I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!



Sunday, July 1, 2012

BJ episode of This American Life

If you have never heard This American Life you are missing one of the best shows on radio.  Fortunately the show has reached the modern era, and can be heard on the internet or as a podcast.  A recent episode was about blackjack, and has prompted a lot of discussion. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/466/blackjack.  Usually when I see someone is doing a show on blackjack, or casinos in general I know it is going to suck. It doesn't matter if it is 60 Minutes or The History channel, invariably they get it wrong. I'm happy to report, that this episode does not suck. They got Andy Bloch for the first segment. (You can hear my podcast with him here.) And they have member of the Holy Rollers team for segment 2.

I was talking with  a close friend, a high level professional player who has been playing on again off again for 35 years.  He told me that he was listening to the show, and at one point his body convulsed into a massive sob. Something in the show struck him so strongly that he had an immediate physical reaction. I knew exactly what moment he was talking about.  In the segment on the Holy Rollers they are talking to a player named Mike.  Mike said that he would have an enormous suite on the Las Vegas strip.  Everything is comped so he can eat in the finest restaurants, drink the best champagne, see any show.  But he would go up to his massive suite, order a club sandwich, sit looking out over the Las Vegas strip, and think about how lonely he was. Wow.  That is a moment of absolute truth, and I think every professional blackjack player has experienced it. I think this is one of the major reasons that people stop playing professionally.

I have a son who turned 18 this year. He is interested in playing, and asked me, "Why aren't X and Y out playing?"   There are players that would give up their left testicle for the opportunity X and Y had.  They both had been trained by some of the best advantage players alive. They never had to count cards, they went right to the good stuff. And both of them are now working at straight jobs. My son asked, "Wouldn't they make more money working as APs?"  I would have to think they would, even though I wouldn't bet that either of them could ace a basic strategy test. So why aren't they doing it?

As a parent we try to pass along some bit of wisdom to our kids, and we always hear that you have to "find your passion." Clearly X and Y did not have a passion for beating casinos. I also told my son that you have to find the things in life that make you happy. For me, I realized long ago that I am much happier working with people than working alone. That is why I will always be happier as a director, than a writer, happier eating with friends, than fine dining alone, and playing blackjack with a partner, rather than by myself. Right now there is a game I should be playing. It's worth between $500 and $1,000 per hour, and I can't get myself to go.  I tell myself it is because it is hard to get to, lots of travel, maybe it's burned already, yada yada yada.  But I know the real reason I'm not going is because my current partner has heat in that casino, and I would have to go alone. I would rather go to a worse game with a partner, than a better game alone. Oh well, I may not maximize my earnings, but at least I know what makes me happy. And if my son ends up learning that about himself, that will make me happy too.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Absolutely agree. I believe (and wish it would have come out a little clearer in the movie) that the main thing that kept our team going was the camaraderie. We sent most players out in pairs, not to use team play tactics, but just to have someone else in the same city, meet up for dinner, talk to at the end of the day.

Cheers,
Colin

Anonymous said...

That's some great wisdom there Richard. Your kid is one lucky guy.

ZenMaster_Flash said...

I haver had the "loneliness" in a luxury suite experience alright; but what effects me most strongly is when I have the revelation that there is virtually NO purpose to what I do on a full-time basis. I earn a great deal, but there is NO purpose to it; as I have no debts and I am as comfortable as I can easily imagine being; as I have no materialistic desire to drive Ferraris or wear rolexes.

ZenMaster_Flash said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard W. Munchkin said...

I agree with that Flash, and it makes me ask, "why do it?" In my own case it reminds me of a quote from an old-time crossroader, "I may be a sick and twisted individual, but I just love fucking these casinos." I have to make my contribution to society in other ways.

Anonymous said...

For me i knew very early playing just reds that the green felt can be a solitary role , But i have made such a great living it was well worth it ...