Lebron and the Cavs, Playing With House Money

I can remember my first trip to a casino like it was yesterday. As a freshman at Boston U I had never really gambled before. Back in high school in Cleveland, we spent our time going to rock shows or just hanging out in parking lots, but we never thought to have a poker night. In college, all that changed. One friend in particular was well-versed in the various forms of gambling, and he also happened to have a car. So, on a Friday, five of us hopped in an Isuzu Rodeo and headed for the middle of nowhere. Where? Upstate New York. Verona. Home of the Oneida Indian nation, just east of Syracuse.

It sucked getting there. I think it was just under a five hour drive. While spacious, the Isuzu liked to broadcast each bump in the road directly to your backside while sitting in the back seat. Regardless of the discomforts, our excitement couldn't be calmed. For most of us this was our first jaunt into the world of legalized gambling. We pegged our driver with question after question about the finer points of playing blackjack.

"What if you have two 9's and the dealer has a 6 showing?"

"What if you have two aces and the dealer is showing a face card?”

No number of questions and answers could have prepared us for that realization that we got when sitting at the table for the first time. Our fingers were shaking and the sweat started to form in places that only expel sweat from nervousness.

You are thinking, "I have five dollars on the table and it could be gone in a matter of seconds."

Little did we know then that a five dollar table was rare due to the fact that most places consider that an extremely low level of play.

But once we all sat down at our first table and got those first few nervous hands out of the way, we learned to ride it out. We would lose and then we would win. All we had to do is recognize streaks and capitalize more on the winning ones than to explode on the losing ones.

Sure, we were all blown away at first.

Sure, some people didn't ever find their way back from that first bad run of cards.

But there I was. I had started with $50 and I now had $250 sitting in front of me. I was now playing with house money. What should I do? Should I walk away and take a very valuable $200 of profit with me? Should I keep playing and hope to turn that into $500? Should I set a limit guaranteeing myself that I would walk away with at least $100 of the casino's money?

This, my friends, is the position that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in right now in their series with the Detroit Pistons after going up 3-2 last night.

Don't you remember your first gambling experience? Let me remind you.

You sit down at the table. You experience the initial shock of putting money on the table. You are dealt a 16, hit it, and bust with 26. These cards are cringeworthy. Maybe I am not cut out for gambling. Is everyone watching me? Is it hot in here?

The cards start to turn and you make a little run. You get a 19 to the dealer's 18, you push on a Blackjack and lose on a dealer 5 card draw of 21. Hey wait a minute did that guy just play those cards wrong?

The cards start to flow your way and you feel a little beginner's luck coming on. You get a string of face cards and win two out of three with 20's each time. When you get good cards, this game is much easier.

The streak continues, but the house appears to be gaining strength. You are still getting cards, but the house is matching you. You are pushing a lot, but just eek out the percentage of hands. I need more of those blackjacks.

You split 8's against the dealer's 10 and the dealer busts. You played the right way, but you could totally see yourself losing. For whatever reason, you won the hand. And then, BLACKJACK! I like those. They pay 3-2 odds!

And that's where the Cavs find themselves. The Cavs are up to $250 after bringing $50 to the table.

The one difference is that they aren't allowed to get up and walk away.

The Cavs have to keep playing until the engine starts back up in that Isuzu and it is time to go home. They are playing with the house money. For now. As most gamblers find out, the trips to the casino beating the house are few and far between. The reason they put blackjack tables and slot machines in grandiose buildings is casinos bank a whole lot more money than they ever pay out.

So, the Cavs will keep plopping chips on the table. They are up right now, but it remains to be seen whether they can escape the big bad casino with their current bankroll intact.

For the record, I made it out of Turning Stone Casino up a couple hundred bucks on my first ever gambling trip. We will soon find out if Lebron and Company are so lucky.