The Couch Slouch

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

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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.


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