Advice From An Expert: Vol II. A Gamblin’ GM speaks
I jokingly twittered from a casino in Palm Springs last week wondering if the odds on the craps table were better than the odds of investing in a Broadway show.
Well, craps and Broadway are no joking matter to my good friend and uber-General Manager, Mark Shacket, who is currently in office at Alan Wasser Associates, one of the largest General Management firms on Broadway.
Mark worked it out . . . so I thought I’d include his musings on the subject as volume II of our Advice From An Expert series! Enjoy!
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CRAPS – EXPECTED LOSS
If we assume the following things:
– that a typical craps table rolls the dice every 30 seconds
– that the point or seven hits every 5 rolls (meaning each “cycle”
from the coming out roll to the end of the session is 5 rolls on average)
– that you play the pass line bet with maximum allowed odds every time, with
max odds 3X-4X-5X (House edge: 0.37%)
– that you make 2 place bets every “cycle” (Average House edge:
– that you make a hard way bet every other “cycle” (Average House
– that you make 2 prop bets every “cycle” (Average House edge: 12%)
– that your craps session lasts 2 hours
then the expected loss for your 2-hour session is 37.48%.
BROADWAY – EXPECTED LOSS
If we assume that for every 10 Broadway musicals produced, the following
results are achieved:
– 0.25 musicals are HUGE hits (Wicked, Phantom): 1000% return
– 0.75 musicals are big hits: 250% return
– 1 musical is a hit: 130% return
– 5 musicals lose some money: 60% loss
– 3 musicals loss everything: 100% loss
And we assume for every 10 Broadway plays produced, the following results are
– 0.25 plays are HUGE hits: 250% return
– 0.75 plays are big hits: 150% return
– 1 play is a hit: 120% return
– 5 plays lose some money: 60% loss
– 3 plays lose everything: 100% loss
then the expected loss for your average Broadway investment is 36.88%.
(It should be noted that the above assumptions are based on little more than my
Therefore, Broadway has a slightly better expected return than craps (36.88%
loss for Broadway vs. 37.48% loss for craps). Ken’s question was which
has “better odds”, and these figures suggest Broadway investing has
better odds. But not so fast! Broadway investing may have a better
average return, but the mean return is far lower. What does that
mean? Let’s look at an easy-to-understand example:
The New York State Lottery paid out 54.7% of their receipts in prize
money. Does that mean that if you play the lottery regularly that you can
expect to make a return of $0.547 on each dollar? No! In fact, your
return will almost certainly be far less than that. Consider how much of
that 54.7% payout is paid to the small handful of multi-million dollar jackpot
winners. That will most likely not be you. So playing the lottery
may have an average return of 54.7%, but the mean return (what
the majority of people experience) will be much lower, since they don’t share
in the big payouts.
The Broadway investment analysis above assumes you can invest in every Broadway
show evenly, which you can’t. Broadway’s average loss is mitigated in
large part by being able to invest in the huge hit. In fact, if you
remove only the huge hits from the equation, the expected loss on Broadway
jumps to 52.50%! But because investors can only put their money in select
shows, there is a good chance that they will never find the very rare, huge
hit. Note that 8 out 10 times you invest, you will lose 60% or
more. So the average return on Broadway may be slightly higher
than on craps, but the expected return (ie, the mean return; what most
investors will experience) is much lower. Broadway is therefore a far
RISKIER investment than craps, even though the overall average expected loss
rate is lower.
What can we learn from this? Well, first, only invest in hits. But
there’s another important thing to remember: When you’re rolling the dice on
the felt, you have absolutely no information about what the next number rolled
will be. But when you’re rolling the dice on a Broadway investment or
producing opportunity, you have plenty of information to consider. Who is
the producer and what is their reputation and track record? How does the
budget look to you? What does the current marketplace look like?
Are there other similar shows on the boards and how have they performed?
Who is in the cast or on the design team? Is the script well-structured?
Is the show marketable? Read, learn, and study everything you can about
your investing or producing opportunity and you will be sure have more than
your share of the success.
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Thanks, Mark! See you at the tables!
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.