It's been a few months now of watching Mr. Hustle take Pigeon for dozens and dozens of points at the 60 Wall Backgammon games. As I wrote in the past, Pigeon has a habit of trying to catch up to his losses by doubling down his bet and jumping from $10 to $25 a point. Mr. Hustle, though, in the spirit of excellent bankroll management, refuses to play for more than $10. So when Pigeon wanted to jump to $25 two weeks ago, another player, an old Yugoslavian guy, posted the other $15. That session ended in 7 points against Pigeon.
Staking arrangements are common in poker but I've never seen it done in Backgammon. I suspect there's plenty of it going on but I don't see it too often because Backgammon has a 'team play' concept called Chouettes. A Chouette is basically a way for multiple people to play one person. The person playing the others rotates until everyone ends up playing everyone else. Each person gets their own cube and is allowed to challenge the player 'in the box' (the one playing the others) anytime they want. Conversely, the person in the box can cube each person individually; either 'the captain' (the one playing for the team) or any of the other participants. This allows for interesting bankroll management situations in which the player in the box will drop some cubes and take others in the same position just to hedge themselves.
Because of the existence of Chouettes, the poker concept of stakehorsing doesn't happen as often. But here was a situation where the old Yugoslavian guy was essentially a silent partner in the one on one game. He was playing and wasn't giving advice, he was simply take $15 of action on each $25 point. Given how badly Pigeon has been losing, it was a pretty good bet and it worked out for him to the tune of $105. Well, two days ago, Pigeon lost 43 points to Mr. Hustle in a single session and I figured he'd be looking to get even again. The whole thing is funny because he's NEVER gotten even, but that didn't concern me. I know a good business opportunity when I see it. All I needed was the courage to pull the trigger.
I pulled Big Poppa (the guy who runs the games) aside and told him that if Pigeon was looking for someone to cover the $15 overlay, I was the guy. I trust Big Poppa implicitly and knew that he'd be able to handle the arrangement even if I wasn't there at the time the game started. Sure enough, I got a text message from Big Poppa at 11:20a that read, "you're on".
It was happening and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The feeling in the pit of my stomach was EXACTLY like how I feel when I put a position down in the stock market. I didn't have any control but my money was at risk nevertheless. 45 minutes later I got an update text from Big Poppa, "You're at minus 4".
No big deal. Minus 4 just meant that they were pushing and pulling and they were near even. But an hour later, I got another text that said, "you're at minus 12". 12 points is beyond the realm of standard deviation. It meant that Mr. Hustle was being beaten and my money was being lost! I went down to the 60 Wall atrium for lunch and observed the game. By the time I got down there, Mr. Hustle was at minus 17! I couldn't believe my crap luck. The one time I put my money down on a sure thing, I lose big. That sounded about right for me. When I left to go back to work, the session was minus 21 for me and I was getting pretty nervous. What if Mr. Hustle lost his cool and went on a bender. It happens in poker all the time and we've all seen it. You get steamed from taking bad beats and you end up losing your judgement along with more of your bankroll than you'd wanted.
So I pulled Big Poppa aside and told him to monitor the game and text me if the count went to minus 30. At that point I would come down again and make a game time decision to pull out if I thought my horse was losing it. 45 minutes back at work I got a text, "you're at minus 4". It was the beginning of a turnaround. Another 30 minutes later, "you're at plus 6".
At this time, it was near the end of the day so I knocked off work and watched the game until it ended at 7pm. Mr. Hustle was solidly in the black and Pigeon was getting rattled, taking really bad cubes and getting gammoned twice in a row. By the time the game was over, the Pigeon had lost 20 points and I had a nice $300 win booked to start my weekend trip to Atlantic City.
Backing bets, like the stock market, take courage in the face of losses. But if you've made a good deal and you believe in your bet, you need to ride out the roller coaster. It's hard to do, but it's where the good investors make their money. Lesson Learned.