I’m showing my age, but I remember the “Who Do You Trust?” television show hosted by Johnny Carson before he got the Tonight Show gig. He always said later that the first word should have been “Whom” rather than “Who,” and if you can’t trust Johnny Carson, whom can you trust?
Many of the people who attend my classes are quarter or dollar players. It’s no secret that I play for higher stakes, at least some of the time. Usually once or twice a semester, someone says something like, “Although I would never play for the stakes you do, I’m really curious as to what games you play and where. Will you tell me?”
My standard answer is that I write about the places I play that I don’t mind you knowing about, and don’t write about the ones I would rather keep secret. So, if they don’t already know about one of my plays, I’m not going to tell them.
The reason for this is simple. Many plays can only support one or two competent players. Telling the world about such a play would be the kiss of death to the play. No thanks.
One player followed up with, “But I promise I won’t tell anybody, and I certainly won’t be playing those stakes myself. Don’t you trust me?”
Well, I’m not sure. I’d rather not put it to the test. If I trust 20 people and 19 of them never told a soul, the secret is still out. Is this guy one of the 19, or the one who says, “It won’t hurt anything if I mention this to my brother-in-law?” I don’t know beforehand, so it’s better that I keep quiet.
I’m not a proponent of the “Two can keep a secret only if one of them is dead” philosophy. If Richard Munchkin wants to know the where and why on any of my plays, I’m going to tell him. I trust him — even though he has the bankroll along with family members and close friends who could burn out any play I told him about. Among top gamblers, their word is their bond. If I told him, “I’ll tell you about it but you can’t play because of xxxxx,” I believe he’d honor that.
On the radio show, we’ve had blackjack team captains describe teams they were on where one of the team members ripped off the others. This is rare — but it happens — and it’s always a shock when it does. You can protect yourself from this by never telling anybody anything, but that’s going to be a lonely life you lead.
Trusting somebody has similarities with marriage. Although it ends badly some of the time (and I’ve experienced my share of that), overall, I’m convinced my life works better being married than being single.
I’d actually be more comfortable telling Richard about a play than I would be telling Bonnie! Bonnie is not a player at all and although she’s definitely on my side, if I tell her I’m going to be playing at the (pick a casino), it’s possible that she would inadvertently tell her sister, daughter, or a girlfriend where I’m playing. If I tell her over and over again, “This is a secret — you can tell no one,” she’ll honor my wishes. But she has no good gambling sense about what is a secret and what isn’t and she’s not really practiced in keeping secrets. It’s better not to tell her.
If I took her to a comped meal at the Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan, she would figure out that there was some play (now gone) that I had there, but she isn’t really capable of understanding why the play there was better or worse than playing at some other casino. She’s willing to listen and nod her head if I tell her, “The game pays xxx% off the top, with yyy% from the slot club, and zzz% from the mailers. This other promotion they’re having now adds another vvv%, and there’s a pretty good chance I can talk them into www% worth of comps.” These are just numbers to her and it’s all kind of gobbledygook.
Richard, however, would understand each of these things and if he didn’t, he’d ask me to explain further. And he could put the numbers into context of other plays he knew about. That is, a 100.5% play is pretty good if the best you can find otherwise is 100.3%. But if you can find a 101% play for the same stakes, a 100.5% isn’t such a good deal.