Monday, June 4, 2012

People Who Want Money for Charity

Every so often, my world gets briefly interrupted by an acquaintance on facebook or by some other social means--but mostly facebook--who announces that he's going on a 10-mile walk or 3-day bike ride for charity.  And he wants my help.

Except I don't hear a (mild) plea for help.  Instead I hear an offer.  An invitation to bet.

I hear my acquaintance saying, "Do you think I can ride a bicycle 60 miles over 3 days?  I bet I can.  Do you bet I can too?" when really all he wants to be is altruistic.

In his mind, my reward for accepting his offer is that I can piggyback on his goodwill and throw some dough to the unfortunate masses.  In my mind, however, I'm trying to calculate his odds of success.

Usually his odds are pretty good.  But I should have the option--shouldn't I?--to answer, "No, I don't think you can.  I'm putting my money on the Don't Pass."

Craps--the game from which Don't Pass originated--is frankly beautiful, in my opinion.  I used to deal craps.  It's a complicated game, fun to deal, also fun to play.  The best part of craps is that at any given time, you can bet that the roller will win or lose.  So satisfying.  You can bet against someone.  You're allowed to be grouchy--or realistic--which tends to be another word for grouchy these days.  In almost all cases, a Don't Pass bet is a better bet than a Pass bet.

Craps is why I try to avoid casinos.

Now all of this might sound odd or pessimistic, but I argue that my attitude is actually good for charity.  And I'll tell you why.

Imagine a 65-year-old who wants you to commit $5 per mile for a 10-mile walk he plans to do this Saturday.  The forecast is for 95-degree heat.

In this case, I want to say, "Okay, I'm in.  Put me down for $5 per mile on the Don't."

"The Don't?" he'll inevitably ask.  "What does the Don't mean?"

At this point, you'll have to inform him that you are betting for charity that he will fail.

Naturally, he'll be offended.  But what is more important here--staying in the good graces of a middle-class acquaintance or doing your absolute best to funnel your cash to the poor?

A 65-year-old looks me in the eye and tells me he can walk ten miles in that kind of heat?  I'm calling bullshit.

Think of the alternative, which happens to be the current state of affairs: You can't bet on the Don't.  Society frowns upon it, everybody frowns upon it.  You are not allowed to wager that someone will fail.  It seems morally wrong.  So society takes the high road and the charity gets zippo when the oldster craps out on the fourth mile and walks into the nearest Taco Bell for a Number 5 with cinnamon twists and an extra large Coke with 4 cups of water on the side.

With my Don't bet, the charity gets $50.  A $5-per-mile bet that this delusional do-gooder can't walk ten miles in 95 degree heat.

If I'm allowed to bet the Don't, I win.  Charity wins.  I suggest that we introduce the concept of Don't Pass to charity events.  The only obstacle seems to be the ego of the participants.

* * *

As I was writing this, I thought of a potential Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.

An acquaintance approaches Larry David and asks for money for a charity walkathon.  Larry agrees to pay the guy $20 per mile if he can finish.  For whatever reason, the guy can't--or won't--finish.  Afterward, he comes to Larry asking for $200 bucks.

Larry thinks for a bit.  He says, "No."

"No?  What do you mean no?" asks the walkathon non-finisher.  "Are you saying you won't donate to charity?"

"Pretty much."

"I can't believe this.  Why?"

"I signed up for $20 bucks a mile."


"$20 bucks a mile for ten miles."

"Where are you going with this, Larry?"

"$20 bucks a mile for ten miles . . . if you can walk ten miles."

"Larry, are you craz--"

"How many miles did you walk?"

"It was 92 degrees."

"The heat is my fault?"

"The heat is the charity's fault?"

"How many miles did you walk?"

"Three miles, Larry."

"And now you come to me asking for $200 bucks."

"It's for charity, Larry--"

"But you didn't hold up your end of the bargain!  I paid for ten miles!  You gave me three!  And you want 200 bucks."

"Are you telling me that you're going to deny $200 stinking dollars to a charity because I couldn't walk ten miles in 92-degree heat?"

"Tell me this. What do you do?"

"What do I do?  Larry, you know I'm an attorney."

"Okay, good.  I hire you to represent me in court.  You tell me it'll take ten hours of your time, and you say that your rate is 250 bucks an hour.  'Fine,' I say.  I give you 2500 bucks.  But you finish the job in 3 hours. Are you going to keep all 2500 bucks?"

"This is different!"

Larry, conciliatory, "Tell you what.  I agreed to pay you 20 bucks a mile.  You walked three miles.  I'll give you 60 bucks."



* * *

Finished the last episode of season 2 of Game of Thrones this evening.  Awesome.  I won't give anything away, but I found it very satisfying.  Too bad we'll have to wait until April of 2013 for a fresh episode.

Because everybody keeps dying in this show, I thought it'd be fun to give odds that various characters will survive.  Even money bets seem dangerous.  Here are a few of my guesses:

Tyrion -- Even money to survive (this dude is the smartest of the bunch)

Dragonslayer Lannister -- 5-1 odds that he survives

Robb Stark -- 4-1 (he's King of the North, but he's got a target on his back)

Tywin Lannister -- 20-1 (he's old and likes to fight; seems likely to be a dead guy quite soon)

Cersei -- 12-1 (everybody hates her)

King Joffrey -- 50-1 (most likely to get killed by somebody soon)

John Snow -- 3-1 (he's a prisoner in dangerous territory but seems like a survivor)

Targeryen dragon woman -- 8-5 (she seems like she'll be in the mix till the end of the series)

Arya Stark --Even money (crafty and good with a sword already at her young age)

Tannis -- 16-1 (just failed in a takeover attempt, but he'll survive a bit longer)

Sansa Stark -- 4-1 (also crafty, but might be overplaying her hand by pretending she wants to stay with King Joffrey)



  1. amazing post.

    ps my money would be on tywin to kick a bucket before joffrey. we'll have to wait almost 12 months to find out!

  2. Thanks! And yeah I have to agree. Upon review, I already see myself changing the odds around with most of these characters. Twelve months is too long. I plan to buy the books and start the series from the beginning. I wonder if the show follows the books faithfully or not.