An Opportunity or a Predicament?

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It’s been a long time since I addressed this subject. The opportunity to actually do it hasn’t happened recently, so you should know that the situation I’m about to describe is fictitious, not factual. Still, the situation does happen periodically and knowing how to handle it when it does happen is worthwhile.

I’m playing $2 NSU at the South Point and a lady next to me is playing $1 9/6 Double Double Bonus. She’s dealt A♦ J♦ 3♦ Q♦ K♦. She doesn’t know me, but since I’m playing my game rapidly (by her standards) she assumes I’m knowledgeable and she asks me whether she should hold four or five cards?

The answer is easy. The flush is worth $30, and I know that four-to-the royal is worth a bit more than $92. The only reason I have that number memorized is because I teach classes and we discuss this situation in every class. 

I tell her, “Drop the 3, say a prayer, and go for it! I can’t guarantee it will work this time, but it’s the best play.”

She mutters something like she’s been losing. Throwing away a guaranteed $30 really hurts because she never connects on these four-to-the-royal chances anyway.

I consider whether I should offer her $75 and I will assume her risk. If she gets the royal, I get $4,000, and if she gets a high pair, a straight, or another flush that money is offset from the $75. She’s worried about losing a guaranteed $30. Surely a guaranteed $75 in her hand must be better than that! I don’t tell her I’m making $17+ in expected value on the deal.

Here are the things I should consider before I actually say this out loud to her:

  1. I don’t know this woman at all. How trustworthy is she? I’m sure she’ll take my $75 (minus the value of what she actually hit) on the 46-out-of-47 times she misses the royal. But on that 47th time? When she looks at the royal and says, “What are you talking about‽ I made no such deal!”

    Complaining to the casino would be awkward, at best. While I’m known at the South Point and am considered believable, on a he-says-she-says matter I doubt if they’d pay me. I’d be putting the South Point in an awkward situation that probably won’t work, and may hurt me in the long run. I can just see a manager thinking, “Remember that time Dancer tried to take that lady’s jackpot?”  I want no part of that.

    Taking her to small claims court is both tedious and, without anything in writing, what’s the judge going to do? My guess is that the judge would keep the status quo, meaning she keeps the money. Even if the judge splits it down the middle and gives me $2000, that means the $75 I offered up front was too much. 

  1. There are tax implications here. If I receive $4,000 and get the W2g in my name, there’s no problem at all. I file as a professional gambler and know well how to deal with it. But if she gets the $4,000 in her name, assuming she doesn’t file as a professional gambler and still pays me all of the money, she has a tax liability. Depending on her circumstances, she could owe more than $1,000 — on something for which she received $75.  

    It takes no genius to imagine that she’ll feel she got ripped off by me. Even though I gave her a reasonable price given my tax situation, it was not a reasonable price given hers. Voices could be raised. Potentially a crowd could gather with me being considered the bad guy. A “rich” man taking advantage of a “poor” woman. 

  1. We could talk about the tax details beforehand, I suppose, saying something like I’ll give her $50 now and if the royal hits, she gives me $3,000 and keeps $1,000 to cover taxes. But the more detail we go into, the more complicated it gets. She probably gambles for fun. A lengthy negotiation likely isn’t her idea of fun. And even with the negotiation, it still wouldn’t be in writing unless we found the paper, wrote it to our mutual satisfaction, and then signed it. Maybe in front of witnesses.

With all that considered, I’m going to keep my mouth shut and pass. I either lose money or potentially open up a hornet’s nest. I can’t win.

If the situation were changed so that I was negotiating with somebody I knew and trusted, and there was an independent witness both of us also knew and trusted, then maybe. But still, probably not. If it’s remembered by the other person as me costing them $4,000, it’s easy to see hard feelings erupt that could kill whatever friendship we had.

So again, even with the situation modified, I still probably wouldn’t do it.


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