To tell Salem Abraham his mathematical insights are wrong is to speak fighting words. Numerical analysis is the organizing principle of his life, the way he multiplied his millions, the way he understands the world and himself. He used math to lay out his apple orchard, teach his kids to parallel park and earn the red Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading jacket hanging in his office.
So naturally it was to math that the Texas Panhandle multimillionaire turned in 2017 after losing a high-stakes oil and gas dispute at the Texas Supreme Court. After persuading a jury and an appeals court that he was right, Abraham had figured the odds of the state’s highest court snatching back his victory were about 8%.
Yet all nine justices agreed to throw out the judgment he had won against oil giant BP America, basing their decision on one key clause in the disputed lease.
For Abraham, losing was more curious than it was ruinous. What he found inexplicable was that his numbers had failed him.