At State of Origin time, you often hear a breathless commentator noting that the team that wins Origin 1 goes on to win the series 75% of the time. (Including last Thursday’s ABC news broadcast, Canberra edition.)

But isn’t it the case that in any close contest – where the winner needs to win at least 2 games out of 3 – that winning the first will give you a 75% chance of winning the series? (Ignoring draws.)

If you flip a coin and the first flip is heads, there is a 75% chance you will get at least two heads out of three. There are only four outcomes: HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, and three of those are a ‘win’ to heads, or NSW in this case.  Yep, that’s 75% in a coin toss.

Similarly for any contest where the odds are close to 50-50: elite teams that are evenly matched, black jack, coin tosses, etc.  It is a myth that there is ‘momentum’ from winning Origin 1 – the statistics in fact show the opposite – the winner of Origin 1 has had no better odds of winning the series than a coin toss would generate.

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Steve Corcoran is an experienced Economist, with over 20 years of economic consulting experience. Steve assists governments, industry associations and businesses to participate in, and influence, the public debate on economic issues, and to conduct quantitative analysis of economic issues, regulations and public policy.