Sales & Marketing
Twitter's Sid Patil reveals how blackjack taught him about data science
3 min read
18 August 2015
Head of data science at Twitter, Siddharth Patil – originally part of the West Coast Blackjack Club that inspired the book "Bringing Down the House" and the movie 21 – has revealed what blackjack can teach you about data science.
Patil held senior analytics posts at DemandTec before becoming the CSO of Freshplum. At the bottom of his resume, however, he claims to have been part of a group of students who used card counting techniques to beat casinos at blackjack worldwide.
According to Patil, his time with the West Coast Blackjack Club taught him some insightful lessons in terms of data science.
He is of the belief that blackjack is the only game in a casino that has a memory. What happened in the past is indicative of what will happen in the future, and this is what makes it so similar to the world of analytics.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Patil claimed that when he first started playing the tables, he lost $35,000 (£22,342.73) in one hand.
“But, over a long period of time, you realise it is a probabilistic game,” he said. “When you work out the variables, find out what is significant, understand the chances, and push through, you can win in the long run. Funnily enough, blackjack taught me another important lesson. The rules of the game can, and will, change. Just as in business. We constantly had to adapt our game to fit those with forced changes.”
As with the introduction of automatic shufflers, Patil suggested, the rules of the game have changed, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. In much the same way, he is adamant that businesses need to go mobile as previous techniques would risk falling out of date.
Patil explained that for an omni-channel client, he ran a study across desktop-only advertising versus a desktop plus mobile treatment. He claimed that the mobile return on advertising spend was on par with the desktop.
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“That’s an interesting outcome, because we know that consumers use mobile to research products and services, but a large percentage still move to the desktop to complete the purchase,” he said. “That equivalence across desktop and mobile channels could mean that we’re pushing the buying process higher up in the funnel, resulting in a faster sale and fewer competitive losses.”
He added: “I’ll put it this way: You’ve got to start investing in mobile or you’re going to miss out. You’re going to ignore a large percentage of your customers. More than that, we know that your most valuable customers are shoppers that discover you, and research you, on their mobile. It plays an incredibly important part in your future success.”