The Couch Slouch

Social distancing with online gambling? It's the end of the world as we know it

Getty Images

I lost my regular poker game at Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles when the world shut down. Degenerates gotta degenerate, though, so most of us now find ourselves on the World Wide Web to get our gamble on.

Thus, I am playing online poker for the first time – not loving it, but I'll get back to that – on an unregulated site while breaking the law by participating from the state of California.

That's right, it's illegal, which doesn't much bother me considering what the big banks have been doing to us for years. Oh, their conduct might be legal, thanks to their feckless friends in big government, but it ain't right. Plus you and I can't run a numbers game but state governments can, so, good people….

DON'T GET ME STARTED.

Anyway, watching cards fly through the virtual air reminded me of a conversation I had with my Brooklyn pal William, at the dawn of Internet gaming, when he told me he was playing online blackjack.

Me: Online blackjack? Why? Why? Why?

William: I like blackjack.

Me: Are you winning?

William: No.

Me: Do you expect to win?

William: I don't know.

Me: Where do you think the cards are coming from?

William: The Internet dealer, I guess.

Me: William, if you and I decided to start a blackjack site, would we create a software program that would allow the players to beat us in the long run?

William: I don't know.

Me: Think about it: Why would we develop a gambling enterprise online that is set up so we don't make money?

William: I guess most folks wouldn't do that.

Me: So why do you keep playing online against the house? You can't even see the house.

William: I like blackjack and I don't have to go nowhere. I hate driving to Atlantic City.

Me: Then take the bus.

Yet now – like William – I am at home, gambling. We still don't know where the cards are coming from – maybe Al Gore shuffles them – and there is little joy sitting on my couch in my bathrobe, clicking call, raise or fold buttons. It feels lonely and sterile.

My only pleasure is the "chat box," at the bottom of the screen, where I can text playful messages to the others. But sometimes they tell me to cease; apparently, my voice bothers them even when they cannot hear it.

The game also goes much faster than live poker. You can play multiple games on multiple screens, the main reason that online young'uns hate coming into a card room and suffering through the slow pace of play. And they've had to do that increasingly since online poker effectively was banned in the United States nine years ago.

This, of course, is ridiculous – online poker should be legalized. But I still fear for the fate of civilization if we retreat inward for all of our needs and recreation: groceries delivered, restaurant takeout, teleworking via Zoom, online gambling, Amazon shipments, Netflix and HBO 'round the clock.

Poker, for one, should be social. We should get out, mingling for hours and smelling the flowers.

What quarantining and locking down tells us more than ever is: We need human contact to maintain the human race.

Last I checked, you still cannot procreate online; we will cease as living beings unless someone is having a roll in the hay somewhere.

Heck, dinosaurs probably went extinct 65 million years ago because they stopped fraternizing – and wandering the Yucatán Peninsula – after radio was invented. Come to think of it, transistor radios might've saved them.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Could Joe Burrow legally change his name right before the Cincinnati Bengals select him with the first NFL draft pick and then be eligible for other teams to select him under his pseudonym? (Bill Rote; Springfield, Va.)

A. I believe your fantastical suggestion might have a practical application in other walks of life, such as nuptials.

Q. If the PGA decides to broadcast tournaments with no fans on site, will current technology allow us to hear drunk guys from home screaming "get in the hole!" whenever Tiger or Phil attempts a long putt? (Mike Soper; Washington, D.C.)

A. Actually, I'd prefer if they played the tournaments without broadcasting them, but that's just me.

Q. Is it okay if I say hi to Shirley? Hi Shirley! (Beverly Gibb; Spokane, Wash.)

A. I hope this is not some cheap, desperate ploy to score the buck-and-a-quarter, because Shirley has feelings and should not be used as a prop to prize winnings.

Q. Does Shirley sign your $1.25 checks, or do you insist that your name is on them? (Rick Slavkin; Columbia, Md.)

A. WE PAY IN CASH. Geez.

Q. Now that the NFL is studying games without fans, are they in close consultation with Daniel Snyder so they can excel at it? (Pete Eltringham; Warrenton, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

To enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway, just email asktheslouch@aol.com. The Couch Slouch podcast is available on your favorite podcasting app.


Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome