Derren Brown – The System
Somebody offers you a 100% guaranteed system to win at the bookmaker’s, what do you do? An anonymous text comes onto your phone giving a tip for a horse race and tells you not to place a bet, and the horse wins. Another tip comes and that wins as well. The third tip comes and you are directed to place a bet, the horse wins and you pick up the money. Now you have a camera sent to you, as this is about a television programme, and you film your reactions. A fourth tip comes and you are shown picking up the winnings. You are then invited to a live race for the fifth tip where a camera crew films you, you win the money and you are about to be presented to the perpetrator of the texts. It’s Derren Brown and he tells you to get as much money together as possible to put a bet on a sixth race, after which he will tell you the system. You’d do it, wouldn’t you?
This is the premise of the Derren Brown special – The System. The person on the receiving end of the system is a woman by the name of Khadishia who has been specially selected as somebody who needs the money and would benefit more than most. Her journey to the final race is littered with skepticism, excitement and incredulity. In particular, in one race her chosen horse is trailing badly but extreme misfortunes occur to the other horses that could not have been predicted and she comes away a winner. She gathers £4,000 together and hands it to Brown to place the bet for her, which he does.
To support his theories, Derren shows seemingly improbable pieces of evidence. First he flips a coin ten times and there are ten heads in a row as he predicts, at odds of 1023:1. He also gets four racing experts together to prove to them that although something maybe highly improbable, it is not impossible. He asks them to choose pictures at random and envelopes at random, then stand in line at random. There are hundreds of pictures strung up from the ceiling thus giving millions of combinations. Each chooses a picture of a person with turn out to have the same initials as themselves, which is the same picture inside the envelope that they have chosen and there is a number on the back. When they have stood in line the numbers put together give the odds that have been written up that they would choose those pictures, which is in the billions to one against. The experts are convinced.
It is, of course, all a trick:
The experts were hit with an unexplained classic case of misdirection that Brown has down to perfection. The results were never in doubt.
The System was no system at all. There were five races all involving six horses but Kadeishia was the lucky one. There were 7,775 unlucky people, all we saw was her. Texts were sent to 7,776 people with tips on the first race, with all six horses covered, one in six were guaranteed to win, leaving 1,296 winners. The second race was also equally distributed with one in six winning, leaving 216 people who’d won two in a row. Next race, 36 people had won three, six had won four in a row, all of whom were invited to the fifth race and filmed. Kadeishia’s horse won and so she was invited to meet Derren Brown. This was explained to her after she had placed her bet on a no-hoper, which trailed in last. Kadeishia has gathered all possible money together, including borrowing £1,000 from her father. The £4,000 was all that she had in the World and it appeared lost.
The point of the programme was to explain that simple probabilities might seem like certainties when they are shown in isolation. The winner of the lottery may see it as a miracle but somebody will win. Brown is a master of illusion, misdirection and a subtle showman; he is always compulsive viewing.