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Best of Alan Krigman
Before Taking Advice, Consider What's in it for the Advisor26 February 2002
I left after a while with a modest profit. My tablemates were going hot and heavy, doing quite well at the time.
That evening, the same two guys sat at another table where I was playing. We exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves, acknowledging recognition from the previous game. As a staunch minder of my own business, I didn't ask how they were doing. Identical routine, though. Tony paid and played; Mac attended and assisted. Identical, except that Tony's wad of bills, while still respectable, was thinner. This didn't necessarily mean anything. After all, you don't have to flash everything you've got just to show off to the old ladies in the park or impress the dealer.
"He left," Tony commented. "Anyway, he's not really a friend. Just someone I met today who said he'd help me because he liked the game but didn't have enough money to play himself." Click!
A half hour later, I'd made a reasonable recovery - behind for the session but ahead for the day. So I colored up and prepared to go. I wished Tony luck. He replied he'd need it because he was almost $20,000 in the hole. Then he asked, "What should I do?"
"I don't understand what you mean," I responded.
"I only have about $1,000 left," he explained, "so I can't keep betting enough to get the $20,000 back. Do they have machines where you can get cash advances on credit cards?" Clang! Clang!
That "Click!" a while back was a light bulb switching on over my head. Mac was a hustler. A person who latches on to somebody with a fat bankroll, looking baffled by the action. Hustlers rarely ask outright for payment. And they give personal instruction that helps relieve a neophyte's intimidation. If the client does well, human nature virtually assures the consultant a sizeable token of gratitude - unbidden, or if necessary with a few subtle hints.
Maybe you think this is OK. Voluntary payment for appreciated services. The catch is that hustlers encourage very aggressive play. It's how they make good money themselves. A $25,000 winner can be generous. A $25 winner? And hustlers typically do better courting several losers waiting for a big hit, than bothering with the nickel-dime crowd. The comps they share are nicer, too.
The first "Clang!" you heard earlier was an alarm confirming the downside of the hustle. Mac didn't care how much Tony lost, just that he played to maximize the possible win.
The second "Clang!" signalled that the $20,000 loss was obviously more than Tony could tolerate. Otherwise, he wouldn't have thought about a credit card loan. A move that could succeed, or make matters far worse. It also happens at earthier levels. Go by the cash and credit card terminals in any casino. And ask yourself how many of the solid citizens in line are rationalizing their way beyond whatever loss limits they thought reasonable when they left home. Or how few marked the moral in the ageless adage of the sententious scribe, Sumner A Ingmark:
Gamblers wise heed those who taught 'em,
Best of Alan Krigman