Posts Tagged ‘tails’

Coin Toss Alternatives

October 19, 2009

I came across an interesting newspaper article entitled, “Heads or Tails? It Depends on How You Flip It,” in the October 18, 2009 Sunday edition of the Contra Costa Times. The authors Jon Wilner and Mark Emmons reference a study conducted by Stanford and UC Santa Cruz researchers that claim that a coin toss may not be a 50-50 proposition if you know which side is facing up when the coin is tossed. The study claims that the probability of guessing correctly could be as high as 60%.

I can definitely see this hypothesis being correct but I’m guessing it would be more in the 52% – 54% range. That is assuming, of course, that the referee does not catch the coin and flips it over before revealing heads or tails.

This got me thinking about alternatives to coin tosses. Once I could not find a coin so I took a blade of grass and hid it in one of my hands behind my back. The player had to guess which hand the grass was in. And the other day, my son did not have a coin so he had the captains ‘row-sham-bow’ (rock-paper-scissor). The nine-year old boys seemed to enjoy that interaction.

The best alternative I’ve come across and have used on several occasions is the odd-even guess. This is how it works:

  • I put my watch on stop-watch mode and start the timer. The time displays to the nearest hundredths.
  • I show the captains what I’ve done and tell the captains who would normally call the coin toss to pick ‘odd’ or ‘even’.
  • After he/she chooses, I stop the watch and whatever the last digit is determines which team ‘won the toss.’

I know this goes against what FIFA would like the referees to do, but at least it is a 50-50 proposition … I think.