Throwback

Sports

I’ve been paying relatively close attention to the NBA playoffs this year, which has been a nice diversion from having to watch my favorite baseball team wet the bed. Going into the season I firmly assumed the Golden State Warriors were the team to beat (again), and that will remain my position until I’m proven wrong. Right now — and all along, probably — their biggest competition are the Houston Rockets, who not only finished with the best record in the NBA but also have arguably the the league’s best player, James Harden.

At the moment Vegas agrees with me about Golden State, who are currently at 4-to-5 (or -120) to win the championship. Houston is a relatively close second at 9-to-5 (or +180) before a substantial drop-off; the 76ers are 8-to-1 (+800), the Raptors are 12-to-1 (+1200), and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers are 22-to-1 (+2200). Vegas is basically saying the 2018 NBA Champion will either be the Warriors or Rockets. Those are the two-best teams.

I know I’m not exactly going out on a limb to say I think the Warriors at -120 is a better bet than the Rockets at +180. Part of me was actually looking forward to seeing Houston as something like a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 type underdog, because at that point it would be worth it to bet on them for no other reason than it being such a good price. If I can’t get even a 2-to-1 return on my money for picking them to beat Golden State — who I unequivocally think would (or will) beat the Rockets in a seven-game series — then I would much rather just roll with the better team.

Politics

I wrote about the West Virginia teachers’ strike, then I wrote about Oklahoma and Kentucky teachers going on strike, and now I’m going to spare you the 2,000 words it would have taken me to write another one. But I’m still going to mention it.

Arizona and Colorado teachers are now striking, demanding better pay. And just so you know the types of dickheads they are fighting for the hearts and minds of the students and their parents, the USA Today article says: “The Goldwater Institute, a conservative Arizona think tank, announced it had sent letters to the state’s public schools warning that parents and students may sue if they don’t resume classes immediately, saying students have a constitutional right to an education and teachers are legally required to comply with their contracts as government employees.”

It’s extremely rich for a right-wing think tank, which according to Wikipedia “was founded in 1988 by conservative activists” — because apparently there are such things as conservative activists — is suddenly taking such an interest in students who go to public schools. These are the same institutions that believe public education should be defunded, if not abolished altogether, and that America should erect more bogus charter schools so corporations can profit off them.

If you are keeping score at home, here is what we know:

  1. Teachers in West Virginia got the 5% raise they asked for;
  2. Teachers in Oklahoma got as much as a $6,000 raise, while janitors and custodians will get a raise of $1,250;
  3. Teachers in Kentucky got their Republican-majority state government to override the Republican governor on a bill that was to cut pensions for teachers.

I would be stupid to say these strikes are going to have a 100% conversion rate, because lawmakers and big dollar corporate interests are going to be better prepared than the earlier states that got blindsided. Never forget, teachers going on strike is a huge problem for wealthy corporations. For the state to pay for these raises in teacher salaries, it has to increase taxes on those already doing exceptionally well.

We are finally getting some real action in Arizona, with one on the right saying “the teachers strike is actually just a cover ploy to legalize recreational marijuana,” another saying a certain teacher is “brainwashing students with Marxist propaganda,” and the state superintendent is threatening to “investigate striking teachers and potentially revoke their license to teach in the state.”

Holy shit!

My belief is the same as, I assume, that of most who are pro-labor: the idea that when workers unite they cannot lose. The plight of public school teachers has turned into a curious experiment to test that theory in the modern era, because there has been a decades-long winter of labor peace, and Americans haven’t been confronted by these images since the Civil Rights Movement and protests of the Vietnam War.

My heart is with the teachers, because what they are doing takes guts. The strikes have technically been illegal. Teachers are literally risking their jobs to protest, knowing if they got fired there’s little chance they could find something much better because the economy sucks so bad.

And Gambling

The objective of craps is to establish a number, or “point,” and repeat it before 7 comes on the dice. Despite the overwhelming and complicated appearance of the layout, which bombards the novice with Hardways, Horn bets, Hop bets, Field bets, Come bets, Don’t Come bets, and all sorts of others, the game is simple when you just remember the first sentence of this paragraph.

For any beginner, I recommend playing only the Pass Line and taking full odds. Here is a fun fact: Pass Line odds is the only bet in the casino that pays true odds; there is zero house edge. Here is what I mean by that:

  • If the point, for argument’s sake, is 6 or 8, the Pass Lines Odds pay 6-to-5. That is due to the fact that there are six ways to roll a 7 and only five ways to roll a 6 (5-1, 4-2, 3-3, 2-4, 1-5) or 8 (6-2, 5-3, 4-4, 3-5, 2-6).
  • If the point, for argument’s sake, is 5 or 9, the Pass Line Odds pay 3-to-2, otherwise known as a blackjack. That is due to the fact that there are six ways to roll a 7 and only four ways to roll a 5 (4-1, 3-2, 2-3, 1-4) or 9 (6-3, 5-4, 4-5, 3-6).
  • If the point, for argument’s sake, is 4 or 10, the Pass Line Odds pay 2-to-1. This is due to the fact that there are six ways to roll a 7 and only three ways to roll a 4 (3-1, 2-2, 1-3) or 10 (6-4, 5-5, 4-6).

Here is another fun fact: Pass Line odds are also the only bet in the casino that is not advertised. There is no spot on the craps layout that tells the player Here Is Where You Place Your Pass Line Odds. Because it’s the best bet in the house, the only fair proposition in the house, it’s incumbent on the player to know about it beforehand. (Or if perhaps you take care of the dealer, they might be a tad more inclined to guide you through some pro tips.)

I do love this fucking game, both as a player and as a dealer. There is just enough of a challenge, just enough math and on-the-spot problem solving, just enough banter and shit-talking, that keeps things from getting stale. It’s perfect, I think.

 2: 1-1
 3: 2-1, 1-2
 4: 3-1, 2-2, 1-3
 5: 4-1, 3-2, 2-3, 1-4
 6: 5-1, 4-2, 3-3, 2-4, 1-5
 7: 6-1, 5-2, 4-3, 3-4, 2-5, 1-6
 8: 6-2, 5-3, 4-4, 3-5, 2-6
 9: 6-3, 5-4, 4-5, 3-6
10: 6-4, 5-5, 4-6
11: 6-5, 5-6
12: 6-6

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