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FINAL HAND STORY

Guessing games

The Gambling office had a sweepstake on who could get closest to guessing the 2010 World Cup Group Stages draw. As close to a random outcome as you can get, it still had us gazing into our crystal balls

“Hey, we should do a sweepstake on what the eight World Cup groups will be!” someone shouted in the office in early December. Now, there are several individuals here at Gambling Towers who pride themselves on their betting prowess, who regular profit from their shrewd sporting investment, or are absolute card sharks. Proper gamblers in other words.

Gauging the reaction in the office, you could see by people’s facial expressions and noticeable twitchiness that they all fancied their chances in an office challenge to guess the groups. “I know loads about international football, more than this rabble. I’ll show ‘em,” they were thinking no doubt.

And so a printed table was hastily put together and handed around the office. We had a whopping 12 players this month (the slightly highbrow Googlewhack challenge from last month only attracted three rather verbose contenders).

Lunch-break on the day of the draw was silent in the office as people put pen to paper on their predictions of which teams would end up in which groups.

The rules were that you got two points for every team you put in the right group, with double points for correctly guessing any team drawn in England’s group (Group C). Entry was a tenner with winner taking all. The eight top seeds were laid out at the top of groups in advance for all players, though they still had to be allocated a group number come the draw. We were competing to guess which teams would be drawn with which seeds, rather than to which group letter.

Why everybody was fancying their chances so much was a little baffling. As long as you remembered to avoid the schoolboy error of predicting another African team to be drawn in the same group as South Africa (FIFA rules prevent this) then it was simply a case of picking a team from each of the pots for each group.

And yet all the talk was of conspiracies. “France will definitely get an easy group,” someone speculated. “England will definitely get Portugal,” said someone else. “We always have to play Portugal.”

And so we set about this almost-entirely-random guessing game somehow feeling like our sporting knowledge and workplace pride would be called into question if we bombed.

As things turned out, it couldn’t have gone worse. Folk from the company’s advertising sales team cleaned up the sweepstake cash, with Michael and Deepak sharing first place with 10 points. Cue noisy sales bluster and high-fiving, and bitter mutterings in editorial along the lines of “It was completely random…”, “My mum could have won it…,” that sort of thing.

As you can see in the tables below, Deepak was propelled to victory thanks to correctly predicting that the United States would be drawn in England’s group – and the four-point haul that this generated. Michael, meanwhile, got Italy’s group 100 percent correct: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia. (Maybe we should have had some bonus points available for such a feat? I guess nobody thought it would ever have come up.)

“It was really hard. Loads of strategy involved,” laughed Deepak as he collected his winnings. Michael added: “I would like to thank God, my mother for her support and Deepak for the solid competition.”

Yeah, great. Now just take your winnings and get back to work, mutter, grumble, etc. Hopefully one of us will win it all back when we do a World Cup winner sweepstake in the summer.

FINAL HAND ARCHIVE

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