Monday, December 1, 2008


The 1978 movie, "THE END" was a dark comedy starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Dom DeLuise and David Steinberg.

Burt Reynolds' character is facing a painful terminal disease and decides to avoid the anticipated agony, by killing himself. Aided by the incompetent DeLuise, the plot features a series of bungled suicide attempts. I saw it once, (in the theater), thirty years ago and one sequence has remained fresh in my mind.

In that scene, Reynolds tries to drown himself in the ocean. When he realizes that he is really struggling with rip-tides, his survival instincts take over. Despite his thrashing and flailing about, he's having increasing trouble keeping his head above water, as he's being swept further out to sea.

In desperation, Reynolds screams, "I WANT TO LIVE, I WANT TO LIVE!"  In search of divine intervention, he pleads with his Maker by quoting an outlandish financial offer in exchange for his life. Suddenly, the natural strength of the current eases slightly and his instinct for greed takes over. So, he reduces his monetary pledge. As the peril lessens, he proportionally continues to discount his promises. By the time he's out of danger and collapses safely on the shore, he re-re-re-revises his obligation to practically nothing.

I think most of us are guilty of that on some level. In the casino industry, we frequently over-hear it from customers. It usually sounds like; I'm NOT greedy, I'll go straight home as soon as I double my money. It then becomes funny when their wish comes true and they recant their vow.

These days, many casinos offer games with an optional "bonus" feature. In a game like Caribbean Stud Poker, an additional one-dollar side bet makes a player eligible for separate jackpots for premium hands, (a flush or better). To make this game more tempting, each table is equipped with an ever-increasing digital meter advertising the top prize, for a royal flush.

The casino supplies the pot with the first $10,000.00, then thirty cents of each bonus dollar risked injects the pot higher. The biggest jackpot I saw was $285,00.00. Therefore, it's not uncommon for people to say, "I'm not greedy, I'll settle for 10% of the meter," (the prize for an ordinary straight flush).

My favorite story of greed occurred recently, in an Asian-style seven-card stud-poker game called Pai-Gow. This game has its own bonus feature, called the ENVY BONUS which rewards players for premium hands starting with a five-card straight, paying 2 to 1.

The ultimate Pai-Gow payout, for a seven-card straight flush, pays an astounding 8,000 to 1. Plus, if you bet $5 (or more) on the bonus, you become eligible to cash-in on other player's premium hands. Therefore, rather than being ENVIOUS of a fellow player hitting it big, you can also cash-in on their good fortune. In the case of someone hitting the 8,000 to 1, the ENVY feature would incredibly net each fellow player, their own $5,000.00.

I never witnessed that happen but I know it happened twice. In the more interesting situation, the player dealt the seven-card straight-flush DID NOT bet the bonus. That means, he gets NOTHING for it from the casino. However, the four other players at his table will get $5,000.00 each.

The player did some quick thinking and revealed his fantasy-come-true, to the other four.  While these men were giddy in anticipation of their unexpected windfall, the owner of the golden cards propositions them.  His demand was, they each give him a thousand cash...each. They scoffed at his audacity, "called his bluff" and in a flurry of mild foul language, turned him down.

The man considers his options, (his bet was virtually guaranteed to "push" (neither win or lose). His threatening counter-proposal was, "If you don't pay me now, I'll surrender my hand," (throw-in his cards without showing them to the casino). The implication being, if his adversaries didn't, "play ball" with him, he was willing to chuck his cards and sacrifice his $25.00 bet. That way everyone gets no bonus money.  He expected this leverage, almost like extortion, to guarantee him an equal share, by in essence, making an even five-way split, ($4,000.00 each) of the bonus money.

The four others proved how bad GREED TALK$. They remained adamant and still refused while mixing in a stronger chorus of obscenities. When the man stuck to his principles and indeed threw away his cards, the four-man bloc yelled out the harshest, hateful profanity. 

The dealer took a cautious half-step back away from the barrage as the raging argument mounted. Spectators within hearshot hustled over to see what the commotion was about. Others from further away were guided there by curiosity and human nature.  Soon the Pai Gow room was flooded with curiosity seekers hoping to see a fight, (and take advantage of the potential chaos).

When it looked like the situation might turn into a riot, a staff member pushed the panic button.  Thirty seconds later, a posse of dead-serious plain-clothes security and a squad of regular guards stormed the pit and surrounded the table.

The four men ignored the security officers and continued screaming for casino intervention. The dealer was powerless to do anything. The disgruntled men went up the management chain-of-command after getting no satifaction from the floor supervisor and the pit boss.  The game was at a complete standstill for several minutes until the shift boss arrived.  He heard all the greivances and addressed the four men, "We NEVER saw the cards.  It's not in out best interest to give away twenty grand...on your say so."

Later, the player who surrendered the hand cornered the shift boss, "Hey, I hooked you guys up and saved the house a boatload of money."  The big boss maintained a poker face during the ensuing silent pause.  The player continued, "You know, Christmas is right around the corner.  How about showing me some love with a comp for four to the steakhouse, a free suite next weekend and tickets to see, The Trans Siberian Orchestra."  The stoic shift boss said, "Are you serious?  Why?"  The man said, "I'm not making an unreasonable request..."  The boss interrupted, "Of course it's unreasonable. Don't you remember, we never saw your cards."

Now you know why many casino workers on their days off lock themselves away in a dark, quiet room.

With that in mind, don't strike up any deals with Santa you can't back up. 

Me, I'm true to my word, so the only bargain I can offer you right now is, my sincerest wish for your peace, happiness and goodwill, in the up coming holiday season.


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