My cousin came into town a little while back and that always means a trip to the casino. Both of us enjoy a good wager, but there is something borderline deviant that transpires whenever the two of us get together. We bet on everything…
Game of pitch? Loser does the dishes…
Wanna go bowling? Two dollars a pin…
A round of Tiger Woods golf on the PS3? Actually, I’m not going to divulge how steep those games have gotten. It’s mildly embarrassing.
Naturally, we always set aside a night to visit our local neon cathedral of chance. Say what you will about the casino- I know it is a tragic and often sleazy place- but I have always felt surprisingly at ease amongst the veritable mash-up of humanity that jangles within. If you think about it from one vantage, there may be no more recklessly hopeful place on planet earth. Everyone is there because of the belief, albeit even just a wisp of one, that something unthinkable and amazing might happen to them. And, what’s more, they’re not just idly wishing for this improbable windfall- they are throwing their time, energy, and effort (in the form of cash), leveraging it against this possibility. I don’t know that you could find a congregation or congress more genuinely optimistic than that huddled mass of misfits.
When we go to the casino, our game of choice is No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s a poker game where each player is dealt two cards and then five community cards are dealt in three turns, with rounds of betting between. Any player may wager their entire stack at any time- what is commonly called going “all-in”. The game is a mixture of psychology, gumption, mathematics, and sheer luck. One of the more complex decisions that one faces at the poker table is how to play a drawing hand. A draw is a hand that has not yet been “made”, but holds a high level of potential value and significant chance of hitting. Often, you will be forced into a decision about whether or not to put all of your chips in the middle on one of these hands, even though you currently have squadoosh. You can learn a ton about a poker player from the way he plays a draw. Some just can’t do it- they can’t risk past the actual premium they can see.
[lead] Some grip too tightly to the chips they have- trying to mitigate the risk in a game they’re already playing. They fold up.[/lead]
We had a good night in the poker room on this go ’round. We ordered a few cocktails, things came easy, and we crowned the whole affair with a couple of sloppy cheeseburgers from Whataburger. Nothing tastes better than a burger, on the house.
The next day, we decided to give my wife a reprieve from our shenanigans and loaded up the kids in the truck. Wallets fat with our winnings, we thought we’d take the kids to the mall and spoil ’em a little bit with a couple of rides on the carousel and a trip through the candy shop. As we got off the highway and glided down the exit ramp there was a lady panhandling on the roadside. Sunburnt and bedraggled, she clinched her cardboard S.O.S. in front of her like a statue, her eyes never daring to cast a glance into the car windows mere feet from her. As I approached the light turned red and it became clear that I would be her captive audience for a spell. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
I confess, there was that small moment of panic that befell me as I prepared for our encounter. My mind was immediately whirring with calculations:
[hr gap = “20”]
“She’s probably not gonna use this for food. What if she buys booze?”
“If I only part with a dollar or two, it’s no loss to me and she can’t hurt herself.”
“What about the other things I could spend it on? We might be going back to gamble.”
[hr gap = “20”]
In the middle of my silent soliloquy, my daughter piped up from the back seat…
“Daddy, why is that girl standing out in the hot sun? What does her sign say?”
It jolted me from my exacting. A childlike question provokes a childlike answer:
“It says she needs help, baby.”
As soon as the words passed my lips, I knew what I would choose. My daughter was reading me from her car seat, like so many had tried to pick up a tell the night before. What are you gonna do, daddio? Action is on you. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a crisp $100 from our winnings, let the window down, and held it out to my sister. She could barely speak as she took it. I smiled and said, “Good luck to you”. The light turned green and we sailed on to the mall. I caught a big grin from my cousin as he turned up the hip hop in the truck. “That’s gangster, cuz”. What else were we supposed to do? We’re gamblers.
[lead] It was a huge heart draw and the prize was too big not to take a shot. Infinite worth has a way of tilting the odds. [/lead]
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