Don’t Hate The Player

A couple weeks ago, while in Vegas waiting for the news of THC’s Podcast Awards status, (here’s a hint: we lost) my special lady, Theresa, and I sat down at the blackjack table to kill some time and some hard earned cash. After a few drinks, Theresa gets two Jacks and decides that for whatever reason, she wants to get risky and split them. She ends up drawing two 10 cards, and now has two 20’s instead of one for double the money. A ridiculous play, that happened to work out this time. That’s my girl.

The point is that this unorthodox play offended another player so much so, that he had to let out a long, exaggerated groan before taking his card. The guy has 11, but ends up busting out. He gets up from the table and says, “Thanks for taking my card. Learn how to play.” Now, had she taken two 6’s, leaving a 10 as the next card, would this man be thanking her? Most likely not. That’s a minor gripe, but this little story could be an example of several things, some more practical than others.

If you want to take a New Age, metaphysical detour before I get to anything important, what about the law of attraction? My confident and positive-minded girlfriend got a serious vibe to split a made hand. Weather it was the Universe, or her higher-self, or the Blueberry Kush and Vodka-Cran combination is unclear. However, she went with her gut and desire, and the world delivered what she needed in that moment. The unhappy patron, on the other hand, voiced his anger with a grumble before it was even his turn. Did he manifest the loss in his mind, before he even picked a card? Would a better attitude have changed his fate? Depends on how high you are right now.

Most notably though , it’s a great analogy for an attitude I see in society that really gets under my skin. To make my point, I have to mention a simple fact that both Blackjack players and participants in Capitalism like to ignore: You’re playing a rigged game.

Yes, the game is set up for you too loose. In both cases, someone long ago, put the time and energy into creating a structure that would be both attractive to you, and would statistically drain the assets of most players, while parading around the few success stores as examples for you to admire and strive for. Whether it’s a photo on the casino wall of the million dollar winner, or Warren Buffet, the fact remains the same: 90% of us will never get there and we’ll waste decades of time and effort trying. Who’s the real winner? It’s not the guy in the photo with the over-sized check, or Warren Buffet. No, those are occasional write-offs for the real winners: The creators of the game.

Now, if you created a game of this sorts, what would you do when people start losing? There is going to be the risk of the players waking up the the skewed rules and not participating. Well, of course you have to blame shift. You have to create a culture that finds fault with anything, other than the game itself. In Capitalism, it’s the welfare queens, or the drug addicts, or the illegal immigrants and their goddamn anchor babies, draining the economy and keeping us from real prosperity. In Blackjack, it’s the same thing: Blame the other players, ignore the real statistical disadvantage of the game.

A big part of why people fall for this blame shift so easily, is they are so vested in the false hope that they will one day be the “big winner” that removing the game is seen as removing their chance at success. It seems that, to most people, a 30% chance of “winning” Capitalism is better than the 0% chance of winning if the game was removed. Same reason people go to Casinos: “I know I’m probably going to lose, but what if…”

People can’t really see beyond the game. What would we do, without Capitalism? Yes, it seems like the brainwashing of the self-preservation minded game makers is that strong. The one’s who would really lose if we moved on, are the game makers. The same people who conveniently create plenty of scapegoats so our fragile little minds won’t have to deal with the real issue. How lucky are we?

Greg Carlwood is the host, producer, and webmaster for The Higherside Chats. His column,  Smoke & Mirrors updates every Friday.