This week’s inductee into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” is … your gambling prowess.
Yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Just Back from Vegas and I Won Large at the Craps Table, and you, Mr. I Knew the Bears Weren’t Gonna Cover Against the Lions, and you, too, Mr. March Madness Bracketologist. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve just scored a couple of hundred bucks on some meaningless mid-season Dolphins game, and now the rest of us non-gamblers have to endure the epic tale of your wagering coup, complete with your convoluted theories and bullshit tips.
I might be more apt to listen to your stories if you would be honest enough to share the other 997 stories about the times you lost. Those amusing anecdotes would give me great pleasure, which would make it somewhat easier to listen to you blowhards go on about your wins, which, fortunately for us bored listeners, occur about as often as Halley’s Comet. And trust me, staring at some faint dusty comet trail trumps your gambling story every time.
But in the end, gamblers always lose. Always. That’s why Atlantic City and Vegas have the most opulent (or tacky and crass, if you have any taste at all) hotels in the country. It’s why they can serve up free drinks and eight dollar steaks and offer swanky hotel rooms at Red Roof of Peoria prices. They know they can count on your crackerjack gambling expertise to help the keep the fountains lit and the casino owners up to their billionaire asses in foreign villas and Eliot Spitzer-priced poon.
All gamblers are full of shit, but the level of full of shitness is directly proportional to the amount of gambling lingo these loudmouths use. You’ve heard ’em. They’ve got their bumps and their overlays, their hard eights and hard hands. They’ll drone on about the over-under and the vig. (They’re especially fond of that vig term, aren’t they?) I’ve found the best way to cut one of these lingo-laden stories short is to throw some of their words right back at them, such as, “Yeah, well I’ve got a hard six (okay, maybe five … and a half) which your sisters are welcome to double down on right now. And after that, I’ll show ’em how to parlay.” That often effectively terminates the snooze-a-rama that is their unlistenable Victory in Vegas story.
While casino chumps are tough to contend with, the most insufferable stories might come from the sports gamblers. You never hear one word from these degenerates during the first 12 weeks of football season, because they conveniently forget to share the tragic tales of their weekly one-point losses. But let them catch a break in week 13, and Monday at work will entail 20 minutes of listening to how they knew that Carson Palmer was due to get hurt, or that a freak snowstorm was going to hit San Diego, or that an addled Joe Gibbs wouldn’t know the new ice-the-kicker-before-a-field-goal time-out rule (okay, that one was kind of predictable). Your coworker thinks he’s the new Jimmy the Greek, but you know he’s still Steve the Embellishing Asswipe from Accounting.
As I write this, we’re in the thick of March Sadness, the NCAA’s annual infliction of sports pain on those of us smart enough to know how stupid the sport of basketball really is. (See the Overrated Archives for more on this.) And I know, dear reader, that you have filled out at least one bracket. And you have told some unlucky schmoe the reason for every single one of your picks and why you are dead certain that (college powerhouse that graduates about eight percent of its players) will win it all this year. And I assure you that your listener was either, One: Not even listening, because he was just waiting for you to wind down so that he could tell you the nail-biting classic story of his bracket picks, or Two: not even listening because his mind was consumed with locating the nearest sharp object that would allow him to puncture his jugular and end the torment you were inflicting upon him, torment that sounds something like “… so I figures that Austin Peay plays a helluva perimeter game, so I got them beating East West South Texas State AM&N, who are kind of small up front and can’t post up real good …”)
And let’s not forget the group that might be the most pathetic of all gamblers: Lottery winners They, too, are afflicted with the inability to discern whenever a listener could give two shits (or four shits, if we double down!) about how they “hit” last Friday by “boxing” the “pick four.” (They’ve got lingo, too. It makes them feel smart, which is important, as you have to be pretty fucking stupid to play the lottery every week.) Their stories always end with the amount of money they won. “… and that bitch paid out five hunnerd!” I wouldn’t mind listening to these stories if they would complete the story arc with the missing info. You know, info such as, “… which means I’m only down $2300 this year. But I’m gonna get even ‘fore long, because I know my daughter’s birthday is due to hit, which is why I’ll spend $40 bucks at the liquor store next payday, which will mean two fewer birthday presents for my daughter when I lose a-fucking-gain.”
Keno players make me laugh more than any other gambler. These bubbling-in yahoos actually have theories and systems that they think will beat a statistically stacked game of completely random chance developed by genius statisticians. They even give you the ridiculous odds on the back of the Keno card, but since most hardcore gamblers are probably too stupid to read, I guess those odds go unnoticed. One night I had to feign interest in the Keno theories of a bartender who looked me right in the eye and swore to me that she had a system that left her in the black every night. I would have laughed in her face and called her a liar, but she was decent looking, so I just listened and drank the free beers. I don’t recall seeing her win while I was there, and in those days, I put in some serious hours in bars.
Yes, every gambler has that one winning story they get to tell every six months, and every story is mind numbingly tedious and tiring. And we just have to stand there and take it and not call them on their bullshit. The gambling stories I’d really like to hear could be told by the dealers, the croupiers and the casino owners. Wouldn’t you just love to hear the owner of the Bellagio go on and on about the hardon-inducing pleasure he gets from watching the endless stream of delusional dollar-dumping dumbfucks march into his casino to hand over wads of their hard-earned cash? Wouldn’t it be great to listen to an oddsmaker and a bookie tell their stories – through choking fits of laughter – of how they bankrupt college basketball experts (meaning deli workers, longshoremen and the like) every March?
If you are one of these blowhard betting braggarts, I have a proposition (yes, a bet … drool drool) for you. Keep an honest tab of your gambling wins and losses for an entire year. I would be willing to bet you that by year’s end, you’ll be deep in the red. Name your price, and I’ll take that bet. You can even throw in some pushes, parlays and let-it-rides if you want. I don’t care, because I know I’ll win, and when I do, you have to promise me one thing. You’ll stand there and listen to my stupid fucking story about how I won the bet. For a hard eight minutes.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.