Wife Won’t Let Husband Help With Her Gambling Problem

by on May 13, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ed Decker, Ocean Beach

Straight Up With a Twist

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed, Me and the wife like to play blackjack at the casino from time to time. The problem is that she is a terrible player. It’s not the money I care about but the groans and eyerolls (sometimes even outbursts) she receives from players who are seated after her. As a blackjack player yourself, you know how much it sucks playing behind a bad player. Especially when they hit when they should be standing and end up taking the card YOU were waiting for.

I hate to say it, but I understand where they are coming from and cringe when she does that. But she refuses to listen. Every time I try to give strategy advice, she gets annoyed and says, “Let me play my game!” Any suggestions?

Sincerely, A Friend Who’s Been Reading You Since the CityBeat Days

Hi Friend, I do have a suggestion. “Let the woman play her game fer crissake!”

You said she gets annoyed “every time” you give her advice? I can only imagine how many times that has been. It’s one thing to offer blackjack tips to someone who is open to receiving them. It’s another thing to keep doing it when they aren’t. I call it game-splaining and the only thing more annoying than a game-splainer is being game-splained by someone who doesn’t understand the game which, my friend, you arguably do not. Or at least not the probability part of it.

Nor do the groaners and eye-roller types understand probability either. Yes, it can be unnerving to be at the receiving end of their contempt. I have seen plenty of crabby, overly-serious, sourpusses wig out on less skilled players for taking what they believed was their card. But that’s absurd. First of all, they have no claim to that card. More to the point, there is nothing another player can do – no ill-advised card they can take, no bad hand on which they might stand – that will change the odds of anyone else’s game on the table.

Now, for my readers who don’t play 21, you might want to breeze through the next paragraph because it meanders into pedantic, nerdish, mathy and – worst of all – mundane blackjack minutiae.

For those who do play, you have probably seen similar scenarios unfold a hundred times: Let’s say the dealer is showing a six and Player A has 14. The proper action for Player A is to stand. However he injudiciously hits for a ten and busts. Ok, well that’s to be expected. But it’s also a bummer for Player B who has an eleven and needed that ten for the almighty 21. Instead, he draws an utterly disappointing four and ends up losing the hand. If he’s a groany, rolley-eyed crybaby type he will blame Player A by issuing said groans and/or eye-rolls. Sometimes he will even make snotty comments like, “You cost me 25 bucks, dumbass!” or, “Go play slots, willya?”

But there is a huge problem with this thinking. Sure, Player B got screwed – this hand. But maybe not the next, or the next, or the next, ad infinitum. Indeed, over time (which is how probability works) the likelihood of Player A “stealing” a card that would have helped Player B is equal to Player A taking a card that would have hurt Player B. There are a myriad of studies that bear this out. Such as the digital simulation performed by Michael Shackleford of the Wizard of Odds website.

Shackleford created a computer program that simulated billions of hands of blackjack. He ran two scenarios with two “players.” In the first scenario both Player A and Player B were programmed to play all 1.6 billion hands using sound blackjack strategy. This resulted in both players suffering the expected, approximate 0.3 percent in losses. In the second scenario, Player B played the same, sound strategy but Player A was reprogrammed to play badly – hitting on 16, splitting all pairs and so on. The results? Player B enjoyed .0007 increase in wins.

Of course, .0007 is a statistical tie but the point is, after over a billion simulated hands, the bad player’s bad plays had virtually no effect on the odds of the player who followed.

So why does this myth prevail?

Well, because of a biological foible called Confirmation Bias. You know, the psychological dissonance that allows people to continue to believe what we already believe and the number one reason why this planet is as fucked as it is. We do this by remembering the instances that reinforce a belief and forget those that diminish it. So, if a blackjacker already thinks that being behind a bad player will mostly hurt them, they only remember the instances when that turned out to be true and forget the times it wasn’t. How convenient.

So, no, Friend, I do not agree that it sucks to be behind an unskilled player. I would rather that than be anywhere near one of these over-serious blackjack crabs blaming others for their losses. And If they ever lipped off to my beloved, I’d tell ‘em to watch their mouths if they don’t want a seven-deck blackjack shoe shoved into it. She’s your wife. Have her back, not theirs. Let her play her game, not yours. And if you really don’t have the sack to ignore their tantrums, then take a walk over to the roulette wheel to cool off. Be sure to check the history board for the list of hot and cold numbers because everyone knows, the cold ones are due!


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page May 13, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Great piece, Ed, I was really happy to see this. I’m not a gambler and have only played blackjack a hand full of times. But, I spent five months working in Las Vegas around people who did gamble and I heard this shit from them. They were absolutely contemptuous of players that did not follow the unwritten rules about when to hit and when not to because it ruined their game. I’ve never heard anyone take the position you have. It never made sense to me either, but it did make me not want to play blackjack anymore. I also noticed a general impatience with people who did not know exactly how the games were played from dealers too. It felt as if you were supposed to know all of the nuances of every game before you set foot in a casino. Maybe that’s why so many people play the slots. I bet you’re gonna get some comments on this one.


Paul Webb May 13, 2021 at 2:49 pm

Casino gambling is a tax on those who do not understand chance, probabilities and statistics. And, if you actually get good at the one casino table game that rewards skill (blackjack) by learning to count cards and have a good enough memory to succeed, they kick you out. Never struck me as something I would consider “fun.”


sealintheSelkirks May 14, 2021 at 10:29 am

Casino gambling is just another way to tax the poor not just on those who don’t understand probabilities Since the state so-called ‘Lotteries’ have proliferated across the country for decades, studies done have shown that it’s almost always low income people, those near or below poverty level, who buy the silly things convincing themselves that they really do have a chance for the Big Score…that never comes. Unfortunately the majority of people who ‘play’ (notice how it is never advertised as Gambling!) spend money they can ill afford. And it becomes an addiction for too many people just like alcohol does…Gamblers Anonymous anyone?

The Spokane Tribe owns a piece of property just south of the City of Chewelah the largest town in the south county that I live in (pop. 2,500) on Hwy 395. It’s Rez land though their actual Rez is miles to the south and west off Hwy 231. But they have made enough the last few years in the run-down one there even during Covid to finally be starting the monster hotel and brand new casino they’ve been planning for years. Nobody asks how they got all that money… Buses full of Canadians have been showing up for years in that parking lot but I know far too many locals that go there, too, and most of them really can’t afford to.

And no, I don’t and have never been interested in ‘playing’ games of ‘chance.’ Dodging pier pilings on big waves, dropping off the edge of a pool on a skate, and doing 15mph in deep powder in treed steeps on a snowboard is gambling enough for me thank you! But I will admit that I did buy a $1 ticket when the lottery first came out in Cali, didn’t win, and haven’t bought another since. Learned my lesson I did!



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