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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is This an Apt Metaphor?

I love to gamble. I'd be an addict if I didn't live 6 hours from a major gambling center. I love it so much that I once took up a part-time job dealing blackjack, poker, craps, and roulette for a company that did "casino night" parties. It didn't pay well and there was no "real" money in it, but at least I was around all those shiny chips and all the intricate formality surrounding the games.


My favorite was craps... you know, dice. You can bet money on the next roll, on some theoretical roll in the future, or on a specific sequence of rolls. You can hedge one bet with another. You can decide whether you want to risk more money to get "true odds", or you can pay the casino a little more and make a bet that's more likely to win. As a dealer I just liked being around all the screaming; it was pretty close to the thrill of being a player.


People start to play. They put money on the line. They put money behind the line. They put money on the Field, the Come, the Place, the Buy, the Big 6/8, the Big Red, the Horn, the Lay, the C&E, all the good Don'ts, and if they're feeling charitable, they can holler "Two-Way Yo For the Boys!" and everyone cheers. They can play their money in a round: by throwing money out on every roll, they can start new meta-games of their very own that have nothing to do with the main event, which they're probably also betting on.


As a dealer, you have to keep up with all of this. You have to know how each of these bets pay out, you have to keep an eye on the dice as well as the drunk people around the table. You have to match each bet with the person who placed it. You have to encourage people who don't bet much, to increase their stake. You have to do all this with a smile, while representing the company and making sure you aren't getting in the way of their having a good time. I've been involved in games where there are at least a hundred chips on the table I have to keep track of, because I know for sure there are 8 people watching me who know exactly what they've put down and how it's supposed to pay. I have to pay out 5-6 bets for every roll, and I only have about 30 seconds before the next one.


Sometimes I look down at that littered table and watch the dice slam into the chips. They go scattering, off the table sometimes. I have to remember where they were and get them back before the next roll, making sure busy hands don't steal chips from the table while I'm rooting for the lost ones on the floor. I've seen 60 year old men in Vegas screaming and threatening violence when the 22 year old dealer behind the table didn't get this right.


In this situation the dealer wants what I call "a deep-cleansing seven". When the seven comes, don't make eye contact with the people around the table. You drop your chin, not in sorrow or in shame, but to hide your smile. Your relief. You reach down and scoop every chip off the felt, sort them out, and stack them up. They belong to you now. You look up and express false sympathy to those who have lost everything. They didn't have to put those chips down in the first place now, did they? The money they had been accumulating, parlaying one bet into another and increasing their odds payouts... it was never actually theirs. It didn't ever even exist. It was fiction.

Seven is the hand of justice, punishing greed and arrogance, righting wrongs, and wiping out all the mess. Things are simpler after a seven. You look down and see green, with yellow and red lines criss-crossing. Everyone at the table knows that the odds are better of a seven coming than any other single number. Every side of the six-sided die can be used in making a seven, and that is true for no other number from 2 to 12. You know it's coming. No casino in the history of mankind has instituted a bail-out plan, even for gamblers who were "too rich to fail". Without hell, there can be no heaven.

When will it be time to push for the "Seven Plan" and just get it over with?

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