For the past two summers now, some of us here at RCS have met-up in Las Vegas for a few days. Our trips include what I imagine is pretty normal for a trip to Sin City: drinking, gambling, little-to-no sleep, and an overall level of degeneration that is not acceptable back in "real life."
We don't see any shows (oh, how we tried for free tickets to see George Wallace though) or do anything too wild and crazy, but we always manage to have a good time -- last time, we even got to play poker with William Hung (who, if you were wondering, now spends his life grinding at the $2-$4 Texas Hold 'Em tables in the Flamingo, at 4am).
I'm pretty sure none of us have ever come out ahead (it's like the odds are against us!), and personally, the most I've lost at any one time was around $200 (or, when you're a poor grad. student like myself, the equivalent of roughly $8 million).
NBA players would probably not even classify that a loss, considering some of them gamble away $30,000. In one hour.
"It's crazy," Heat forward Dorell Wright says, "when they bring their money and start playing their cards."
"I've heard guys who have lost $30,000 on an hour plane trip," Charlotte guard Derek Anderson, the former Heat reserve, says. "It's amazing — $30,000 in an hour.
The card playing is so commonplace, that coaches have begun to establish rules and guidelines.
"I stopped my guys from playing when I was in Detroit," says Suns assistant coach Alvin Gentry, the former Heat coach. "It's the arguments and stuff over money." As Pistons coach, Gentry says he first tried to moderate the plane game, insisting on cash only.
"It's all the IOUs and the, 'I'll do this' and 'I'll do that.' You stay away from that, because that's where all the trouble comes in."
Other times when "trouble comes in" is when you owe Charles Oakley money.
Legendary in NBA circles is the spat between retired power forwards Charles Oakley and Tyrone Hill over a dice game in 1999. Hill lost $54,000. He didn't pay quickly enough for Oakley's tastes. Interest was demanded. Finally, $108,000 later, contentiousness that had spilled over to the court ceased.
At 35,000 feet, tensions can get just as dicey. "About 10 years ago," Riley says, "there was a game on a plane when I was in New York, and I felt in that game that night one of the players really got hurt, financially. I know how he was with money, and I think it bothered him in the next game.
Well, at least now you know that when your favorite player shoots 2-19, its not because he's feeling sick or tired; it's because he lost tens of thousands of dollars on last night's plane ride when someone sucked out a straight on the flop.