When we lived in Namibia one of my favorite pastimes was to go to the local “bookmakers.” No, not people making elaborate, leather bound copies of first editions, but betting parlors. And these were right out of the movie, “The Sting.” There were blackboards with guys chalking up the odds and erasing them as the race got closer in time. The races were broadcast over radio just like in the movie, “Seabiscuit.” History in the flesh.

I recall these sporting icons now when I contemplate the stock market. The action is fast and furious with electronic boards blipping changing prices. Yes, faster than the boys with chalk, but not that much faster. The parallel is that one becomes riveted on the blinking lights or the falling chalk dust. At these moments you realize the shallow gulf between gambling and investing.

Many argue that investing is not gambling since investing is based on volumes of research and tons of information, while gambling is less endowed with “hard facts.” These are obviously people who have never read the “Racing News” or the many bet sheets published by ranks of touts. I even once had a calculator that, after loading info from the racing press, would spit out the top three horses in any race. An uncle of mine used to take info from the press, his contacts, observations of the horses, and, most of all, careful analysis of the horses’ performances over the recent past into his calculations for betting. He was a consistent winner.

I recall when I was in that most nerve-wracking investment world, currency trading, that the real traders locked themselves in rooms full of computer screens with lights blipping everywhere. The traders would use mathematical systems to follow the “bouncing blips,” with wave theory being a favorite. A good friend and I were sitting in a training class when the instructor told us about using the “Fibonacci Series” of numbers to predict movements. My friend and I immediately exclaimed, “that is how you bet in black jack.” The teacher assured us that trading was not gambling, but we were not dissuaded.

So what to do in this world of rapidly rising and falling stock prices? Well, absorb all the information you can find. Do the math. Make your bets. My tip, look for stocks whose prices have been severely hurt by the excessive devaluations of 2008. Again, I am big on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.