Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Clash -- "The Card Cheat" (1979)

But the dealer just stares
There's something wrong here, he thinks
The gambler is seized and forced to his knees
And shot dead

As tempting as it must have been, the Hard Rock Casino didn't force Ben Affleck to his knees and shoot him dead after he was caught counting cards while playing blackjack there recently.  The casino merely banned him from their blackjack tables.

I'm not saying that I wish the Hard Rock had administered a coup de grace to Affleck, who is Matt Damon's tenth cousin.  A bullet to the head is probably a little harsh even for a major a-hole like Affleck.  But it wouldn't have bothered me a bit if they had taken him down by the river and roughed him up a little.

Ben Affleck, bad-ass card player
[NOTE: Don't be too impressed by that tenth cousin thing.  After all, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins.  Being a tenth cousin means that you had one common ancestor eleven generations ago.  Assuming that the average family size over those eleven generations is three children -- probably a conservative estimate -- you have 120,932,352 tenth cousins.]

Affleck is no doubt enormously proud of himself for getting banned by the Hard Rock.  It makes him sound like some kind of bad-ass card shark who was such a threat to the casino's fiscal well-being that it had to take drastic action to protect itself from him.

But counting cards is less difficult than you might think.  I'm not sure what counting system Affleck was using, but I'm guessing it was some variation of the usual "high-low" system, where you assign low cards a value of +1 and face cards and aces a value of -1 and keep a running total of those point values for the cards that have been played.

The Hard Rock Hotel
and Casino in Las Vegas
A card counter (or "advantage player") usually increases the size of his bets as that running total becomes more positive, and backs off if the count is negative.  That's because a deck that is rich in face cards and aces is good for the player because it's more likely to produce blackjacks (which result in 3:2 payoffs for the lucky player).  

Just a week or so before the actor got tossed at the Hard Rock, a manager at another Las Vegas casino where Affleck had been playing said in  an internal e-mail that Affleck had been informed that "he was being way too obvious moving his money with the count.  He was spending $100-$10K on the double decks."

Let me translate for those of you who aren't degenerate blackjack players.  What that casino manager was saying was that Affleck would increase his bet from a standard $100 to as much as $10,000 when the count was strongly positive.

Casinos aren't stupid.  If a guy who has been betting $100 hand after hand suddenly bets $10K, they notice.  (Dealers count cards, too.)

If Affleck had played it cool and increased his bet by smaller amounts when the count was going his way, he probably wouldn't have gotten caught.    

Affleck in Dazed and Confused
But our boy Ben appears to have a mental age of about eight years old.  He obviously has no patience -- he wants to win now!

One other thing.  Mr. Way Too Obvious apparently was arranging his piles of chips to help keep track of the high-low count.  Maybe he should have just doffed his shoes and socks so he could have counted with his fingers and his toes.  
And one other other thing.  I've got nothing against the Hard Rock, but that's not the place that serious gamblers go to play blackjack. 

The Hard Rock's clientele consists mostly of three groups of people: semi-hot chicks hoping to hook up with the semi-washed-up celebrities who hang out there, middle-aged male doofuses drooling over the semi-hot chicks and hoping to score with the ones who weren't able to hook up with a semi-washed-up celebrity, and the semi-washed-up celebrities (who are usually comped by the hotel because their presence attracts the other two groups).

Andrew Dice Clay
If you don't believe me, here's a partial list of the entertainers who are appearing at the Hard Rock this month:  Tom Green, Cheech and Chong, Andrew Dice Clay, and Guns N' [sic] Roses.  (That would have been quite the lineup 20 years ago -- not so much now.)

Ben may no longer be welcome at the Hard Rock, but there's at least one casino in Las Vegas that would be happy if he played blackjack there:

By the way, Ben Affleck's directorial debut was a comedy titled I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney.  Click here if you want to watch it.

That title might be viewed as evidence of a pretty serious case of misogyny, but Ben apparently gets a pass from feminists because he's raised a lot of money and actively campaigned for a number of Democratic candidates in the past.  He recently stated that the prospect of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016 "does excite me."

Affleck thinks corporate CEOs make too much money.  It's a little hard to take that criticism from a guy who made $12.5 million for starring in Gigli.

Not one of his better efforts --
but $12.5 million ain't hay
Last year, Affleck famously tweeted that he was going to live on $1.50 a day to help bring attention to the fact that a billion people around the world survive on that amount of income. 

Of course, Ben only lived on $1.50 a day for one day.  And he didn't really live on $1.50 that day -- that number applied to what he spent on food, and not on his mortgage, cable TV, and gas for his vintage '66 Chevy Chevelle SS 396 (which probably contributes as much to global warming as a couple of hundred Priuses).

(If you want to see a video of Affleck's Chevelle refusing to start after he takes his daughter Violet out for Krispy Kreme donuts, click here.  Note where Affleck parks -- illegally close to a fire hydrant.  But he's a big Hollywood star, so the usual rules don't apply to him.)

Affleck's Pacific Palisades mansion
Affleck acknowledges that his beating his breast in public about eating rice and beans and drinking tap water for a day might be criticized as being as hypocritical as the Pharisee in Luke 18 who thanked God that he was not a sinner like everyone else.  Here's what he wrote in the Huffington Post:

There are valid criticisms of this effort.  Some accuse it of making the issue of extreme poverty into little more than celebrity Twister. It is also true that celebrities often promote (knowing or unknowingly) lifestyles that price out all but the richest Americans.  Why should they be lecturing Americans on poverty?  Fair enough -- and indeed there is a disgraceful inequity of wealth in this country. 
Affleck knows of what he speaks when he speaks of the richest Americans.  His net worth is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $65 million, a number which will jump considerably when he gets paid to star in the upcoming Batman movie.

If he's so worried about the "disgraceful inequity of wealth" in this country, maybe he should give away 90% or so of his money.
Back to Ben's HuffPo piece:
The issue is not that we should feel guilty about owning cars and Xboxes; taking vacations or buying fancy shoes. It's that we should understand that we have a responsibility as a country to be good global citizens. We have a responsibility to come to the aid of our neighbors, some of who are literally starving to death.
Once again, I must point out that Ben could be doing a whole lot more than he is to come to the aid of his neighbors.  By "neighbors," of course, Ben is referring to his fellow man in general -- not the people who live in his neighborhood, which is Pacific Palisades.  Affleck and Garner's posh digs there, which once belonged to Gregory Peck, cost a cool $17.5 million when they bought it five years ago.  

Blatant hypocrisy is not Ben's only personal failing.  But it's really nobody's business that he plays in illegal high-stakes poker games with his celebrity pals (and also with a hedge-fund manager who is in jail because he embezzled $25 million of his investors' money to pay his losses), or that he's had to go to rehab in an attempt to get control of his drinking problem, or that the tabloids are full of stories about him cheating on his current wife, actress Jennifer Garner.  (Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, etc.)

Garner and Affleck at Fenway
All that stuff is bad.  But the worst thing about Affleck BY FAR is that he's a Red Sox fan.  I've seen the big d-bag sitting in the expensive seats at many televised games at Fenway Park over the years, wearing a suitably beat-up Red Sox cap.  (No doubt he has his butler break in his caps so they don't look to new.  Wearing a too-new cap isn't cool.)

"The Card Cheat" is the last track on side three of the Clash's legendary double album, London Calling, which was released in 1979.  Rolling Stone ranked it as the 8th greatest album of all time.

Here's "The Card Cheat":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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