Skip to comments.The Fatal Attraction of the Inside Straight
Posted on 03/31/2005 7:37:48 PM PST by Congressman Billybob
The subjects this week concern the War in Iraq, saving Social Security, and the death of Terri Schiavo. To examine the logic of all three, we begin with poker.
For about four decades Ive played low-stakes poker. I understand the game well, but at best just break even. Why?
Casual poker players are doomed by the fatal attraction of the inside straight. Two cards can win when you draw to an outside straight, one chance in six. But drawing to an inside straight, where only one card can complete it, has one in twelve odds.
The first is a good bet; the second is a sucker bet. Amateurs go broke chasing the inside straight. The logic, if you think about it, has three steps: This can be true. This ought to be true. This is true. Now, apply that lesson to three main issues this week.
Opponents of the War on Iraq are now less in number but more shrill, as Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy and freedom, not oppression and mass murder. The main remaining argument against the war is that the blood cost is too high.
Six months ago I compared the death rate of Americans in this war with those rates in the other ten major US wars. This is our least bloody war.
Another comparison is also appropriate. The death rate of American men and women in Iraq is only slightly higher than if they were home and driving cars to bars on Saturday nights. In short, the argument that the blood cost of this war is too high is factually false. But some people want to believe that, and therefore do believe it.
A similar deception reared its ugly head this week on Social Security reform. AARP has launched a dishonest attack on the Presidents position on this subject. The main attack is that we cannot afford new debt of $2 billion for the transition to private savings accounts.
Lets examine that claim. The people whose SS benefits will be paid by those bonds, are already alive. The law that says how much they will get is already written. The position that this is new debt means AARP expects tens of millions of Americans to die suddenly, or it expects the government to default immediately on SS benefits, or that AARP is lying.
Unfortunately, the press is not printing the facts when reporting on AARPs position. And millions of Americans believe the AARP canard only because they want to believe it.
The third major subject this week was the ultimate death of Terri Schiavo, who died of thirst in Florida after 13 days of no food and water, under a series of court orders. At the end, this was a terrible situation which could have no good outcome. But if we are to learn anything from her death that might benefit others, we need to figure out what went wrong here.
The press kept stating this as a contest between Terri Schiavos parents and her husband. The problem is embedded in that sentence. Terri Schiavo has no husband, not in any real sense.
Ten years ago, Michael Schiavo turned his back on his wife except for occasional symbolism. He took a new wife, and had two children by her. His connection to his wife Terri was no longer with his mind or heart, it was only with his wallet. He had custody of a $1.6 million medical malpractice case because he was the husband of Terri. And starting then, it was in Michaels financial interest that Terri die, rather than live.
People who see conservatives or the religious right behind any interference with the necessary and appropriate death of Terri Schiavo hang their hat on that label: husband. Of course, in such situations and in the absence of any written instructions, the surviving spouse should be the principal decision-maker. But in this case, Michael Schiavo should have been divorced as a husband and dismissed as a guardian a decade ago. People who want to believe otherwise reject such inconvenient facts.
Among the people who have a strong grasp of reality by playing poker for decades are Presidents Truman and Nixon, and Chief Justice Rehnquist. It minimizes the tendency to self-deception. As President Reagan said, borrowing a Will Rogers line, It's not what they don't know that's the problem. It's what they know that ain't so.
Personal Note: I will be a main speaker at the March for Justice II in DC, on 7 April at about 1:30 p.m., probably on C-SPAN after coverage of Congress ends. The subject is runaway judges.
About the Author: John Armor is a First Amendment attorney and author who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. John_Armor@aya.yale.edu
John / Billybob
Any tips on blackjack?
Nope, I hang my hat on the fact that, right or wrong, the trier of fact appointed him guardian.
Our legal system works pretty well, most of the time for most people.
No system made by man can be perfect, and sometimes the innocent are hurt, but that is part of the price of having the best legal system ever designed.
At some point, there has to be finality of judgment or a legal system is just a joke, incapable of deciding anything.
Terri Schiavo seems to have gotten crushed in the gears, but it is not the fault of the judicial system, or any overreaching by judges. It is the fault of a badly written custody law, similar to those in most states.
A judicial activist judge would have reached right beyond the norms of the law and granted custody to her parents, and been just as wrong as any other judge stretching the law to suit his feelings.
"Nope, I hang my hat on the fact that, right or wrong, the trier of fact appointed him guardian."
So, if some future "trier of fact" decides that left-handed people are defective and orders all left-handed people starved to death, that'll be just hunky-dory with you?
And then when he starts "finding" that the right-handed enemies of his campaign donors are actually left-handed, you won't have a problem with that?
"that is part of the price of having the best legal system ever designed"
We don't have it any more, as this atrocity demonstrates very well.
A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money. (With apologies to Everett McKinley Dirksen.)
When the dealer shows a 6 and you have 11 or less, double down.
Nice post but I disagree about Social Security. I don't want to save it. I want it to end. It's a rip off, a lie, a scheme, and totally against every principle of freedom known to man.
It's my money. I'll do with it as I please. And if I don't prepare for myself when I'm older I'll either have to work until I die or rely on my family or the charity of others. But it's fascism to force compassion upon me with my own money because others don't want to see me begging on the street if I'm dumb enough not to take care of myself when I'm 70 years of age.
I think that Ike played bridge, but he can be included in the card playing crowd.
There's something to be said for gamers who know when their opponents mouth goes dry.
Oh, I'm totally with you. And I know incrementalism is always the way to go with large changes in social policy. I just hate the term "save" Social Security. It's unpure, dirty, and disengenious.
But I also understand we are talking to total idiots.
Here in Kansas City, we've got "riverboat" casinos. I've decided that when I want to play a little blackjack, I just write a check to the casino, and mail it in.
It sames me travel time, having to find a parking spot, and the aggrevation of having the worlds worst luck at cards!
The last time I played blackjack, I took $100 to the $5 tables, and I played exactly 21 hands! Yup, I pushed once all night. Lost every other hand.
PS, if you ever want to see someone's head explode, split a pair of 10s...
Greer seems to be the key in this matter. I suspect that he made a bad ruling early and then was too proud to be able to admit that he had erred. Ms Shiavo paid the ultimate price for his pride.
Your commentary, as always, is cogent.
Not always, it depends on the "pot odds". If the ratio of money in the pot to the amount of the bet is greater than the odds of making the winning hand, then it is appropriate to make the bet. Such calculations are the key to winning in poker over the long haul. It is easy to understand why you were unable to do better than break even.
Poker experts and professional gamblers understand the odds, practice discipline and win over the less informed. Not every hand, but over the long haul, because they only put money in the pot when they have favorable odds.
Successful poker theory applies to life in general.
Don't buy insurance, it is a rip off. The chances the dealer will hit black jack are not good and most of the time you will lose the insurance and the bet.
The fatal attraction of an inside straight isn't the bet, it's the rush you get when you (rarely) hit it. This is as true for politics as it is poker, assuming that the two can be differentiated.
You're gettin' good, John! ... I'd love to play poker with you someday.
My father, a lifelong poker player, calls that "I came to play! syndrome." As long as you view your gambling as entertainment, you haven't "lost" unless you're short more money than you would have spent on dinner and a movie, the opera, or a baseball game.
The players there will be intent on skinning my cat. So my playing strategy has to change there, also. John / Billybob
Exactly. You can only fold so many hands before you "just have to play" some hands. Tournament play is a little different though as they last several days and you are going to see a lot of hands. But as the antes and blinds are raised you have to start playing marginal to junk hands or your going to go like Broomcorn's Uncle. (He anted himself to death).
The "I came to play" applies to my golf game as well. If I have a shot at reaching a par 5 in 2, even if the odds are heavily against me because of a poor drive, bad lie, or other factor 90% of the time I will still go for it. I always say, "I didn't come here to lay up."
As long as you view your gambling as entertainment, you haven't "lost" unless you're short more money than you would have spent on dinner and a movie, the opera, or a baseball game.
Bingo. I enjoy gambling a great deal. I will gamble on anything that I am personally involved with and have a modicum or control over the outcome. Such as golf and cards to name two. Sports? I have zero influence on the outcome so I won't bet.
Some of my friends and family are opposed to gambling or just won't gamble because they don't want to "lose" money. I look at it the way you posted. How much can I reasonably expect to spend if I go out on the town for the night? $50? $100? Pretty easy to do without any effort. So if I play poker for 4 or 5 hours with my buddies and end up losing $50 I am in the exact same place as if I went to a bar to have food, beer, and watch "the game."
Only split aces, and double-down when the dealer shows 3, 4, or 5 and you have 11 or less.
Consider that judges are lawyers, but more so. To my experience, the only profession that matches the usual arrogance of judges, is that of surgeons. I have highest respect for the minority of judges who are capable of reconsidering their own, prior decisions.
John / Billybob
Oooh... I know that feeling all too well. If I can make it, I feel I must try it. At least I've gotten to the point where I recognize this, and ask Mrs. kevkrom to make a mark of the scorecard for "Kevin being stupid" before I take such a shot, so I can remember later why I wound up with that 8 or 9.
Ah, HAH! I now have you pegged as a realist!!!!
I'd say "well done" but they always are.
I think I've read about another President who has a reputation for being a pretty good poker player-- it seems that some people have a tendency to "misunderestimate" him...
: ^ )
They were available in 2003 when the renewed fight to have the tube removed was started.
Greer refused to consider anything other than that Michael Schiavo was still married to Terri, legally.
I place a lot of blame on him for his blindness to any mitigating factors.
Re: Poker...luck has a lot to do with it, too. We have been playing for a couple months on Poker Stars [yes, as seen on TV] and thank goodness its free. We have days when the cards seem to fall like manna and others where you can't buy a pot.
Also, the bullying of the AFL-CIO is nothing but grandstanding, media-driven extortion. The campaign of a has-been like John Sweeney is sickening because it adds nothing to the debate about what will become of retirement planning long after he and his ilk are gone. The media lets him get away with saying that Wall Street firms will make a trillion dollars from fees from private accounts. Such a lie--and never confronted.
It guess that it ultimately boils down to the power of the media. The more people know about the details of the Schiavo case, the less inclined they were to support her husband's position. That is why the polls showed a 13% drop in support of ending her life from the first week of March to her death. Even Morton Kondracke, who said on a Friday night FNC show "Pull the plug", corrected himself the next day by admitting that his research into the case had changed his opinion. Did people know that she really wasn't hooked up to anything? Did people know that she probably wasn't in pain until the starvation began? Did people really know that she would not have died a natural death soon unless she had been starved to death? Do people know that this isn't so dissimilar from thousands of other cases of disabled citizens and court-mandated forced starvation for her sets a precedent for alot of other people? Were people aware of the timeline of Michael's interest in his wife, her condition, the money settlement, his new girlfriend and the sudden "reclaimed memory" of her comment about a tv movie about life support?
Whoever controls the media, controls the message.
I think that's what I said.
If you don't like the results, change the state laws.
Then sit back and wait for the handful of opposition to find a single judge to inevitably overturn what everyone else worked so hard for...:-(
O.K. I trust you, we are in agreeance.... :)
Your political analysis is spot on.
Your poker analogy shows why you only break even.
The first rule of poker is to learn to compute pot odds. Going for an inside straight can be a good move if the pot odds warrant it.
Second, you have to calculate the odds of your opponent beating your hand even if you fill the straight. Third you have to figure out how to make your opponent believe you have already filled the straight. Finally, you must have the courage to call what you think is a bluff.
I think number 5 is what separates the good poker player from the average player.
In fact, I think having the courage to make the call is the characteristic which separates many successful people from the rest of the pack.
Heck no, I keep trying to fill an inside straight!
And the nice thing is that it predates the current brouhaha.
You seem to have a rational approach to gambling. The nuts are the ones spending the grocery money on lottery tickets.