It is only very rarely that someone beats the system.  Any gambler would tell you the house always wins.  Not that this stops any gambler.

Whether it is a shape-shifting virus attempting to defeat our immune systems, or a casino player convinced that red will come up eventually — it never did, to my utter dismay — those who try to outmanoeuvre the odds are doomed to disappointment.

This state of affairs is nicely illustrated in the film Guys and Dolls, when Sky Masterson’s father warns him that one day someone will offer to bet him he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of a brand new deck of cards and squirt cider in his ear.  “But son, do not accept this bet, because you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.”  And sure enough, Sky (Marlon Brando) eventually groans, “Daddy!  I got cider in my ear.”

People sometimes believe they can invent their own system where none exists, the obvious example being horse racing.  A man with a racing system sticks to it no matter what.  Even if his horse comes up to him in the stands and asks “Which way do I go?” he is not discouraged.  After all, he’s found a talking horse.

As for the Camptown ladies stating they will bet their money on the bobtail nag, while at the same time advising others to bet on the bay, I suspect the system is rigged, the fix is in, a dead heat is on the cards, and the average gormless punter might as well tear up his betting slip before the starting gate opens.

In my experience, even trying to copy a winning formula doesn’t seem to be effective.  In ‘From Russia with Love’, Sean Connery won at roulette three consecutive times on number 17, but that number failed to come up once for me, so I drained my vodka martini and left, stirred and shaken by Sean’s subterfuge.

I wonder what kind of system matchmaking agencies employ, to find couples who are compatible?  A common interest, perhaps, like a female pyromaniac and a fireman?  A cocktail waitress and a barfly?  Or the only two people still alive who read the novels of Sir Walter Scott for fun?  (Must include Kenilworth and all 3 volumes of Ivanhoe.)  Probably better to stick to the traditional way of meeting someone, using alcohol and poor judgement.

Before we judge ourselves too harshly, let’s just admit that some systems are simply so complicated and abstruse that they would flummox a systems analyst with two heads and an Oxbridge degree.  What are our terrestrial and earthbound minds supposed to make of the idea that our universe arose from precisely nothing?

Or that one second of the sun’s energy could supply a billion years of the world’s needs?  If the sun would just move closer, we might be able to put an end to electricity bills forever, if not longer.

There is some good news.  Not only can no known virus hold out against our vaccinated systems, but I have now invented my own system for lottery success!  I’ve already bought the winning ticket, unfazed by a rather pointed question from a close relative, “Is your system foolproof?”

I wonder if I heard that correctly, or have I got some cider in my ear?