Winners & Losers: High-Stakes Idiot’s Delight

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Back when I was a pre-teen gambling degen in training, my friends and I used to play a card game called Idiot’s Delight.

Wagering nickels and dimes, we would each get dealt one card, face down.

You didn’t look at your own card, scooped it from the table and placed it face-up on your forehead.

Then the betting would commence, with players wagering on the cards that everyone else had while being unaware of the one that was planted against your own forehead.

ace of spades
Image: Pixabay

Once we ran out of steam and the betting ceased, whoever had the highest card won the game and raked in the cash.

There probably are good strategies and good lessons to be learned from this game, but we were not paying attention to either of those things.

We were just a group of gambling fools, having fun and throwing paper-route coins into the pot, way back before real money online casinos were on the scene.

One lasting thing that emerged from that game is the term Idiot’s Delight.

It came to be an easy call-out for every stupid-ass thing, related to gambling or not.

Some examples I know of?

Driving blindfolded (my riding in the backseat, cackling, trying to be the driver’s eyes, did not make me a genius), crossing the Mexican border with weed in your car, letting a guy test-drive a bullet proof vest on you.

This week, when Jontay Porter, the former power forward on the Toronto Raptors NBA team, got tossed from the league not just for gambling, but for gambling in the most egregious way possible, he lost at Idiot’s Delight.

jontay porter
Image: People

Not only was he betting on NBA games, but he was betting on Raptors games.

That’s pretty bad.

Then he took things in the worst possible direction by betting on the Raptors to lose.

He shared info with bookies – presumably to shave down gambling debts – dogged it on the court and once took himself out of a game, feigning illness, to impact a wager.

Rightfully so, he’ll never play professional basketball again.

The scandal raises questions about the rise of US online sports betting sites and whether we’ll be seeing more issues like this in the future.

Honestly, I had never heard of this guy before he made headlines for his bumbled gambling.

But now he’s famous and has clearly earned his place in the Idiot’s Delight Hall of Fame.

The institution only exists in my head, but you get what I’m saying.

Porter drives home the point that sometimes gambling is not a good thing to do.

I have no idea what the guy earned as an NBA bench warmer, but I’d wager that he got paid pretty well for a guy who averaged 4.4 points per game.

It begs the question of how a bum player influenced a game by calling in sick, but, whatever…

At any rate, he reminds me that we all need to differentiate between the good bets in life and the ones that are not worth the risk, even though the payoff seems alluring.

I’m thinking of breaking rules in the face of life-changing consequences – consider Donald Trump allegedly lying about hush money payoffs to a porn star and disguising them as legit payments to his lawyer, which is a multi-level game of Idiot’s Delight – perpetrating petty betrayals against good friends with the hope that they’ll never find out, cutting corners at work that put a good job at risk.

Even though this is a column about gambling and I’m a proponent of embracing calculated risks that present likely upsides – put your money in the stock market but not in a wacky pyramid scheme, no matter what your brother-in-law tells you – there are some bets that are just too wild, wooly, wiggly to make.

Let’s be the anti-Porters and avoid them like the plague.

In short, do not aim to be an Idiot’s Delight champion. The game is unbeatable in the long run.

Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist
Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.