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Best of Alan Krigman
Pride and Prejudice Have No Place in a Casino3 April 1995
Maybe you doubt the pride part. You've watched smug high rollers bask in privilege casinos appearing to give them perks while pandering to their churlishness. And you've seen brash big-buck insiders who seem tipped off about the hot machines, or who know the right moves at the tables and scorn those who don't.
Guess what? It's not quite as you believe.
Take perks, for instance. Casinos aren't just gambling joints. They're full-blown leisure complexes which charge the public to use their facilities. Patrons can buy the goods and services directly. Or they can pay by making bets on which the house takes commissions. The casinos use sophisticated point and rating systems to estimate how much players have paid through these commissions, and what they should get in return.
Big shots who snootily strut their comps and club membership cards or who demand other perks are kidding themselves. Whether they win or lose at gaming, the fees they pay on every bet more than cover the cost of these amenities. And solid citizens who covet the extras, or gamble over their heads just to join the gentry, are letting their egos cloud their good sense.
As for big money and smart moves, hah! Once, if I saw a $50 or $100 blackjack player defying basic strategy, I'd have thought, "wow, this sharp card counter knows when to pounce boldly, he split twos on a dealer nine." Wrong. Bettors like this are bozos. Too stuck-up to sit at $5 tables, too vain to study proper play.
In the ordinary workaday world, criteria to evaluate an individual's performance are often tenuous. So prejudice uninformed judgement rears its ugly head and resists revocation.
You don't find much prejudice in sports, where achievement is scored dispassionately with regularly-updated measures like runs and goals. In casinos, money won or lost offers similar objectivity, and chance mires presuppositions deeper in the quicksand.
The effectiveness of casinos as melting pots struck me during a craps game a while back. A new player got the dice, and took his sweet time "setting" them before the come-out roll. Most veteran players prefer fast action, but nobody griped about the delay. Next throw, the shooter again took forever fingering the dice. By the third time, some of us were getting annoyed; the pit supervisor politely urged, "Sir, it's OK to set the dice before you roll, but please don't take so long." The player replied, "Sure, sure," then continued fussing around before shooting. Finally, the floor man said, "Sir, just pick 'em up and throw."
The player protested, "You're only harassing me because I'm black." A hush of disbelief engulfed the table. The supervisor retorted, "Look, friend, I happen to be Puerto Rican. I know what prejudice is and don't need a lesson in it from you. Nobody can ever say I picked on them because they're black or anything else." The player tucked his tail between his legs and skulked away. The table burst into applause. The stickman offered the dice to the next shooter. The game went on.
Idealists decry the casino experience because it turns on the almighty buck. This has a dark side. But it's also a great equalizer, affording enlightenment not elsewhere apparent in our society today. As Sumner A Ingmark, troubadour of tempora and muse of mores, put it:
Which taxes pride and prejudice
Best of Alan Krigman