Can you really compete with guys on steroids? What if you weren’t born with the “right” genetics? If you didn’t start when you were 8-years-old, should you quit now and just get it over with?
Let’s face it, the best of the best are (with rare exception): genetic freaks who started young and have been taking “enhancers” for most of their careers. That is true in ALL sports.
So, seriously, given that… should you just quit?
If you are dumb enough to be obsessed with these thoughts, you should be spending your energy on fixing your psychological ineptitude.
However, if you are in this for fun, are curious about the effect of advantages and disadvantages on athletes over time, and how you can GAME that to YOUR advantage… read on.
For fun, we’re going to use a game — Dungeons & Dragons — to model the affect of an advantage or disadvantage on a player. It’s not a literally thing, for God’s sake. But, it should help illuminate something we don’t take seriously.
The New Rules Of War: How A Simple Advantage Can Win The Game
The game Dungeons & Dragons has been out for a LONG time. But, in the last few years they have made some changes to the rules that have had a rather large impact on how the game is played … and on how you win or lose.
Traditionally, all disputes — not least of which, battles — in Dungeons & Dragons were settled by rolling a die: a 20-sided die. Note that the rolling was done on a SINGLE 20-sided die. Then you’d add or subtract some modifier (like a or a , etc).
- If you had an advantage, you add something.
- If you had a disadvantage, you subtract something.
This kind of modification still exists, but the new rules ALSO allow for another form of modification called (generically enough!) “Advantage & Disadvantage”. In this rule, you roll TWO 20-sided dice, and take either the Max or Min of them.
For Example: if you roll two dice and get a 15 on one of them, and a 7 on the other, then the and the .
The interesting question is “How does this rule change the ‘normal’ dynamics of the game?”
Before we dive into the answer, here’s the new rules again:
Normal — Role one 20 sided die.
Advantage — Role TWO 20-sided dice, take the Max (highest)
Disadvantage — Role TWO 20-sided dice, take the Min (lowest)
Double-Dice Probabilities: Min vs Max
To get a feel for how this changes the game, it helps to know a basic formula of probability for the Max (or Min) of dice rolls:
Which reduces down to:
Where is the die roll we want to know the probability of and is the number of sides of the dice.1
Dumbo Example With 3-Sided Die
Let’s get an intuitive idea of this by using a smaller die — a 3-sided die — rather than the big 20-sided beast.
Do this: Take two 3-sided dice, roll them together. Choose the higher number. That’s your Max.
The table above shows all of the possible combinations that you can get. So, for example, the number 1 is only the Max when you roll two 1’s. Whereas the number 3 is the Max no matter what else is rolled on the other die.
This means that the probability of the max being 3 when you roll two 3-sided die is (just count them) . But the probability of the max being 1 is just .
The same holds in reverse for the Min! To get the disadvantage probabilities, you do the opposite calculations.
Go Big Or Go … To A Dungeon
Back to our 20-sided die.
To win a certain round, you need to roll equal to or above a given number. What are the chances you’ll do that with a Normal roll vs Advantage roll vs Disadvantage roll?
This chart by Bob Carpenter shows what is happening:
Holy Bojangles, Batman!
With a Disadvantage, you are less than 40% as likely to roll over 15 than someone who has an advantage ( vs ).
Even just being normal is MUCH better in this case than the disadvantage. So if 15 was the number to beat, let’s hope you’re not in the disadvantage group!
Captain Obvious Time!
- Advantages are advantages
- Disadvantages are disadvantages
But, what does that have to do with anything?
Are You Taking Advantage Of Your Advantages? (OR, Why You Don’t Have Bad Luck)
If you’ve played a lot of games and/or sports in your life, then you already know that the best players are not the best because they have all the advantages going in.
The best players take advantage of the advantages they have.
Said another way:
Humans are made up of a LARGE collection of individual skills, abilities, backgrounds, genes, hair-styles — any one of which might be considered an advantage, normal, or disadvantage — depending upon the context.
- Being 7 feet tall is a great advantage in Basketball, but it’s horrible liability in weightlifting.
You may have long arms, which make bench pressing a harder skill for you. But, those long arms help you in the deadlift.
What you DO with that is completely on you.
Psychologically — and unfortunately! — humans are FAR more likely to focus on their disadvantages in life, rather than take stock of their advantages. This is a huge mistake — one we all fall prey to!
- In the story of the tortoise and the hare, we are the hare.
How many regrets in life have you accumulated that go something like this: “I had an opportunity… and I didn’t take it!”
How many kids had their parents pay for their college (no debt!), then wasted the entire experience, learned nothing, and came out with a slip of paper that means nothing? — nearly all of them.
We are the rabbits who began the race ahead. Then we took a nap. Then we lost.
While some of us were quite disadvantaged in some areas, we had massive advantages that so many billions of humans on this earth did NOT have — that we didn’t use. (The very fact you are reading this on the internet right now (probably on your smart phone) is a powerful example of how advantaged in life you are).
That’s real life — not a game, not a sport.
Take your extra die roll. You don’t deserve it. But, maybe you can use it to do something good in the world.
Now go lift something heavy,