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Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in "Hamlet"

Lawrence Olivier as the Prince of Denmark
On Thursday, May 19th, Columbus Civic Theater's "Hamlet" will premiere at 8 p.m., and then play that Friday and Saturday, with the same schedule for three more weeks. I have the plum part of King Claudius, for which I've grown a beard (more salt, alas, than pepper). Claudius is the evil uncle who's killed Hamlet's father, then married the father's wife, stolen the throne, and has murky plans for Hamlet's continued health. All that has happened before the curtain rises.

Playing Shakespeare is an both an actor's delight and terror.

Delight: the words, the thoughts, the motivations are so beautiful and complicated, that nothing in literature surpasses them. I've done three Shakespeare plays in the past (Brutus in "Julius Caesar" when in high school, Leonato in "Much Ado About Nothing," and the title role in "King Lear" (the latter two here in Columbus), and each time I'm amazed by one phenomenon. From the start of rehearsals to the final performance I discover something new in the text that I hadn't seen before. So the trick is to study and study what Billy Shakespeare wrote, and get in as deep as you can.

Terror: learning the complicated lines and then putting it all on the stage in a way that makes it look natural and easy, so that the audience has no trouble following what you're saying and what's happening in the unfolding plot. Memorizing is a transfer of text from the reading ability of the left-brain to the automatic repetition skills of the right brain (much like singing a song).  King Claudius is a flowery speaker, who loves adjectives, particularly in pairs. Think how much fun it is to memorize this little gem in which, early in the show, he chides Hamlet for brooding too much on his late father's death (eight adjectives):

'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father;
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his; and the survivor bound,
In filial obligation, for some term
To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief.

Me, Ben Gorman, and Richard Albert

What makes this production especially appealing are the very talented people involved: Richard Albert, our wonderful director, the large cast, stage manager, costumer, and two coaches helping with dramaturgy and acting tips—all of them good fun to be around. Our Hamlet, Ben Gorman, is terrific, and our scenes together are filled with menacing venom as the two men square off for their final encounter (which, as you may know, does not end well). In the famous fight scene at the end of the play, Hamlet leaves the duel to come after his uncle. Below are some photos of the fight rehearsal where the king gets his. In the first one, Rachel Mock, our fight coordinator, shows me how she wants me to deal with Hamlet's attack.

And this is our first practice at it.

Dying convincingly is harder than it looks, and I confess to being worried (as an actor and, for the theater's sake, a lawyer) about those foils slashing around on a full stage. However, it's all being done with great care and safety, so the control freak in me is happy enough. I must say I love playing villains—they're complicated and fun.

The Columbus Civic Theater is located at 3837 Indianola Avenue, Columbus, OH 43214; phone (614) 447-7529 for reservations. You can order online at Tickets are $20 ($17.50 for students or seniors). The theater itself is very interesting. Richard Albert, the founder of CCT, bought an abandoned filling station (yes, filling station—it still has that shape), converted into an intimate theater, and bought plush and comfortable seats from a Disney World facility in Florida so that the audience sits in luxury, each of the 49 seats having its own cup-holder! He and Ben Gorman pared the four-hour script Shakespeare wrote down to bare bones, and Richard is directing it to move at a very fast clip.

So, theatergoers, if you're interested, come see us if you can. And if you wait around afterwards while I change out of my costume, I'll come out and we'll talk about the show.

Related Posts:
"Directing 'Closure'," June 5, 2010
"Douglas Whaley, Actor," August 14, 2010
"The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life," January 17, 2011
"Life's Little (But Important) Rules," April 23, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Life's Little (But Important) Rules

Here's my list:

1. Put Things Where You'll Look For Them

This turns out to be very useful advice. If you just put things down—willy-nilly—at some later date you'll likely stand and ponder where the hell they went. But if you train yourself to first ask "Where will I look for this?" you'll have fewer problems locating them. It also helps to have specific places in your house/office for different items: tools, boxes, toiletries, paper files, miscellaneous junk, etc.

2. Measure Twice, Cut Once

This old carpenter's law applies to much of our lives. Plan the task, then think it through and ask if the first decision was the best one or can yet be improved. This question, again, is a matter of habit. Particularly with physical tasks is it easy to just jump in and make a dog's breakfast of the whole affair. I'm myself bad at remembering my own advice here, witness "The Many Faults of Douglas Whaley" (see Related Posts below).

But this isn't restricted to mere mechanics, but also applies to all major choices. The bigger the issue, the more thought it needs, and then even more thought on top of that. "It seemed like a good idea at the time" rarely rescues you when someone asks "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" The answer is that you didn't think enough. And especially when you're in a rage must you remember this advice. "Revenge is a dish best served cold" is an old saying. When in a passion, calm yourself. During the Civil War, Lincoln, faced with generals who wouldn't advance even when victorious, and idiots giving him misinformation that killed his men, often wrote angry letters to the malefactors, but then put them in a desk drawer overnight. In the morning he routinely pitched them (though, had I been he, a couple of them I'd have sent at first posting).

3. Tell Your Right Brain What To Do

I've written at length about the left-brain/right brain difference (see "The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life"), but adding this directive to your future much will change dramatically for the better. The left side of the brain deals with words, numbers, and logic, while the right side is in charge of physical activities and imagination. Reading a book is left-brain activity. Kissing is right-brained.

But the right brain, while very creative, doesn't ever think things through. Left to itself it will drop objects in the wrong place (see above), and it's a robot when it comes to routine activities. Alas, it will do the same things in the same way, over and over, unless challenged to do something different, or told to try new prospects. Want to improve your dancing, golf swing, love life, or other things physical? Then, ahead of time, tell your right brain what you'd like to accomplish, and let it think it through (which it will enjoy doing). This also applies to little tasks: for example, let gravity help you. Trying to put something into something else? It'll be easier if you take a moment to let the earth's pull move things in an efficient way. The same is true of all of physics and physical difficulties encountered (wind, temperature, light, etc.).

I do recommend reading the cited blog post about the brain for a more detailed explanation of this amazing phenomenon. It's one of the most-read posts on my blog.

4. Solving Hard Problems

When it comes to the big decisions, I have two things to proffer:

a. Get help. What resources haven't' you tapped? The internet is a wondrous tool. Google is (more or less) a mechanized version of God. Within seconds it will find the answer to almost any question if you can reduce it down to two or three key search words, and be willing to explore beyond the advertising sites and the first page listing of the most popular choices. You can also join experts who are talking about your very dilemma on listserves or blogs. Just type into Google those same key words along with the word  "listserve" (a group of people who share emails and endlessly debate whatever someone asks, often mind-numbingly) or "blog."

You're not alone on this planet. Find a friend. People—and by that I mean most everyone—are delighted to tell you what they know—we're a very cooperative species, we humans. Even if the expert is a complete stranger, you can find this person online and then send an email. Who knows what great things he/she will suggest? Or, in your local community, who might be helpful? Your pastor, your neighbor, someone you just now learned about? It never hurts to ask—most people are quite flattered to be sought out as a font of wisdom.

b. Am I Asking the Right Question? Another thought that helps is: what's the bright side of the dark side I worry is coming? Every problem suggests alternate possibilities if you but allow yourself to explore them. So consider what you haven't considered. I learned a lot back in 1968 (when still in law school) from the novels by C. S. Forester about the fictional 18/19th century British naval officer, Horatio Hornblower, who much annoyed Napoleon. In these wonderful books, Hornblower is faced over and over with a situation that's apparently hopeless, and then—primarily by going back and rethinking the premises that make it seem hopeless—comes to a happy solution. If you want an example of this, my father was a genius at it (see "Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule").

5. Be Willing To Change Your Mind.

Oh, we do get set in our beliefs and we rarely change them. But in my world that's bad. Many of our beliefs were made before age five, and were—frankly—ill-thought through (or presented to us on a plate by our parents or society). Then we live with them all our lives, even if they're wrong, expensive, and/or time-consuming.

Human beings are pattern-forming animals ("apophenia" is the technical term). Often this is a good thing: all of science is based on recognizing patterns that lead to a true understanding of how things work. However, as a species, we overdo it and see connections that are merely chance or misinterpretation of data. Perhaps I've written about this too much ("Superstitions"), but it annoys me when very intelligent people allow demonstrably false things to rule their lives. A statement such as "I don't believe in coincidences" causes me to bite down hard on my tongue rather than speak. Or, recently, I was taken to task when rehearsing to play King Claudius in a local production of "Hamlet" next month (I'll send emails to those who might want to see me play this villain and post something on this blog) when I violated one the many superstitions that theater folk worship (you must wish actors "break a leg" rather than "good luck," don't whistle in the dressing room, you can't say "Macbeth" but must instead call it "The Scottish Play"—these go tediously on and on). All theaters have ghosts except the one I'm rehearsing in, which is too new for a resident poltergeist. But the owners are sure hoping for one, and I'd bet big bucks the apparition will show up soon.

Changing your mind is dangerous. All decisions are a gamble that sometimes come with costs, major ones should the switch prove to be wrong. And when an issue is one on which we've already made up our minds, it's counterintuitive to rethink it. Whatever your current position on the subject (gun control, global warming, homosexuality) you'll engage in what's called "bias confirmation," meaning that vague data will be interpreted on your side. It takes work and investigation and serious thought to try and find what's objectively true.

But, me? I'm a lawyer. I believe in evidence before I act. Don't you? We all have a limited amount of time on earth. Do you want to spend it doing or believing in something demonstrably false or with no evidence to support it? What a waste! Life's hard enough without having to deal with superstitions, fortune telling, astrology, ghosts, alien abductions, homeopathy, and (for me) concepts such as angels, demons, hell, and gods. I've harped a lot on this blog about believing in what's true and what's not. I'd change any opinion I have if new facts showed it wrong. Can you say that?


Look, we all make choices. Mine are just the opinions of one 67 year-old man. I wish you all the best for the decisions you make in your own life.
Related Posts:
"Superstitions," March 21, 2010
"The Many Faults of Douglas Whaley," March 31, 2010
"How To Take a (or Many) Pills Easily," May 16, 2010
"Benjamin Franklin Riding Shotgun," May 29, 2010
"Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule," June 26, 2010
"I Don't Do Science," July 2, 2010
"The Deathbed Test," July 27, 2010
"How To Impress People In a Conversation," October 1, 2010
"I Hate 'You Know,' You Know," November 28, 2010
"How To Make Ethical Decisions," December 1, 2010
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"The Left-Brain/Right-Brain Life," January 17, 2011
"Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in 'Hamlet'," April 29, 2011
"Gephyrophobia: My Phobia of Crossing Bridges," September 28, 2011
"Good Sex/Bad Sex: Advice on Making Love," November 9, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dogs in My Life

I've written before in this blog about my pets (see below), but today I want to tell you about my dogs.

I grew up in a home that always had one dog, never more, but that dog was a treasured member of the family. On the other hand, since we were an Air Force family, there was lots of moving, and frequently the dog did not go with us, so there were a number of them. I loved them all.

The first was a German Sheppard named "Wolf," who my father purchased primarily as protection for my mother and me (age 1 or 2), and then my sister Mary Beth, who is two years younger than I. This was in Jackson, Mississippi, where Mary Beth was born (allowing her to claim to be a Southerner). All I remember of Wolf is from pictures, but my parents swore that dog would grab me my the diapers to keep me from crossing the street. Alas, they had to get rid of Wolf since he was too protective of me. I've always had very curly hair that little old ladies liked to touch, making Wolf growl deep in his throat. Dad, afraid of losing a little old lady, gave him away.

The first dog I do recall was a very smart cocker spaniel named "Kimmy," (Pensacola, Florida). She was so clever that Dad would say to her, "Kimmy, go get a shoe," and she would trot off to his closet, snag a shoe, and bring it to him. If he said that wasn’t the right one, she'd take it back, bring another, and when one was finally accepted, immediately fetch its mate.

Me, Mom, Mary Beth, and Aunt Mazzie (wet Kimmy)
When we went to Japan (1954-57—I was 10 to 13 in this period), the first dog we acquired was Tomadachi, a spitz, but she didn't last long, having female troubles. The dog we had most of the time in Japan was a big stray mutt who hung around our house until my soft-hearted mother started feeding him, at which point he moved right in. We called him "Harko." He wore a choker chain that was too small for him, had a number of brutal scars, and obviously had been physically abused by men because he kept a careful distance from Dad, not even letting him pet him. Robert Whaley, who'd grown up with birddogs, worked patiently with Harko until they were great buddies. Dad always said that Harko was a "perfect gentleman. Dad put effort into taking Harko back to the United States with us, but couldn't get permission for him from customs and, with much regret, had to Harko leave behind. At one point the old choker chain was clearly biting into Harko's neck, so Dad took him to the vet. When the chain was finally cut off (three men holding Harko), the dog took in a large gasp of air, yowled with pain because it turned out the chain had grown right into his neck, but then spent days of frisking about, happy as canines get, which is very happy indeed.

We moved to Nashville in early 1957, where I attended the first three years of high school. Dad, again wanting protection for his family when he was away on Air Force business, took Mary Beth and I, over Mom's objection ("No more dogs!") to a professional breeder of boxers, and we selected a puppy, all ears and big feet, and delighted to play with anyone near him. We took him home, loosed him into the house (the three of us huddled conspiratorially on the porch) and let the oversize puppy find my mother, who, in spite of protestations to the contrary, was a sucker for dogs). "Ah, look at him! Come here, puppy!" solved the Mom problem, and so "Honcho"—Japanese for "group leader," like the island—came into our lives.

Honcho was a great dog: smart, funny, loving, mischievous. But if someone came to the door and Dad wasn't home, he leaped into protective mode, and had to be held tightly by a choker chain to keep from devouring the intruder. Once satisfied said intruder was benign, Honcho then helped welcome this person in, insisted on being petted, and then would fall asleep, snoring contentedly. You could play complicated games with Honcho. One favorite involved getting on your hands and knees opposite him with a tennis ball on the floor between you. You would count to three slowly and when "three" was said either you would snatch away the ball with your hand of Honcho would have it in his teeth. He understood the game perfectly, but humans typically won, and he didn't like that. So he would cheat. He's snatch the ball on "two." Chastised for that, he'd sulk and refuse to play. Or, accepting he couldn't grab the ball on "two," when that number was announced he'd calmly put his huge paw on top of the ball to hold it in place for the upcoming "three." That too was declared a rules violation. The real solution was to let him win enough times that his heart was in the game.

I was a teenager during the Honcho period, and that meant I liked to sleep in a lot. Mom would get annoyed that I wasn't up and doing chores or whatever. My bedroom was on the second floor and I'd hear her calling up the stairs. "Doug, are you awake?" "Yes, awake and dressing, Mom," (a lie, as she knew). "Doug, I'm not calling you again!" "Good!" "I'm sending up Honcho!" "Aaak!!!" "Go get Doug, Honcho!" There would then be a noise like the Fifth Battalion Marines thundering up the stairs, my bedroom door would burst open, and 90 lbs of loving boxer would spring, drooling with excitement, into the bed, ready to lick my skin off. At this moment there were two choices, both with the same ending. Either I would get up, or I would hold him tightly until the excitement died down and he was willing to try and sleep with me. But that meant a slobbering (and frequently farting) dog in bed, and I would rise.

When we moved to Virginia for my senior year of high school, base housing would not allow dogs, so Honcho was given away to a friend of the family who lived next to a golf course.

He was the last of the dogs in my life. After my heart transplant the infectious disease doctor said that I had to get rid of my parakeets, and eventually he cleared me for "a mammal as long as you don't deal with the feces." Well, in today's world that's impossible with a dog, but there exists a self-cleaning cat litter box, emptied once a week (by my cleaning people), so now I have two cats described in prior posts, Mama and Barney, and we're having a good life together. Mama (smart as cats get) still thinks she's in charge, Barney (lovable and stupid) just wants to be petted and played with, and it's a happy home. Mama is so clever that the other night, trapped in the bathtub with a towel on the floor out of reach I briefly wondered if I could communicate to Mama the idea of dragging it over to me. Thinking it through I decided that I actually might be able to get her to understand the task, but then I'd have a further problem. Her reaction (could she speak) would certainly be, "What an idea! I'm a cat. I don't do chores."
Barney and Mama
But, like all these animals, she loves me, and, really, that's all I ask.
Related Posts:
“Dog Meat,” December 27, 2009
"Parakeets and Me," February 5, 2010
“Bears,” February 23, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"Milking Cows," June 8, 2010
"Teaching English to Cats," August 6, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"My Parents and Dummy," May 13, 2011
"Two Cat Stories: Mama and Barney in the Wild," July 9, 2011
"Zoo Stories," August 30, 2011
“Mama Cat Saves My Life,” October 23, 2011
"Stepping on Cats," February 8, 2012
“Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip,” December 5, 2012
"Barney Cat and the Big Mammal Nightmare," January 7, 2013
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Friday, April 15, 2011

How To Play Craps Vegas Style

[Click to enlarge]

Most casinos in the world have craps tables, alluring and mysterious to the passersby. Want to step up to the table and play the best way possible? Here we go.

Look over the above picture of half a craps table just to orient yourself (the other half is the mirror image of this).  The secret to craps is to understand that some numbers come up more often than others, and the casinos take advantage of the fact that many people don't know that. Here's the same table I reprinted in a recent post that demonstrates how many combinations go into the roll of two dice:

Note that in a pyramid of these numbers we get:

7 (the most likely combination) and then:
6 and 8 (either side of 7)
5 and 9 (etc.)
4 and 10
3 and 11
2 and 12

So, as a general guide, the further the number is from seven, the less likely it is to be rolled.

The craps table is filled with sucker bets. In the top photo observe the part of the craps table layout that says "Field." If you place a bet there and the next roll of the dice hits one of those number it will pay off. That seems like a good bet until you realize that, 6, 7, and 8 are all missing, and, combined, those numbers will hit a lot. The "Field" is rigged for the least likely combinations, and is therefore a loser's wager.

So where should you place your bet? The answer is on the PASS line, which rings the table near the bettors. Place your bet there, right in front of you, waiting until the dealers indicate that the last roll is over and are moving the money around (you do not have to wait until it is your turn to throw the dice—an option you may always refuse when dice are shoved by the "stick man" in your direction).

The basic idea of the game is this:

A. The dealer will pay you even money for your bet if the first roll (called "the come-out roll") is either a 7 or an 11, but your bet is lost if the first roll is 2, 3, or 12 (collectively called "craps").

Jean Stapleton
B. If some other number is rolled, that number is called the "point," and the bettor will win if the point number is rolled before a 7 is rolled, no matter what other numbers are rolled in between. If the 7 comes up first, the PASS line bet is lost. I was once at a table in the old Dessert Inn when actress Jean Stapleton (she of TV's "All in the Family"), a charming woman, had the dice and made twelve passes in a row without hitting a 7. That was a happy, happy table.

After your point number is established, the dealer opposite you will take a round object that looks like a hockey puck and has the word "ON" on it, and move it to the number in front of him, which indicates that that is the point number. Now anyone looking at the table knows the PASS line number at a glance. In the photo below, the point is 4.

Of course with only a PASS line bet there can be many rolls of the dice before the PASS line issue is settled with either the point number (let's say it's 4) being hit or the shooter "sevening out." That could get boring, and craps is not a boring game. Time for some more action.

Let's move to the COME line. Now place your bet there. The COME line is the new PASS line for that bet, and all the above rules apply to that bet. If 7 or 11 is rolled, you will win (since for the COME line this is the start of the game, if craps (2, 3, 12) you lose, and any other number becomes a new point number for you. The dealer will move your COME bet to a number in front of him that corresponds to roughly where you are standing at the table. Let's say your COME number is a 6. Now you have two numbers that will pay: 4 (PASS line) and 6. But if the shooter rolls a 7, you will lose both bets. In the photo below (click to enlarge) the point is 5 (see the ON button), the dice have just rolled a 6, and the dealer is paying off the bets that were moved before the roll from the COME line to the 6 (kept separate by where the players are standing). Notice that there are also former COME line bets on the numbers 8 and 9. They will be resolved, as will the PASS line 5, by future shooting of the dice.

Having established one COME line point number, you can do it again and again until you have a bet on all the possible point numbers. If the shooter doesn't roll a 7, they can all pay off, over and over if you keep making COME bets. When the shooter finally rolls a 7, you will lose all yours bets except your new COME bet, which will pay even money (because the COME bet is always the start of a new game as far as it's concern, and a 7 is a good number on the first roll).

Odds Betting. Now we get to Odds Betting, and that is where savvy gamblers can clean up when standing at a lucky table. The casino will let you place side bets on whether the point number will come up before a 7 is rolled. These side bets pay off at true odds (with the casino getting no advantage of any kind): the smartest bets in gambling. As we've seen, because of the number of spots on the dice, certain numbers are more likely to come up than others, and odds betting reflects this. Think about it for a moment.  The numbers 6 or 8 are good point numbers to have, being rolled a lot. But 4 or 10 are unlikely combinations. Yet all the point numbers on the PASS or COME line pay the same: even money. That's not right. Difficult points should pay more, and they do in Odds betting.

Odds Bet on the Five
To place an Odds bet on the Pass line, once the PASS line point number is established, put the relevant amount of money (see below) behind the line between you and the Pass Line. To place odds bets on COME line points, hand the money to the dealer and state "Odds." The dealer will add your Odds bet to your COME line bet as it's moved to the numbers in front of the dealer.

The Odds bets must be in the following increments, depending on the point number:

Points of 6 or 8: bet in increments of five dollars; the casino will pay six dollars for each five bet.
Points of 5 or 9: bet in even number increments; the casino will pay three dollars for each two bet.
Points of 4 or 10: bet anything you like; if these points are hit, the casino will double your odds bet.

If you can't remember these, simply ask the dealer what Odds bets are possible.

The best way to play craps has this Golden Rule: place the minimum amount of money you can afford on the Pass Line/Come Line, and the maximum amount of money as Odds bets. In the photo below the player has not understood this. The big bet should be the Odds bet and not the PASS line bet.

Even better, most casinos will allow bigger Odds bets than the PASS line bet (which itself will have a table minimum). There will be a little plaque on the table announcing this: "Five Time Odds" (or some number) it will say. Choose a casino that allows small PASS line bets and big Odds bets. The best of these in Vegas are right downtown and not on the strip. If Caesar's Palace has a five dollar minimum for PASS line bets and "Five Times Odds," but the Horseshoe downtown has a one dollar PASS line and a "hundred times Odds bet," where is the best place to play?

Wrong Way Betting: Notice that the craps table layout has a section marked "DON'T PASS" followed by the word "BAR" and a drawing of two dice adding up to 12. People placing bets here (or on the similar DON'T COME) are betting against the shooter, and thus hoping that sevens will be rolled before the shooter's point. They are called "wrong way bettors," and, in effect, are on the side of the house. However the BAR 12 keeps them from winning if 12 is rolled as craps on the come-out roll, taking away some of their advantage. Wrong way betters also have to reverse the Odds bets, wagering more money to win less (if the point is 8, the wrong way bettor would have to place an Odds bet of six dollars to win five—this upside down betting is called "laying the odds"). If you're a professional gambler and spend your life playing craps there is a very small statistical advantage to being a wrong way bettor. But the times I've done so I've always given it up quickly. Why? Because if the shooter has established a lot of points, and so has everyone else at the table, when the shooter rolls a 7 and everyone groans, you are laughing and cleaning up. You'll get looks. People who just lost their rent will truly hate you.

More about sucker bets on the table. Take the Hard Ways. Say that the point is an even number. If the point (say, 6) is rolled before a 7 in such a way that the dice are the same (3 and 3), that is said to be making the point the "hard way." If you'd placed a bet on the Hard Six (the middle of the table in front of the stickman), dice showing 3 and 3 would pay you 10 for 1 if 6 is the point. Why is that a sucker bet? Because the true odds are 10 to 1, cheating you out of a dollar ("for" versus "to"). The only time I ever play the Hard Way or other sucker bets is when I'm tipping the dealers during a good run.

If you start to win, place the bigger chips in your pocket ("salting them away") and never, never touch the salt until you are at the cashier's cage turning them into real money. When things are going well, increase your Odds bets. Basic strategy of all gambling: increase bets slowly when things go well, but decrease them fast and ride out a bad streak. It always helps to have hot shooters who can only find a 7 on the first roll (when it's a winner).

If you do shoot the dice, there are some rules to keep magicians and cheaters from switching dice: (1) only one of your hands can touch the dice, (2) don't put the dice out of sight (say below the table), (3) and throw them hard enough they bounce off the other end of the table. If you get confused about anything, the dealers are there to help you. Ask questions.

I recommend taking a $100 to the craps table as a minimum. First stand and watch the action for awhile until you are used to the rhythm of the game and can tell what's going on (and see who's playing smart and who not). When a spot you like opens up, step up, and place your money on the PASS line.

Oh, and good luck!
Related Posts:
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
"Playing Blackjack With an Old Chinese Woman," April 3, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver

Having a dispute with a creditor? One way to win it (and fast) is to send that creditor a "payment in full" check [hereafter "PIFC"] and end it things in your favor. How does this bit of legal magic work? Read on.

It's always been the law that if you and I have an existing contract, either one of us can propose a modification to that contract, and if we both agree, the contract changes accordingly. There are technical names for this. Say, for instance, that I owe you an undisputed amount of $500. I send you an email and ask if you would take my horse Dobbins is settlement of the debt, and you reply in the affirmative. My offer of something different than what was originally owed (the horse for the money) is called the offer of an "accord." Your agreement to take Dobbins is the "satisfaction." Thus an "accord and satisfaction" in our law is nothing more than a fancy name for a modification agreement. I no longer owe you $500; I owe you a horse. Only if I fail to deliver the horse can you choose to return to the monetary debt.

A "payment in full" check is an accord and satisfaction. To illustrate, let's suppose we have a contract (no matter whether oral or written) and are in dispute as to whether one of us has broken that contract or, if uncertain ("unliquidated") what amount is truly owed. I'm the party who owes the money, so I sit down and write you a letter explaining our disagreement, and enclosing a check for the amount I think I owe, marking both the letter and on the check as "payment in full" of my debt. This is the offer of an accord. If you cash that check satisfaction occurs. It's all over.

The law here is codified as part of a much larger statute (in effect in all jurisdictions in the United States) called "The Uniform Commercial Code." I've taught it for over 40 years. The important section is in Article 3 of the UCC, which I reprint, in relevant part, below. Let me walk you through it.


(a) If a person against whom a claim is asserted proves that (i) that person in good faith tendered an instrument to the claimant as full satisfaction of the claim, (ii) the amount of the claim was unliquidated or subject to a bona fide dispute, and (iii) the claimant obtained payment of the instrument, the following subsections apply.

(b) Unless subsection (c) applies, the claim is discharged if the person against whom the claim is asserted proves that the instrument or an accompanying written communication contained a conspicuous statement to the effect that the instrument was tendered as full satisfaction of the claim . . .
[Note: Oregon did not adopt this section and instead reaches the opposite result in this language:
     “The negotiation of an instrument marked ‘paid in full,’ ‘payment in full,’ ‘full payment of a claim’ or words of similar meaning, or the negotiation of an instrument accompanied by a statement containing such words or words of similar meaning, does not establish an accord and satisfaction that binds the payee or prevents the collection of any remaining amount owed upon the underlying obligation unless the payee personally, or by an officer or employee with actual authority to settle claims, agrees in writing to accept the amount stated in the instrument as full payment of the obligation.”  New York never adopted this section either, and in that state a payee who cashes the PIFC has settled the debt unless the payee's indorsement is accompanied by language like "all rights reserved" or "cashed under protest," making it clear no settlement is happening.  Other states may have variations too; check by Googling your state's name plus "UCC 3-311."]

In the Official version of the statute quoted above, there are some interesting bells and whistles. One is that the accord and satisfaction won't occur until the check clears.  Another says that if your creditor has written on the bill or otherwise informed you that notices of a dispute must be sent to a particular office, you must send the PIFC there or it will not operate as an accord, nor trigger the modification (unless it happens to reach the right hands anyway).

Another complication has to do with this following difficulty.

Decades ago, I bought a new washer and dryer from Sears, and after I'd used the dryer a number of times it coughed up a lot of gunk which stopped up my basement drain and caused a minor mess. I brought in a plumber, who unstopped the drain, and told me the dryer was dumping detritus into the pipes where it caught and clogged. He advised me to buy a nylon stocking, put it on the end of the dryer hose, and clean it out once a week (which worked). I phoned Sears and asked what was going on, and the cheerful person on the other end of the phone told me it was their new "self-cleaning" feature, which worked by ejecting the gunk into the pipes. I told him it didn't sound like a "feature," but instead like a "breach of warranty" (I'd just started teaching law). He said, alas, he couldn't help me. That same day I received Sears's bill for the new machines, so I wrote out a PIFC, explaining in the covering letter what had happened and that I was deducting from my payment both the plumber's bill and the cost of the stocking. I then received a reply from Sears saying they would refer my complaint to their Customer Relations Department, and would let me know how it came out. By this time they'd cashed the check, so I wrote another note to them telling them I already knew how it came out. I thanked them for their accord and satisfaction. To their credit, Sears gave up.

But, consider for a moment, just how hard it is for a bureaucracy like Sears to stop themselves from cashing checks. How fast they can do that and access the funds is what keeps them afloat. The use of a PIFC causes them no end of trouble. Professors White and Summers (two famous Commercial Law experts) once called the PIFC "an exquisite form of commercial torture." The statute mentioned above therefore has an escape valve for creditors: if they return the amount of money represented by the check within 90 of receiving it, no accord and satisfaction occurs, and the debt is still in dispute.

Can the creditor just cross off the "payment in full" language, and, say, write "cashed under protect, all rights reserved"? Nope. There was some disagreement as to this legal issue once, but the statute has now clearly settled it .  No matter what the creditor writes on the check, if the check is actually cashed, nothing more is due. Nor should the wise creditor keep the check too long. Another doctrine of the law says that where there is a duty to speak, silence is acceptance. I tell my law students that if they are representing a creditor who has received such a check, the only thing to do is send it back.  However, doing that, so goes against human nature ("SEND THE CHECK BACK???") I also tell my students (as I'm telling you now) that even if the other side isn't expecting to receive a PIFC, go ahead and try it. Send them the check and just wait—see what happens. Really, it's fascinating what often occurs. The creditor sees the check, his name is on the payee line, his attorney tells him sternly to send it back, and, by golly, he means to do that—but then his eyes swim, the room darkens, he passes out, and when he comes to the check has mysteriously been deposited in his bank account and is on its way to collection. This happens a lot.

Once last, very important thing. There's a legal maxim saying "the law favors a compromise," and that thought is the pedestal of a PIFC. But the statute quoted above begins by requiring both good faith and a bona fide dispute before the check is sent. It must be emphasized that a PIFC can only be used where both of those two factual things coalesce.  A PIFC is not a blanket permission for misuse of the law. No matter how bad your current financial situation, you can't just pay all your creditors half, and have a good month. If the person sending the PIFC is the bad guy, the debt will still be owed and a PIFC offers no relief.

    Printed below is the complete text of section 3-111 and its Official Comment.  The Official Comments are not the law, but they were written by the drafters of the statute to explain what the statute  means, so they are persuasive.   An “accord and satisfaction,” mentioned in the title is a legal term meaning a compromise agreement.

     Uniform Commercial Code § 3-311. Accord and Satisfaction by Use of Instrument.

 (a) If a person against whom a claim is asserted proves that (i) that person in good faith tendered an instrument to the claimant as full satisfaction of the claim, (ii) the amount of the claim was unliquidated or subject to a bona fide dispute, and (iii) the claimant obtained payment of the instrument, the following subsections apply.

(b) Unless subsection (c) applies, the claim is discharged if the person against whom the claim is asserted proves that the instrument or an accompanying written communication contained a conspicuous statement to the effect that the instrument was tendered as full satisfaction of the claim.

(c) Subject to subsection (d), a claim is not discharged under subsection (b) if either of the following applies:
     (1) The claimant, if an organization, proves that (i) within a reasonable time before the tender, the claimant sent a conspicuous statement to the person against whom the claim is asserted that communications concerning disputed debts, including an instrument tendered as full satisfaction of a debt, are to be sent to a designated person, office, or place, and (ii) the instrument or accompanying communication was not received by that designated person, office, or place.
     (2) The claimant, whether or not an organization, proves that within 90 days after payment of the instrument, the claimant tendered repayment of the amount of the instrument to the person against whom the claim is asserted. This paragraph does not apply if the claimant is an organization that sent a statement complying with paragraph (1)(i).

(d) A claim is discharged if the person against whom the claim is asserted proves that within a reasonable time before collection of the instrument was initiated, the claimant, or an agent of the claimant having direct responsibility with respect to the disputed obligation, knew that the instrument was tendered in full satisfaction of the claim.


1. This section deals with an informal method of dispute resolution carried out by use of a negotiable instrument. In the typical case there is a dispute concerning the amount that is owed on a claim.

      Case #1. The claim is for the price of goods or services sold to a consumer who asserts that he or she is not obliged to pay the full price for which the consumer was billed because of a defect or breach of warranty with respect to the goods or services.
     Case #2. A claim is made on an insurance policy. The insurance company alleges that it is not liable under the policy for the amount of the claim.

     In either case the person against whom the claim is asserted may attempt an accord and satisfaction of the disputed claim by tendering a check to the claimant for some amount less than the full amount claimed by the claimant. A statement will be included on the check or in a communication accompanying the check to the effect that the check is offered as full payment or full satisfaction of the claim. Frequently, there is also a statement to the effect that obtaining payment of the check is an agreement by the claimant to a settlement of the dispute for the amount tendered. Before enactment of revised Article 3, the case law was in conflict over the question of whether obtaining payment of the check had the effect of an agreement to the settlement proposed by the debtor. This issue was governed by a common law rule, but some courts hold that the common law was modified by former Section 1-207 which they interpreted as applying to full settlement checks.

2. Comment d. to Restatement of Contracts, Section 281 discusses the full satisfaction check and the applicable common law rule. In a case like Case #1, the buyer can propose a settlement of the disputed bill by a clear notation on the check indicating that the check is tendered as full satisfaction of the bill. Under the common law rule the seller, by obtaining payment of the check accepts the offer of compromise by the buyer. The result is the same if the seller adds a notation to the check indicating that the check is accepted under protest or in only partial satisfaction of the claim. Under the common law rule the seller can refuse the check or can accept it subject to the condition stated by the buyer, but the seller can't accept the check and refuse to be bound by the condition. The rule applies only to an unliquidated claim or a claim disputed in good faith by the buyer. The dispute in the courts was whether Section 1-207 changed the common law rule. The Restatement states that section “need not be read as changing this well-established rule.”

3. As part of the revision of Article 3, Section 1-207 has been amended to add subsection (2) stating that Section 1-207 “does not apply to an accord and satisfaction.” Because of that amendment and revised Article 3, Section 3-311 governs full satisfaction checks. Section 3-311 follows the common law rule with some minor variations to reflect modern business conditions. In cases covered by Section 3-311 there will often be an individual on one side of the dispute and a business organization on the other. This section is not designed to favor either the individual or the business organization. In Case #1 the person seeking the accord and satisfaction is an individual. In Case #2 the person seeking the accord and satisfaction is an insurance company. Section 3-311 is based on a belief that the common law rule produces a fair result and that informal dispute resolution by full satisfaction checks should be encouraged.

4. Subsection (a) states three requirements for application of Section 3-311. “Good faith” in subsection (a)(i) is defined in Section 3-103(a)(6) as not only honesty in fact, but the observance of reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing. The meaning of “fair dealing” will depend upon the facts in the particular case. For example, suppose an insurer tenders a check in settlement of a claim for personal injury in an accident clearly covered by the insurance policy. The claimant is necessitous and the amount of the check is very small in relationship to the extent of the injury and the amount recoverable under the policy. If the trier of fact determines that the insurer was taking unfair advantage of the claimant, an accord and satisfaction would not result from payment of the check because of the absence of good faith by the insurer in making the tender. Another example of lack of good faith is found in the practice of some business debtors in routinely printing full satisfaction language on their check stocks so that all or a large part of the debts of the debtor are paid by checks bearing the full satisfaction language, whether or not there is any dispute with the creditor. Under such a practice the claimant cannot be sure whether a tender in full satisfaction is or is not being made. Use of a check on which full satisfaction language was affixed routinely pursuant to such a business practice may prevent an accord and satisfaction on the ground that the check was not tendered in good faith under subsection (a)(i).
     Section 3-311 does not apply to cases in which the debt is a liquidated amount and not subject to a bona fide dispute. Subsection (a)(ii). Other law applies to cases in which a debtor is seeking discharge of such a debt by paying less than the amount owed. For the purpose of subsection (a)(iii) obtaining acceptance of a check is considered to be obtaining payment of the check.
     The person seeking the accord and satisfaction must prove that the requirements of subsection (a) are met. If that person also proves that the statement required by subsection (b) was given, the claim is discharged unless subsection (c) applies. Normally the statement required by subsection (b) is written on the check. Thus, the canceled check can be used to prove the statement as well as the fact that the claimant obtained payment of the check. Subsection (b) requires a “conspicuous” statement that the instrument was tendered in full satisfaction of the claim. “Conspicuous” is defined in Section 1-201(10). The statement is conspicuous if “it is so written that a reasonable person against whom it is to operate ought to have noticed it.” If the claimant can reasonably be expected to examine the check, almost any statement on the check should be noticed and is therefore conspicuous. In cases in which the claimant is an individual the claimant will receive the check and will normally indorse it. Since the statement concerning tender in full satisfaction normally will appear above the space provided for the claimant's indorsement of the check, the claimant “ought to have noticed” the statement.

5. Subsection (c)(1) is a limitation on subsection (b) in cases in which the claimant is an organization. It is designed to protect the claimant against inadvertent accord and satisfaction. If the claimant is an organization payment of the check might be obtained without notice to the personnel of the organization concerned with the disputed claim. Some business organizations have claims against very large numbers of customers. Examples are department stores, public utilities and the like. These claims are normally paid by checks sent by customers to a designated office at which clerks employed by the claimant or a bank acting for the claimant process the checks and record the amounts paid. If the processing office is not designed to deal with communications extraneous to recording the amount of the check and the account number of the customer, payment of a full satisfaction check can easily be obtained without knowledge by the claimant of the existence of the full satisfaction statement. This is particularly true if the statement is written on the reverse side of the check in the area in which indorsements are usually written. Normally, the clerks of the claimant have no reason to look at the reverse side of checks. Indorsement by the claimant normally is done by mechanical means or there may be no indorsement at all. Section 4-205(a). Subsection (c)(1) allows the claimant to protect itself by advising customers by a conspicuous statement that communications regarding disputed debts must be sent to a particular person, office, or place. The statement must be given to the customer within a reasonable time before the tender is made. This requirement is designed to assure that the customer has reasonable notice that the full satisfaction check must be sent to a particular place. The reasonable time requirement could be satisfied by a notice on the billing statement sent to the customer. If the full satisfaction check is sent to the designated destination and the check is paid, the claim is discharged. If the claimant proves that the check was not received at the designated destination the claim is not discharged unless subsection (d) applies.
6. Subsection (c)(2) is also designed to prevent inadvertent accord and satisfaction. It can be used by a claimant other than an organization or by a claimant as an alternative to subsection (c)(1). Some organizations may be reluctant to use subsection (c)(1) because it may result in confusion of customers that causes checks to be routinely sent to the special designated person, office, or place. Thus, much of the benefit of rapid processing of checks may be lost. An organization that chooses not to send a notice complying with subsection (c)(1)(i) may prevent an inadvertent accord and satisfaction by complying with subsection (c)(2). If the claimant discovers that it has obtained payment of a full satisfaction check, it may prevent an accord and satisfaction if, within 90 days of the payment of the check, the claimant tenders repayment of the amount of the check to the person against whom the claim is asserted.

7. Subsection (c) is subject to subsection (d). If a person against whom a claim is asserted proves that the claimant obtained payment of a check known to have been tendered in full satisfaction of the claim by “the claimant or an agent of the claimant having direct responsibility with respect to the disputed obligation,” the claim is discharged even if (i) the check was not sent to the person, office, or place required by a notice complying with subsection (c)(1), or (ii) the claimant tendered repayment of the amount of the check in compliance with subsection (c)(2).
     A claimant knows that a check was tendered in full satisfaction of a claim when the claimant “has actual knowledge” of that fact. Section 1-201(25). Under Section 1-201(27), if the claimant is an organization, it has knowledge that a check was tendered in full satisfaction of the claim when that fact is “brought to the attention of the individual conducting that transaction, and in any event when it would have been brought to his attention if the organization had exercised due diligence. An organization exercises due diligence if it maintains reasonable routines for communicating significant information to the person conducting the transaction and there is reasonable compliance with the routines. Due diligence does not require an individual acting for the organization to communicate information unless such communication is part of his regular duties or unless he has reason to know of the transaction and that the transaction would be materially affected by the information.”
     With respect to an attempted accord and satisfaction the “individual conducting that transaction” is an employee or other agent of the organization having direct responsibility with respect to the dispute. For example, if the check and communication are received by a collection agency acting for the claimant to collect the disputed claim, obtaining payment of the check will result in an accord and satisfaction even if the claimant gave notice, pursuant to subsection (c)(1), that full satisfaction checks be sent to some other office. Similarly, if a customer asserting a claim for breach of warranty with respect to defective goods purchased in a retail outlet of a large chain store delivers the full satisfaction check to the manager of the retail outlet at which the goods were purchased, obtaining payment of the check will also result in an accord and satisfaction. On the other hand, if the check is mailed to the chief executive officer of the chain store subsection (d) would probably not be satisfied. The chief executive officer of a large corporation may have general responsibility for operations of the company, but does not normally have direct responsibility for resolving a small disputed bill to a customer. A check for a relatively small amount mailed to a high executive officer of a large organization is not likely to receive the executive's personal attention. Rather, the check would normally be routinely sent to the appropriate office for deposit and credit to the customer's account. If the check does receive the personal attention of the high executive officer and the officer is aware of the full-satisfaction language, collection of the check will result in an accord and satisfaction because subsection (d) applies. In this case the officer has assumed direct responsibility with respect to the disputed transaction.
     If a full satisfaction check is sent to a lock box or other office processing checks sent to the claimant, it is irrelevant whether the clerk processing the check did or did not see the statement that the check was tendered as full satisfaction of the claim. Knowledge of the clerk is not imputed to the organization because the clerk has no responsibility with respect to an accord and satisfaction.        Moreover, there is no failure of “due diligence” under Section 1-201(27) if the claimant does not require its clerks to look for full satisfaction statements on checks or accompanying communications. Nor is there any duty of the claimant to assign that duty to its clerks. Section 3-311(c) is intended to allow a claimant to avoid an inadvertent accord and satisfaction by complying with either subsection (c)(1) or (2) without burdening the check-processing operation with extraneous and wasteful additional duties.

8. In some cases the disputed claim may have been assigned to a finance company or bank as part of a financing arrangement with respect to accounts receivable. If the account debtor was notified of the assignment, the claimant is the assignee of the account receivable and the “agent of the claimant” in subsection (d) refers to an agent of the assignee.

Related Posts:

"I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover," April 8, 201l;
"What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties," October 11, 2011; 
"How To Write an Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19, 2011;
“How To Win Arguments and Change Someone’s Mind,” August 5, 2012;
"Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article," February 11, 2013;
"Legal Terms You Should Know," September 11, 2013;

"How To Respond to a Legal Threat," March 29, 2014;

“Clicking on 'I Agree': Sticking Your Head in the Lion's Mouth?” September 27, 2014;

“I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover,” April 8, 2011;

“The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver,” April 11, 2011;

“What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties,” October 11, 2011;

"How To Write an Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19, 2011;

“How To Win Arguments and Change Someone’s Mind,” August 5, 2012; 

“Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article,” February 11, 2013;

“Legal Terms You Should Know,” September 13, 2013;

“How To Respond to a Legal Threat.” March 29, 2014;

“Clicking on 'I Agree': Sticking Your Head in the Lion's Mouth?” September 27, 2014;  

 “My Battle with Sony To Get a Refund on a DVD Player,” July 16, 2015;

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

Friday, April 8, 2011

I Threaten to Sue Apple Over an iPad2 Cover

I'm a fan of iPad, having had my first one for a year. In the beginning I was worried I wouldn't understand it or use it right, but that quickly changed. They'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers to bury (well, cremate) me. So I was very pleased when iPad2 was released last month, and promptly bought one. However, that particular iPad2 had an antenna problem (it couldn't find a wifi signal, not even in the Apple Store), so Apple promptly swapped it out for a new one.

My old iPad had a hard cover that protected both the back and front, but the Apple people are very proud of the new cover for iPad 2. They shouldn't be. First of all, it only covers the front of the iPad which has a glass facing. Secondly, it's held on by magnets at one end. Seven days after I got the new iPad, it slipped from my car seat in the garage, stripping its magnet cover as it fell to the floor, creating a crack on the glass. Seven days.

I went back to the Apple Store and showed them the problem. "Accidental damage is not covered by the warranty," I was told, but they'd be willing to replace my iPad 2 for $299. How kind of them.

Sometimes it helps to be a Professor of Law who is well-versed in commercial problems (having taught them for over 40 years, and written seven casebooks used across the country in many different law schools). I sat down at my computer and composed the following:

"I am contemplating filing a complaint next week in the Franklin Country Small Claims Court asking for damages caused to my iPad2 (purchased two weeks ago) when the cover fell off as the iPad slipped from the seat of my car to the garage floor, damaging the glass front by creating cracks in it (cracks that are expanding and ruining this very new iPad). The truth is I have been much disappointed in your new cover. The old one was perfect: a hard object protecting both front and back that couldn't slip off at the moment you most needed its protection (and foldable into an unmovable shape). The magnets on the new one sometimes work fine and sometimes not, and often detach at a touch or push from the wrong angle, witness my garage floor fall (which would have been nothing had it been encased in the old cover). The new one has the sleep feature which is more difficult to use (assuming the cover is fully extended on the non-screen side) than simply hitting the sleep button, and the new cover will not hold its place unless the folded part has pressure on it, making it impractical to prop up at an angle where the cover does not bear the weight.

"I took my cracked iPad 2 to the local Columbus, Ohio, Apple Store at Easton and was advised I could replace it for $299. Since I think of a malfunctioning iPad cover as your problem and not mine, I declined that.

"As a quick Google search will show you I am a well-known law professor at The Ohio State University College of Law, one of the leading experts on consumer law in the United States. Your cover is in violation of the implied warranty of merchantability, section 2-214 of the Uniform Commercial Code, a statute in effect in all jurisdictions in this country except Louisiana. My Small Claims action (the court has jurisdiction up to $2000) will be filed with that as the theory. The Law Professor Contract listserve will be much amused to learn I'm suing Apple over the iPad cover.

"But, frankly, I don't want to sue. I want an iPad 2 (which I otherwise love) that isn't scratched with cracking glass within two weeks of purchase. If you will replace the iPad 2 and refund the money for my cover and I'll be a happy man.

"Please let me hear from you about this by next Wednesday, April 13, 2011.

"Douglas J. Whaley"

Then I called Apple Support and spoke with a nice young man. He asked what my problem was, so I read him the letter, word for word. He promptly called his supervisor, who was also a nice young man. I then read the supervisor the letter. He explained that accidental damage was not covered by Apple's warranty. I told him that was probably right, but didn't get rid of the implied warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code, and a cover that won't protect its product won't do. He asked if I sued a lot. Never before, I replied, but a Small Claims Action is easy and we'll let the court decide if a cover that detaches this readily is merchantable. He asked me to wait while he talked to his supervisor. Eventually he returned to the phone and, very efficiently, told me that since I'd always been a good Apple customer they'd decided to make an exception in my case, and would replace my iPad2 at the Apple Store. I told him I was very grateful, he gave me the case number, and the next day I had a new iPad2 (my third). Indeed, at the store it was determined I'd originally been overcharged at the original purchase by $138, for which the store gave me a gift card—I immediately used it to buy insurance on the new iPad2! With Apple's permission, I'm returning Apple's original cover; I'll buy a sturdier one elsewhere.

I also should note that I do think the Apple cover is badly designed and in breach of the warranty mentioned. It would be unethical to threaten something in which you do not have a good faith belief. I'll bet big bucks that the iPad3 will have a sturdy cover and not this magnetic pretense of protection.

Thank you, Apple, for all your help. I'm truly grateful. The third time's the charm, I hope.
Related Posts:

“The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver,” April 11, 2011;

“What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties,” October 11, 2011;

"How To Write an Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19, 2011;

“How To Win Arguments and Change Someone’s Mind,” August 5, 2012; 

“Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article,” February 11, 2013;

“Legal Terms You Should Know,” September 13, 2013;

“How To Respond to a Legal Threat.” March 29, 2014;

“Clicking on 'I Agree': Sticking Your Head in the Lion's Mouth?” September 27, 2014;  

 “My Battle with Sony To Get a Refund on a DVD Player,” July 16, 2015;

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Playing Blackjack With an Old Chinese Woman

Caesar's Palace's Blackjack Pit
I first went to Las Vegas in 1969 with my parents (I was practicing law in Chicago at the time, age 25), but we didn't do much gambling. Some slots and Keno (kissing cousin to Bingo and every bit as cerebral). Two years later Charleyne and I had just married and my sister Mary Beth herself was married soon after that same summer in Phoenix. My parents suggested to Char and I that we four go to Las Vegas after Mary Beth's wedding, and so that's what we did.

Before the trip Charleyne had a happy thought: let's read a couple of books about gambling and learn what's smart to do and what's not. That proved one of the best ideas I'd heard in my life, and saved me a lot of money through the decades. The best of these tomes was "Gambling Secrets of Nick the Greek," and, though aged, is still a first rate guide to gambling and how to play the basic games. We learned, for example, that a smart Blackjack ("Twenty-One") player has no decisions to make—the game is all mathematical odds. At the casino gift shop you buy yourself a little laminated card that tells you what to do when the dealer shows one card while you examine your two cards on the table, and then you do exactly what it says. No guessing, no hesitation. Craps is similar. The craps table is filled with sucker bets. In the photo observe the part of the craps table layout that says "Field"; if you place a bet there and the next roll of the dice hits one of those number it will pay off. That seems like a good bet until you see the photo below which shows how often the numbers on the dice will come up. Seven has the most combinations, then six and eight have the same, and so on down the numbers. The "Field" is rigged for the least likely combinations, and is therefore a loser's wager. Smart money in craps plays the Pass line only, and makes big Odds bets on the side. In a future post I will explain the rules of craps (which, perhaps, is not a kind thing to do given how addictive it is).

New Years in Vegas, Me in the Middle
The purpose of this post is to tell one story from the many trips I've made to Vegas with wife, partners, dates, family, and a large number of friends.

My partner of twelve years, Jerry and I were in Vegas for four days in the early 90s, staying at Caesar's Palace (great place), sometimes playing at the same tables but often seeking good gambling luck apart. Around 8 p.m. on one of these evenings I sat down at a $25 Blackjack table. I always have a gambling budget for each day at the gaming tables, and I stick to it religiously. If I exceed my budget, I go do other things (swim, read book, explore Vegas). But things had been going well that day—hence the move to a more expensive table—and, to my amazement, things went very well at that particular table too. This wasn't true of all who sat down at the table—players came and went all the time I was there—but it was true of an older Chinese woman who was sitting next to me. She and I both kept betting more or less the same (i.e., following the mathematical odds), and the money was pushed our way. When those started to be bigger chips, I would salt them away in my pocket. One of my gambling rules is "never touch the salt," so I never took chips back out of my pocket, and I deliberately remained ignorant of how much I'd salted away.

As time went on, this woman and I began to talk, and she was good fun. She'd been born in China, but lived in L.A. for decades now. She much disapproved of the man her daughter was going to marry, but had resigned herself to the fact. Her English was passable, and she understood more than she pretended. She laughed at all my jokes, which is hard to do if you're hearing a foreign language. So she and I became buddies. Around midnight we both packed it in, and after a bit I wandered to the cashier's cage and pulled the salted chips from my pocket. They added up to $1200 from an original investment of only $200! Very happy, stuffing the $100 bills in my pocket, I turned to find my Chinese friend in line behind me. "I made a thousand dollars!" I told her. She smiled broadly. "Me too!" she replied, hands mountained with chips.

I returned to my hotel room, and shortly after I arrived, Jerry came barging in. He'd made $800 playing craps at a downtown casino that had good Odds betting! We joyously threw all the money on our bed, and then "Scrooge McDucked" (do you know the verb?) in it until we misplaced a $100 bill. A frantic search produced the bill from under the bed, and that calmed us down.

The next afternoon I was wandering through Caesars and I saw my Chinese friend sitting at a crowded $25 Blackjack table. Amused by the idea of joining her again (I am not superstitious), I waited until a chair opened up at the end of the table. She was opposite me at the other end of the table, and I wasn't sure she had noticed my presence. After about half an hour of play, neither winning or losing, the table was dead. No conversation, no banter from the dealer, no eye contact with my friend (though she'd was bound to have noticed me by now), so I decided to shake things up. When the dealer paused the game to shuffle cards, I pointed at her and heard myself say, perhaps too loudly, "There is no truth to the rumor that that woman and I are having an affair!"

She burst out laughing, but the rest of the table, including the startled dealer, looked at me as if I were from Mars. I winked at her, tossed the dealer a tip, and wandered off in search of gambling booty.


Related Posts:
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
"How To Play Craps Vegas Style," April 15, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013