Surprises in Probability: Seventeen Short Stories, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Surprises in Probability

Seventeen Short Stories, 1st Edition

By Henk Tijms

Chapman and Hall/CRC

144 pages | 21 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367000431
pub: 2018-09-10
Hardback: 9780367000820
pub: 2018-09-08
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429444579
pub: 2018-08-30
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This book brings together a variety of probability applications through entertaining stories that will appeal to a broad readership. What are the best stopping rules for the dating problem? What can Bayes’ formula tell us about the chances of a Champions League draw for soccer teams being rigged? How could syndicates win millions of lottery dollars by buying a multitude of tickets at the right time? What’s the best way to manage your betting bankroll in a game in which you have an edge? How to use probability to debunk quacks and psychic mediums? How can the Monte Carlo simulation be used to solve a wide variety of probability problems? Are seven riffle shuffles of a standard deck of 52 playing cards enough for randomness?

  • Provides seventeen engaging stories that illustrate ideas in probability.
  • Written so as to be suitable for those with minimal mathematical background.
  • Stories can be read independently.
  • Can be used as examples and exercises for teaching introductory probability.

These questions and many more are addressed in seventeen short chapters that can be read independently. The engaging stories are instructive and demonstrate valuable probabilistic ideas. They offer students material that they most likely don’t learn in class, and offer teachers a new way of teaching their subject.


"The author mentions that the book can be useful for teachers and, indeed, this is a collection of surprising probability results—surprising in the sense that the numerical probabilities are not necessarily intuitive. …. All in all, this small book is a nice if unsurprising database for illustrations and possibly for exercises in elementary probability courses … . It makes for nice reading, especially while traveling. I hope some fellow traveler will pick up the book from where I left it in the Mexico City airport."

–Christian Robert in Chance, April 2019

"Surprises in Probability – Seventeen Short Stories" is another gem by international award-winning probability expert Henk Tijms. This superb collection of real-life probability stories ranges from 17th century gamblers’ discoveries to 21st century lotteries, sports betting, and investment strategies. Each story draws the reader in, and then enlightens them with both basic and subtle probability principles that illuminate and explain the apparent paradoxes. Perfect for the college student trying to get a feel for probability, for the instructor looking for examples to enliven their classes, for experts looking for just the right examples to share with their friends, and for weekend scientists not afraid to scratch their heads and smile, waiting for the Aha! moment that always appears. Analytical insights, theoretical principles, counterintuitive conclusions are all presented in Professor Tijms' patented lively style.

Ted Hill, author of Pushing Limits

"In a world full of uncertainty, you can't know enough about the laws of chance. Henk Tijms is a master at explaining how they work, showing why they so often catch us out in everyday life. Chances are you'll be amazed by his insights."

Robert Matthews, author of Chancing It

Table of Contents

What is Casino Credit Worth?

One Hundred Prisoners: Freedom or Death

Birthday Surprises and 500 Oldsmobiles

Was the Champions League Rigged?

Benford Goes to the Casino

Surprising Card Games, or, It's All in the Cards

The Lost Boarding Pass and the Seven Dwarfs

Monte Carlo Simulation and Probability: The Interface

Lotto Nonsense: the World is Asking to be Deceived

March Madness Grips the USA

Coincidences and Impossibilities

Gambler's Fallacy

Euler's Number e is Everywhere

The 10 Most Beautiful Formulas in Probability

Beating the Odds on the Lottery

Investing and Gambling with Kelly

To Stop or Not to Stop? That is the Question

About the Author

Henk Tijms is a Dutch Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics. He taught applied probability and stochastic optimization for more than 30 years, and has written several widely used textbooks on these subjects, including the 2017 text “Probability: A Lively Introduction”.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MATHEMATICS / Probability & Statistics / General