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HOME > PAST ISSUE > March-April 2009 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Knowing When to Stop

How to gamble if you must—the mathematics of optimal stopping

Theodore Hill

Figure%201.%20Detail%20of%20Maerten%20van%20Cleve%u2019s%20Click to Enlarge ImageTheodore P. Hill celebrates mathematics’ remarkable success at determining when it’s wise to stop and commit to a choice in multiple, uncertain scenarios. Understanding probability is highly useful in gambling, where it has its intellectual roots. But it’s also of help in solving problems with real life stakes, whether that be buying a commodity whose price fluctuates or concluding the likely change in value of a Dow Jones stock. Not that mathematicians have solved it all. Judging accurate probability in something as simple as a coin toss, when performed multiple times, can still stump them.


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