Living in Vegas it's easy to grasp the concept of playing games for money, but I grasped it long before I moved here. For a long time I've been saying that poker is not a very good game, it just happens to be the one that is easiest to make money playing. I should amend that because I don't want to give anyone the idea that poker is a bad game, it's just not very interesting to me. I like complicated. And by complicated I mean I like a lot of choices. Chess is a good example. At the beginning of a chess game, by the 2nd move you have 16 pieces you COULD move, and that doesn't take into account WHERE you could move them. Compare that to the fact that every time it is your turn to act in poker, you only have 3 choices of what to do. WHY you do what you do in poker is very complicated, but because there are only three choices, it ends up that people do the same things for a lot of different reasons.

But I stand by my assertion, and if I magically had billions of dollars all of the sudden, I guarantee you that the best poker players in the world would soon be playing high stakes Netrunner (sealed deck, I make no claims that constructed Netrunner is any good).

My dad taught me to play poker and chess, not in that order, if I recall. I went on to learn a lot of games on my own, but this story is about money. Poker and money have an obvious connection. Money is how you keep score in poker. But I also had some early exposure to chess for money.

The reason you don't see as much Chess for money as you do poker is not just that Chess doesn't need money to score, but also that Chess is pure skill. There is some luck in poker. Without that luck, the best players would always win. If you are a good player you might be tempted to think that is a good thing. You'd be oh so wrong. Without the chance of the bad player beating you, the bad player would stop playing. It's just that simple.

Early in High School I got into a Chess Club where a Chess Master taught me a bunch of new things about Chess. He thought I was good for my age and because of him my parents ended up driving me to Denver for some Chess tournament. I remember that I ended up winning the prize for unrated players, I don't remember how much I won (not much). I do remember the woman I played. You have to have priorities.

I have this theory that people who are really awesome at things spend all their time doing those things. I did not get really awesome at chess. However, I do still enjoy playing my friends.

In my post drop-out-of-college years I took to offering my friends to play me chess for money. These are the same friends that I played poker with every week during one summer. For the first 2 or 3 weeks I was winning maybe $40 a night from them playing nickel, dime, quarter poker. I guess their fathers hadn't taught them what mine had, and they had to learn the hard way.

Poker with my friends was fun, and so was all the Magic and other games we were playing, but I wanted to play more Chess. But people don't like losing so much, and as I've mentioned, Chess is pure skill. So how to get people to play with you?


I started offering 100 to 1 odds on chess games against me. One of my friends was REALLY excited about this, and he'd put up $10 against my $1000. After a while he figured out that with $1000 at stake there was no way I wasn't going to concentrate fully on the game and beat him every time. So he started to just put up $1 against my $100, and lo and behold, as we played in a little Korean place we liked to eat, a woman walked in (damn my priorities!) who reminded me of a former roommate of mine who I never got to know "well enough" and the next thing I know I was in trouble. The next thing I know I was mated (and not by that woman) and I lost $100. I bet he was probably $50 up on me for all the Chess for money we played.

A friend of mine here in Vegas learned about my 100 to 1 offer and thought I'd be insane to give him that. He was a smart guy and I figured he was good at Chess. He's also the type of guy that doesn't like losing, but experience is key, and I was pretty sure I had a lot more Chess experience than he had, so we settled on 20 to 1. We ended up playing at Durango Lodge. I guess he used to play Chess there with friends of his. I took his dollar in one of the most fun 3 hours games of Chess in my life.

But really this is all back-story for the story I really want to tell, which is about my post Fort Collins years. I was waiting tables in Arvada and I told one of the guys I worked with how I used to give me friends 100 to 1 odds at Chess.

Co-worker: Really? Would you give that to me?

I sized the guy up. $100 is not really a good price to pay for finding some great new chess opponent, especially if he is interested in more money in the future. But my read was that this guy just liked chess, and was really excited about possibly winning $100 only putting up a dollar of his own.

Me: Yeah, sure, I'll give you 100 to 1

Co-worker: Awesome.

Me: Just let me know when you want to play, I have a chessboard in my car.

Co-worker's friend: He has a board in his car? I think you lose.

Well he did lose, and maybe that last line isn't as funny to most people as it is to me and my friends, but we love it, and it cracks us up every time. I think it's the implication that having a chessboard in your car is more an indication of you beating someone at Chess than your willingness to give them 100 to 1 odds playing you.

Now if I could just find someone with Netrunner in their car.

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