Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

Betting On The Come

“Life’s a game, but who can play it all alone?”  The opening lyric of “I Know That You Know” is so true on so many levels.

Many of us were brought up playing all sorts of games.  We graduated from Candy Land to Monopoly as part of increasing ability to formulate and execute strategy.  Old Maid would lose its luster as we progressed to playing Hearts, slamming the black queen on our opponents with delight.

Ours was a game-playing family.  There was Wahoo, Mexican dominoes and Chinese checkers, although what Native Americans, Latinos and Asians had to do with these games is unknown to me.  

Daddy taught me games like Spades and 42, a domino game that he particularly enjoyed.  Mother told me years later that she had complained to him that he never let me win. And he didn’t.  It wasn’t some mean-spirited thing like Joan and Christina racing in the swimming pool.  When any of us played a game with Daddy, we knew we deserved the win.

Bidding games turned into betting games like blackjack, poker and craps, which I learned to play with the other boys in the neighborhood.  It wasn’t for money, of course, but we got our first taste of playing with chips.

Since life is a game, it seems to me that those last three, usually associated with casinos, tell a bit of a story about life itself.

Blackjack involves playing against the dealer.  It’s fun to play with a group of friends as you’re not playing against each other.  Of course, if someone is enjoying some situational luck, shall we say, the temptation to bet more to catch up may be hard to resist.  But betting more is quite likely to mean losing more, and suddenly you’re not having as much fun as you thought you would.  

If you’re playing at a table with strangers, that looking around to see how others are doing may actually turn to something close to resentment, even though how you’re doing has absolutely nothing to do with them.  Sound familiar?

I rarely like to play blackjack, but not for those reasons.  Repetitively counting to 20 (or 21, in this case) is mind-numbing to me.  If I thought that was fun, I no doubt would have spent a great deal more time at the gym.

Poker is fun to play, if you’re winning.  I especially like Texas hold ‘em, with its up to four rounds of betting per hand.  It makes you think when you’re using quickly calculated probabilities, a consistent betting strategy, and a keen observation of how your opponents are playing in order to take their money away from them.

With this game, winning means beating the other people at the table.  Any money you make comes directly from them.  So you sit down, buy in to the game and look around to see who you’re playing against.  There may be a man with a strange moustache that you just don’t like on sight. If there’s a woman who looks like your grandmother, you need to mentally morph her from Angela Lansbury to Baby Jane.  Your winning means making them lose, so it’s game on.

While there may be a bit of community in blackjack, particularly if playing with friends, there is no whit of it in poker.  It’s a zero-sum game.  Blackjack may be thought of as “every man for himself” (if I’m still allowed to keep it in the masculine) while poker is “dog eat dog.”  I like the game, but the approach needed to win at a poker table needs to be left in the casino when the dealing is done.

But the most fun I ever had at a gambling table was in Las Vegas years ago.  Karl was attending a convention and had to get up early, and I didn’t.  We were staying at the Riviera, but I decided to go to the Sahara, which was no longer attracting high rollers and suited my gambling budget.    

As I entered the casino, I heard a rollicking crowd at a low-dollar craps table engulfed in blue cigarette smoke.  I went over and joined the players and quickly found out why they were having so much fun.  The table was on fire, and every shooter was hot.  With practically every role of the dice, this motley crew of what appeared to be truck drivers, cowboys, waitresses, a couple of beauty pageant contestants and one visiting homosexual from Dallas was winning.  We were joined in community and purpose.  We weren’t playing against each other, and our energy seemed to be the engine keeping the winning streak going.

We can choose to go it alone or be against everyone who isn’t us, or we can find our kindred spirits.  When we don’t have what we need or want, we can hope to have it at the right time.  But it’s not a turn of a card or the roll of the dice.  The only way to win is to do what we can to have what we need when we need it. 

In gambling terms, that’s called betting on the come.