1,000 Words

A Book

One of the craps dealers I work with is a really sweet woman from Taiwan named Aida (eye-EE-duh). She was there through my growing pains when I first broke in on the dice table, so I feel a certain debt to her and always will. Over the last few years, one way I’ve tried to pay her back is by helping her with English. Whenever we’re on a dead game together, there is a good chance she will ask me how to say something, or she’ll repeat a phrase she heard and ask what it means. I like to be that person for Aida — that “American guy,” as she says — because I trust myself to (a) give her the clearest possible meaning of a word or phrase, and (b) communicate it in a way she will understand.

One of the small beauties being around so many people who speak such broken English: It’s made me unusually patient. I feel satisfaction teaching others, but it’s more rewarding to help someone from Taiwan, or China, or Vietnam, learn what a common word means, rather than, say, teaching someone who understands me perfectly how to do something complicated, like double-pressing the Six and Eight, for instance.

Anyway, Aida is really nice. And I am an asshole. The other day she approached me on the craps table, all happy and excitable, and asked: “Fiya and Furry?” I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I responded with typical confusion. In retrospect, if I had actually thought about it for more than a second I probably could have sounded it out. I mean, fi-ya. Furr-y. 

Then another dealer interrupted to help clarify. She said flatly, “Aida wants to know if you’ve heard of Fire and Fury [Inside the Trump Whitehouse],” which is a recent book written by the headline-grabbing Michael Wolff, about all the juicy and sizzling, explosive, blockbuster, can’t-miss stories since Donald Trump took office.

I replied by saying I wouldn’t waste my time with it, because I didn’t think the author was credible. Aida slouched her shoulders to one side and, in a very dramatic sort of way, put her fists on her hips. She employs this sort of body language to be cute and endearing, but I know there’s always a kernel of the truth behind it and I’m pretty sure she was legitimately disappointed by my response.

Really?” Aida asked. She sounded like a child who had just been told for the first time that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real. “‘Cause I bought it,” she said. “It’s my first book in English.”

The One Percent Still Want Their One Percent

What can I say about billionaire owners that I haven’t already said? What could I possibly write that would sound any different from anything else I’ve written about them over the last five years? Why do so many hacks compose entire paragraphs where all they do is ask questions?

Billionaires are greedy, and nothing else I have to say about them matters. Last week, the NBA owners outlined a plan for legalized sports betting across the country, a proposal that would net them one percent of every wager.

Gambling has long been a taboo subject among the professional sports leagues, even though it’s a billion-dollar industry and people are going to do it whether or not the leagues sign off on it. Since most people already agree that sports betting should be legal, this is probably just a situation where the owners see the writing on the wall and want to transition into it on their own terms.

In this case “their terms” is a one percent vigorish, which is fucking ridiculous. Online betting sites like Bovada.lv already charge around 6% on every deposit, and the house already takes the juice out of every prop bet. As an example: if two theoretically equal teams had the same theoretical odds to win a particular sporting event, both would be listed at -110 to win the game — meaning you would have to bet $110 to win $100, regardless of which (theoretically equal) team you chose.

The fact that many sports betters decide it’s still worth it, despite the notably hefty tributes they must pay to be in action, is to their detriment. But so, too, is choosing to gamble in the first place. Any real gambler — or problem gambler, depending on your definition — would admit it’s rarely about the money; it’s about the feeling. When you volunteer to play against the odds consistently, you have to be okay with the idea of losing more often than you win.

Conversely, NBA owners don’t give a damn about feelings; they care only about the money. By proposing to get one percent of every bet, they are effectively attempting to create the blueprint for the other professional sports leagues to follow. Even though people are going to bet anyway, and even though gambling has made — and makes — these leagues more popular, the already incredibly wealthy owners want to dip their hands in and get their cut. Which is total bullshit.

Unironically, as a gambler of tables and sports, if legislation does get passed in favor of the owners receiving a one percent tithe on every wager, it would definitely make me less inclined to continue in that avenue giving my cash away. This isn’t to say that money would be better spent elsewhere, necessarily. I spend about as much money on cigarettes each month as I do my car payment. I am not above spending $400 randomly on some Ralph Lauren items.

There is just something backwards about taxing the gamblers to put extra money in the pockets of the people who are already bleeding the consumers with seats, merchandise, alcohol, and food.

It’s also, not surprisingly, the reason I unequivocally believe this tax will ultimately come to fruition, because everything is about the money. Gamblers might blow their wad every opportunity they get, but no one ever went broke betting on the rich to get richer.