Jennifer Shahade, a two-time United States Women’s Chess Champion, and now the winner of BARGE XXV
This past week, I attended BARGE 2015, held in Las Vegas.
B.A.R.G.E. is actually an acronym meaning “Big August Recreational Gambling Excursion,” a name sounding a bit pompous and pretty like a weekend gambling junket, which I’m told is precisely what it once was when it first began 25 years ago. This eclectic group comprised of both men and women skews somewhat older now than when it was initially made up of lots of Silicon Valley types in their late 20’s. Today, BARGE includes loyal attendees ranging from 21 up well into their 70’s. It’s an astounding makeup of highly-interesting and supremely talented people from all over North America, who also know how to have fun both at the poker table, and just about anywhere else for that matter. BARGE attendees never ask where the party or the action is taking place. They are the party and provide the action, wherever they go. Make that — wherever we go.
In today’s column, I’d like to tell you a bit more about BARGE, including some of the unique history of this group as well as my personal experience from this past week. Unfortunately, lack of time and space makes this a writing exercise in futility since I’m hardly scratching the surface. Indeed, what follows is merely one card from a far more extensive full deck loaded with memories and stories.
Legendary James Randi, a.k.a. “The Amazing Randi” (left) onstage with activist, lecturer, and magician Jamy Ian Swiss (right)
Last weekend, I attended “The Amazing Meeting,” also known as TAM 2015.
This annual gathering of great minds and provocative speakers comes across as both magnificently entertaining and highly informative. At times, it’s even transformative. This marks the second year that I’ve attended. There have been 13 annual gatherings held here in Las Vegas, dating back to 2003.
There’s clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right.
Here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.
— Stealers Wheel (1972)
The 2015 World Series of Poker hasn’t even begun yet, and already I’ve been hit up for money in the hallway.
Seriously — what the fuck?
The world’s biggest poker event doesn’t begin until Wednesday at 11 am, but the panhandlers and parasites are apparently already patrolling the corridors of the Rio like it’s the gold rush, targeting the saps and suckers.
Earlier today, I was coming out of a meeting when I heard my name yelled from about 30 feet away. That happens to me frequently and usually, it’s either a loyal reader of someone I know in poker. Occasionally, it’s my annoying bookie who wants his money, in which case I pretend not to hear him and hastily scuffle off in the other direction. This particular face looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it exactly.
I don’t usually care much for engaging small talk, but since I was walking in the same general direction, we engaged in pleasant conversation for a wee bit until I came to a big glass exit door heading out towards the parking lot.
There were flags. There were speeches. There were songs.
There were men in uniform. There were women in uniform. There were even children in uniform.
A few hundred people attended today’s Memorial Day ceremony, a solemn occasion that’s become annual tradition here in our neighborhood in The Lakes section of Las Vegas.
Most moving of all were the veterans who proudly stood before us and made speeches in which they remembered their fallen comrades — in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Middle East. Indeed, today was (and is) a time to reflect upon and commemorate the ultimate sacrifices of all those whose voices have become faint echoes and distant memories, now entombed with the earth. We need not have known the fallen to honor them.
Sincere thanks to The Lakes community association, organizers, attendees, musicians, Congressman Joe Heck (who attended and gave a moving speech) — and most of all, the veterans.
Tonight’s absurdly overhyped championship fight doesn’t interest me in the last, except as an opportunity to make money, and I expect to make a few easy dollars sitting around and doing nothing, a skill I’ve pretty much mastered at this stage of my life.
Normally, big spectacles like this don’t offer much in the way of betting value for serious gamblers. Why not?
Well first off, there’s no such thing as “inside information” or finding a pick that’s “under the radar,” as one might uncover in a far more obscure sporting contests. Second, the gargantuan sums of money bet on this fight worldwide have pretty much hammered the numbers into place, exactly where they should be. Face it, most of us lack any really useful information that the rest of the world doesn’t already have, so there’s really no such thing as “wise guy” action. Third, just about everything these two fighters do is covered to the max by the media. We know what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If one of the boxers sneezes, it’s ticker-streamed across ESPN. Fourth, the house take on many props is ridiculous, and frankly prohibitive. Some sportsbooks are holding a whopping 25-35 percent on various props, making them terrible bets no matter what we think will happen. Finally, given boxing’s horrid reputation for corruption, some baffling scoring decisions in past fights, and the gargantuan profits going into lots of pockets, there’s always the chance a win-by-decision could be influenced which will intentionally rig a mandatory re-match, where all the greedy paws of this filthy “sport” can double dip into the golden well for more mega-millions.
But, I’m going off on a tangent. Back to how we can maximize our own greediness and squeeze out a profit.