Writing Switch: Against bettor judgment

Ben Welch and Sean Beckwith

What feeling is better than the rush of endorphins tingling down your senses after getting lucky? No, that’s not a sex reference — how tedious — but a nod to yelling “yo eleven!” at the craps table and wagering all over the come line. Congratulations on that $7.50, don’t forget to tip. Take our hands (the sweaty one is Sean’s), look both ways before crossing the street, and enter Greaser’s Palace with us to learn how to maximize your experience with gambling: America’s favorite debauched past time.

Strategize your bankroll with Sean

Casino: Most of what I’ve learned about the casino has come from playing video games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. From roulette at the faux Vegas in San Andreas to blackjack at quasi New Orleans in RDR2, it’s more fun because I actually have money in those games. I’m not the guy with a readily available and requisite $300-$500 to enjoy the casino.

Trying to find a $10 blackjack table is pointless unless you’re with enough friends to take over most all of the seats because “high rollers” like to drop in and play like jackasses. We get it, you come here every weekend with your wife/cigarette jockey and have a comped suite at Black Hawk. How bout you go back and splash that $3,000 at the $100 table? Oh, you’re down to a grand because you don’t know how to play blackjack? Then go get your free steak and stop hitting when the dealer is showing a 6.

Other than that, I like to go to the roulette table and see where my night’s headed with a quick $100 on red (Go Big Red). Though the past couple times that’s done about as well as our football team, and it’s prematurely ended my wagering and led to me suffering through my NY strip next to Double Down and his Nicotine Queen.

Texas hold ’em: If I were to equate my play style to a “Rounders” character, it’d probably be Knish: Conservative by nature and no illusion of making a “run” at it in Vegas. (If you thought we were going to get though a gambling column without a “Rounders” reference, you thought wrong. And, depending on where this blurb is placed, Ben might have already dropped a Teddy KGB “Pay that man his money” nod.)

Also, I don’t play a ton, so I don’t know all the updated odds, but I generally know what to chase and how not to waste good hands. Thus, my tendency, and usual downfall, is a patient approach that rarely lends itself to chip leads but is effective when I have one.

I think if I did know the percentages and had a tendency tracker — are you listening, Ben? — I would A) Get even more furious when the cards didn’t go my way and B) Become so irate with people’s online play style that I, too, would threaten to quit/take intermittent hiatuses from “The Hub.”

I’m also the first person to split the pot after spending six hours playing a $20 tournament with five people, which I feel like is a very Knish move.

Sports: The sports I prefer to bet on are the ones that are most linked to gambling. Think horse racing, boxing, etc. The only horse track I’ve been to was some place in Omaha, and it had a very casino-type feel to it. The tradition of leisurewear and socks and sandals was strong. I think that’s why people dress up for the Kentucky Derby and the like because it’s not as prestigious when they cut to the owner’s circle and he’s in plaid shorts, a stained Hard Rock Café T-shirt and socks with Crocs.

It’s also why I want to go to the Derby. Who doesn’t enjoy a little classy wagering while sporting a great hat and a Mint Julep? Though, Bob Baffert would still subconsciously dress like a Christopher Walken/Max Zorin/”View To a Kill” knockoff even if they dropped the dress code.

If Bud Crawford ever gets a fight worthy of a trip to Vegas, I feel like boxing would be a thrill to experience live. I might need help with who goes down and in what round from a degenerate gambling friend, but I have plenty of those. (Not a shot at Ben so much as my general group of friends. Also, $200 for an auction fantasy football league? Not only do I not have time for cap economics or to calculate player value, but this is really cutting into my yearly gambling stipend of like $300, if that.)

If you’re asking for my gambling advice on major sports, don’t play favorites; it’s super annoying and no one is impressed when you win. Sweet, you dumped on Aaron Rodgers to beat the Lions. Nobody cares.

Applying it to the Real World with Ben

Ahh, so you want a peek into the life of a degenerate gambler, Aspen’s unluckiest man? Bet.

It may not even be that I’m any more unlucky than every other Tom, Dick and Harry; maybe I’m just more sensitive to it. Maybe the universe’s ruling deity doesn’t actually hold a grudge against me, specifically — it’s not like I’m homeless or paralyzed from the waist up — but who better to blame than whichever made-up god figure when I double down on 11 and get an ace, or when the spread is ruined by a buzzer-beating heave, or when my pocket kings lose on the river to 9-4 offsuit at the World Series of Poker?

Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think believing that our “vibes” or “auroras” or “attitudes” are able to manifest different outcomes than what is already preordained is some Scientology-sounding BS, but then again, I’ve never tried anything but pessimism and thusly am caught in whatever panic loop that entails. Something for consideration as I armchair psychoanalyze myself (obviously I don’t need therapy because there’s nothing new anyone can tell me about myself).

And yet, I could never disavow the holy game of poker, no matter how many paycheck cash loans I need to take out or how many trips to donate at the fertility clinic I need to make. “Cards! The cards will teach you what you need to know,” says Rene the gambler in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is like, my favorite movie). And it’s true — the strategies and nuances of the game go far beyond knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

I’ve spent thousands of hours and many times that of dollars learning these lessons, which I’m sure will pay dividends when I grow up and am successful at something else lucrative and completely unrelated, so I’ll provide this advice to you for free here.

Never get too high, never get too low: Admittedly, my mental state is not always well equipped to battle “tilt,” or the frustrated mind set born by bad beat … after bad beat … after bad beat. But if you’re going to play the game, you have to be OK with losing. Well, losing always elicits a disgusted reaction, but stifling the urge to smash electronics, break your foot kicking things across the room or screaming while beating your head with a desk lamp is paramount. The feeling will pass, usually during the drive back to the fertility clinic. Conversely, celebrating a big win is a rush — as I have done on a few occasions in my storied career — but show some restraint. Don’t tell your boss to pound sand and quit, because in three weeks you’ll have re-appropriated all your winnings to sports props and parlays and you’re again getting “credit card declined” notices, like WTF my limit’s supposed to be a hundred th——-oooh shit.

Swing for the fences: Technically a baseball term, but you know what I mean. Have you ever gone to the casino with your girlfriend and she wins $10 in five minutes on slots, ecstatically cashes out and then nags you about leaving the rest of the afternoon while you’re trying to break even in baccarat, of all games? This is reason No. 1 why I don’t have a girlfriend. Anyway, people’s interpretations of success and value of money is different, which is why your fantasy football commissioner thinks $20 is a fun, competitive amount while you require at least a $100 entry and additional QB and flex spots to retain any enthusiasm. The point is, take the big risks, and eventually you could get lucky and be rewarded with that windfall. Miracles happen. In fact, I’m due for a hot streak at any moment now … *bites nails*

Play the odds: We as a species and individuals must never neglect to remember that absolutely nothing is certain. Victory is never guaranteed, but you have to be aggressive when in a position of strength and cut your losses and pick a new spot to battle when you’re disadvantaged. You want some stats? OK, it’s more likely that you’re going to die on Highway 82 any given day of your life than you or anyone you know randomly combusting dead “because of the vaccine.” Yes, a tiny percentage of vaccinated people will die shortly after getting the shot, but some people just have an unforeseen clot, biodeficiency or fatty liver that was coming for them no matter what; sounds callous but that’s life.

In online poker, it’s infuriating seeing your hand’s win-percentage calculator go from 85% to 98% to 0% as each card is flipped over and some goon sucks out on you. In real life, nothing is more demoralizing than being right on the cusp of defeating CORONAVIRUS and relying on the bare minimum of humanity to pull through, only to be stifled by a few loosey-goosey idiots who want this shit to last for the rest of eternity, and for why? “Respect my choice!” No. “I don’t like being told what to do!” Go to hell.

I, for one, am a misanthrope who never wants to participate in polite society ever again and don’t care if I mutate a third arm in 20 years (would prefer it); however, for their bad play and poor table etiquette, I still hope these donkeys go bust.