s seediest betting house. He loved the job. It was fun, it was social, and he learned things that he could not back in the lab at Davis. He learned that human beings do not always make decisions that serve their own long-term self-interest, even when they are equipped with a wealth of experience and knowledge of the mathematical probabilities that ought to guide their choices.

Blackjack is a probabilistic game. For any combination of cards, the player’s and the dealer’s, there is an optimal action for the player to take to increase his chances of winning—or, as is generally the case, of losing less. Sometimes the course of action is obvious: You hit a 10 no matter what the dealer is holding. Often, though, players know what they ought to do—but they do something else because their intuition has told them to. “Hitting a 16 against a dealer’s seven, it doesn’t feel right,” Mejdal says. “With a hundred-dollar bet, it feels even less right. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

Read the full article here:

Related link: Astros executives Sig Mejdal, Jeff Luhnow, and David Stearns will be panelists at SABR 44, July 30-August 3, 2014 in Houston; learn more at

Originally published: July 1, 2014. Last Updated: July 1, 2014.