Excerpt: 'How Fantasy Sports Explains The World'

Mon, Aug 1
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AJ Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. The following is excerpted from his new book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World." Copyright 2011 by AJ Mass, Reprinted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing. All rights reserved.

Before I started writing about fantasy sports for ESPN, I slapped the cards in Atlantic City as a professional dealer.

Mass Book
Skyhorse PublishingClick here to purchase "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World."

On December 24, 2003, I reported to work at Bally's as scheduled and saw I was likely in for a very long, very dull day. I was scheduled to man the Big Six. This is the worst spot in the casino, and the computer-generated schedule had given me the short straw. You're by yourself, standing in front of a giant spiked wheel that would make Pat Sajak green with envy. On it are pictures of different denominations of currency. Players can place a $1 chip on the glass table in front of them, selecting the denomination of their choice; and if the wheel stops on that value, they win that amount. If not, they lose.

Brain surgery it isn't, but unfortunately, due to the fact it is one of the only games in the casino you can play for a single dollar, it can draw a huge crowd that never thins out. Most of the folks attracted to this game have little to no gambling experience, but at the asking price, they typically play the game just to be able to cross "gamble at a casino" off their personal bucket list. Of course, few of these kinds of people grasp the fact that the reason George Washington happens to come up far more than, say, the more lucrative Andrew Jackson, is not because the game is "rigged" or that the dealer spinning the wheel is "cheating" but for the far more mundane reason that there are simply more pictures of our first president on the wheel.

Eventually, though, even the densest of minds catches on, and they begin to grasp that this game has some of the worst odds for the gambler in the entire casino, as well as the lowest payouts. Once that genie is out of the bottle, you may well spend the rest of your shift without a single customer bothering to come your way. In short, it's a case of feast or famine, and either way you end up wanting to shoot yourself by the time your shift is over.

I thought I got my reprieve when my reputation earned me a special assignment from Richard, my pit boss. I was to deal Three Card Poker to Allen Iverson and his family.

Boy was I ever wrong.

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