Benny Jay: Hold `em…

January 9th, 2020

I’m sitting at the bowling alley bar, mindlessly watching Portland play the Clippers, an NBA basketball game I care nothing about, when…

I’m approached by Benji, another bowler in the league.

“I have this app,” he explains. “I can place a bet on any game anywhere…”


“You wanna bet the over/under on the halftime score?”

“How does that work?”

“Right now they’re saying both teams will score 112 in the first half…”

“You mean, their combined scores?

“Right. So, if you take the over, anything over 112 and you win…”

“So, if they score 113?”

“You win.”


“C’mon, just bet ten dollars.”

I think about it. On the one hand, I’m not much for gambling. On the other hand–what the fuck.

“I’m in,” I say.

And just like that everything changes. I feel a rush of adrenaline–like ten dollars never seemed so important.

kennyrogersthegamblerAs Kenny Rogers says…

“Hey, Benny,” a guy calls from across the bar. “Come have a drink.”

“Can’t talk,” I call out. “I got a fiduciary interest in the outcome of this game.”

A collective wow rises from the bar. It’s probably the first time fiduciary has ever been uttered in a bowling alley.

Let me tell you, it’s way different rooting for teams to score rather than win. For one thing, you don’t give a shit about defense. For another, you find yourself saying things you never imagined I’d say. Like.

“Dunk that fuckin’ ball, shithead.”

Yes, you swear more when there’s money on the line.

The shithead in question is Mason Plumlee, a big galoot from Duke.

Generally, I have an aversion for Dukies. But I find myself cheering for Plumlee like he’s a long lost son.

Ryan, another bowler, sits next to me. “Who ya got?” he asks.

“The over.”

Just saying that makes me feel like I’m Jimmy the Greek.

“What’s the over?”


“Relax,” he says. “It’s in the bag.”

“You’re jinxin’ me, man…”

Sure enough–suddenly neither team can score.

With 1:20 left in the half, Plumlee hits a jumper to make it 58-54. Just one point to go. But…

Luc Mbah Moute–a really hard name to spell, by the way–shoots and misses. Then he shoots and misses again.

I pound the bar. I pull my hair. Several guys have gathered to watch my agony. Looks like I’m the evening entertainment.

Plumlee feeds a pass to Maurice Harkness who goes in for a layup and…

60-54. 114–one over 113. Fuckin aye, man. I’m rich!!!

Benji slips me a ten.

Immediately, I break into Kenny Rogers’s The Gambler. “You gotta know when to hold `em…”

Been singing it ever since.

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