Gambling Like Wall Street; Shooting Dice Like Geithner

May 13, 2011

By John Titus
 
We’re running pretty late, which makes Fox even jumpier than usual after his show at the Tropicana. The four of us started filming 15 hours earlier.
 
“What took you guys so long?” he says.
 
“Wing and wang here overslept,” Ruben says with his thumb pointed over his shoulder, at Nicole and Sergio. “They'd be late to a war they sleep so much.”
 
“Well, I’m working two jobs here, man. I can’t stay out all night gambling,” Fox says.
 
“Ohhh… you ain’t used to real work?” Ruben says.
 
“Hell, no. Why do you think I picked a job working 45 minutes a day?”
 
We walk across the Strip to New York New York rather than cabbing it to some Old Vegas place we saw earlier.
 
The Strip is loosely akin to Old Vegas like a bailed out bank is to a credit union. Casinos in the former are bombastic: overwhelming interior spaces hyper-injected from every conceivable direction with sounds and lights and endless promises of lightning fast scores. The fat illusion of instant wealth, however, is propped up in part by the weaker odds and angles the mega shops offer the small-time gambler. He’s better off financially by sticking with lower-minimum and higher-odds tables throughout Old Vegas.
 
I say “loosely akin” because there’s not a game in Vegas where the house is allowed to secretly short the bets made by customers while also covertly scanning all of their cards, even ones face down.  Bailout banks like Goldman Sachs get away with this by having their CEO tell gullible Congressmen that they are "market makers." In Washington, D.C., that kind of nonsense babbling works every time. In Vegas it’ll get you your ass kicked, and rightly.
 
Imagine Lloyd Blankfein explaining to a table full of coked-out blackjack players that he dealt himself 63 consecutive winning hands by doing "God's work." It’ll never happen in Las Vegas because he wouldn’t make it past 10 winning hands alive.
 
But that’s Vegas, where reality is still intact. In Washington, D.C., no one bats an eye at Goldman’s statistically impossible “winning” streak. That’s because the computerized theft of billions of Main Street money is of no importance next the pornography that high ranking SEC officials watch all day
 
I hand Fox a grand while we wait for Ruben, Sergio, and Nicole.
 
“Just promise me you won’t chase, Fox,” I say. “We only got 20 grand to play with over the next 3 nights. That’s one of it.”
 
“You got nothing to worry about, bro,” he says before slinking off into the neon haze somewhere near the Blackjack tables.
 
I worry. Chasing is the worst gambling habit in the world, and Fox practices it all the time. When he loses a card hand (or horse race), he’ll double down in an effort to “chase” his last bet into the black. It’s a surefire way to go bankrupt because eventually that “next hand” becomes your last as it claims your entire bankroll. The telltale sign of chasing is increasingly large losses.
 
Chasing is also zealously practiced by Wall Street, acting through the Federal Reserve. As Charles Ferguson observed in Inside Job: “Since the 1980s, the rise of the U.S. financial sector has led to a series of increasingly severe financial crises. Each crisis has caused more damage, while the industry has made more and more money.”
 
I turn and see Sergio pushing Ruben’s wheelchair in the front of the casino. Nicole gets off her cell phone when I pull out a fistful of big bills.
 
“Let’s get some drinks and see if we can find Fox before he blows the entire wad,” I say.
 
“He just got here!” Sergio yells. At 6’3” tall wearing overalls and towering over Ruben, he draws stares. Nicole looks devious counting her cash.
 
“I’m with Titus on getting drinks,” she says. “I’m not in any rush to let go of the money.”
 
“Fox is,” Ruben says as he cackles. “He blows money like he went through Cuervo.”
 
It doesn’t take Fox long to meet us at the bar.
 
“Let me guess,” I say. “You’ve been here 30 minutes and you’re tapioca.”
 
“I caught a few bad cards, I’m beat, I’m turnin in,” he says in his official hillbilly voice.
 
“Damn, bro,” Sergio says. “You ain’t got more respect for money than that?”
 
Fox flips the bird from behind shuffling toward the exit.
 
It’s 1:00 am and we’re all tired after a day of shooting that started 17 hours earlier. The three of us agree to meet back at the bar at 2:30 after gambling separately.
 
I walk around checking the place out before spotting Alec at a dice table and join in. I’ve played craps maybe 10 times before and stuck with straight-up bets on the pass line if the shooter looked fresh. But after just a few throws I’m down over $100.
 
“Why don’t you take the odds?” Alec asks.
 
He is a very rare breed, this one, who knows both Vegas and horses well and doesn’t get into trouble. I know horses well enough to hit, but this is my first time in Vegas. I listen when Alec talks gambling.
 
We take a break and he explains why it’s better to place the table minimum bet on the pass line (which pays out at odds set artificially low by the house) and bet as much as you can afford to over and above the minimum on “the odds” (which pay out at the higher odds set by straight probabilities).
 
“You mean to tell me I was pulling a Geithner?” I ask.
 
“Huh?”
 
“Forget it. Let’s shoot some fucking dice.”
 
We are playing a $5 minimum table with 3X odds, meaning you can bet $5 on the pass line and up to $15 backing that bet up with odds. Alec walks me through a few bets. I grab another beer and start in myself…
 
Alec is shaking my face awake. Quite obviously it’s time to get back to the bar, he tells me vaguely. He holds me as I stumble into a table, nearly sending three drinks toppling.
 
It is really hard to find that bar. But when I get there amazingly I see the three others there, as if waiting for me…
 
I check my watch and see it’s 2:40 am. I pull out about 7 discrete wads of cash out of the bankroll pocket and start assembling them for counting. Occasionally I have to bail a wad or more to Alec to deal with troublesome paper alignments. This takes more time than it would if I wasn’t “living with the Devil,” as Fox described the situation yesterday. Or the day before.
 
My incompetent cash counting act has gone on for too long for at least Ruben not to be pissed, but he isn’t. Then it dawns on me: at least Ruben, and maybe Sergio and Nicole too, lost big.
 
Titus up $140, Ruben down $700. Sergio (-$300) and Nicole (-$500) were down too. As a group we were down $2360.
 
I’m pissed. Everyone but me chased their bets, and I played dice for a time like the most repellent banking minion imaginable, Timothy Geithner.
 
By betting on only the pass line, I’d lost the better chance of making money on the odds bets, at least until Alec taught me better. But still, it is undisputed that I literally gave away money to the house for a few throws.
 
Tim Geithner loves giving money to the house of banking. He lives for it.
 
In November 2008, as AIG was collapsing, the company entered into negotiations with its counterparties who were concerned about the quality of their BETS with AIG. Those counterparties, it was disclosed much much later, included Goldman Sachs and Deutschebank, among others. Thus far I in negotiations, AIG had gotten its counterparties to agree to remuneration at 60 cents on the dollar.
 
That’s when the most officious sniveling worm in modern history, Tim Geithner, slithered onto the bailout scene. At the time, Geithner headed the New York branch of the Federal Reserve, the most important regional office and an important part of the “OBushma” administration.
 
The Federal Reserve, led by tiny Tim, took over AIG’s negotiations with counterparties like Goldman. Despite AIG having cajoled the counterparties down to 60 cents on the dollar, “the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar. The content of its deliberations has never been made public. The New York Fed’s decision to pay the banks in full cost AIG -- and thus American taxpayers -- at least $13 billion.” 
 
 
So in one fell swoop, Geithner took billions out of taxpayers’s pockets and deposited them directly into the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and (worse) foreign banks like Deutschebank—all the while actively concealing his treacherous outrage from the very people he harmed, ordinary Americans.
 
The incoming Obushma Administration was so impressed that it rewarded Tim with a dog biscuit, a promotion if you will—to Treasury Secretary of the United States, a cabinet level position.
 
By betting on the pass line and excluding straight odds bets at higher amounts, I’d shot dice like Geithner, giving money to the house.
 
The difference is that while I immediately saw that giving money over to the house was a cardinal sin, Geithner recognized—correctly, as evidenced by his promotion to Treasury Secretary—that giving away people’s money to Wall Street was and is his one and only duty.