Everyone embarrasses themselves as best they can. You don’t have to do it twice, one time actively as a fool and the other time by blurting it out, but I have developed a certain skill in both. And on the day I am about to tell you about, I did both twice after telling the story. So I will not deprive you of the following incident.
In 1985, I was in Berlin. I was guaranteed to be in the learning phase of earning my money as a player. And not only then did I make several stupid mistakes. I always won something, but it was certainly not enough for a comfortable, good life. I still had to pretend to my father that I would eventually finish my studies. My father nurtured his own illusions and let me live with him free of charge. But he also saw an occasional effort that I at least stayed at the university. It may be that I didn’t convey to him quite so clearly that it was exclusively the programming room.
So I just had quite a bit of pocket money, to be quite honest. But there were bright spots. So play-wise, I developed further in backgammon. The first tournament successes came. There was a perspective. At least in my mind. With this example, I am trying to show that other skills are needed besides the ability to play.
There is, apart from the tournaments, the money game. This is the everyday life of the player, so to speak. If possible, you look for a less talented but financially potent opponent. But these are not easy to find. Especially not for me. Sometimes strange things happen during the search.
I had discovered a new restaurant. Right on the Ku-Damm, a billiard parlour. But there weren’t just any players there. The best, most experienced players in Berlin were united there, or at least you could bump into them. So little Pauli went there. No one doubted my ability to play. So if you’re there looking for a “party” and then you find one, there must be some kind of catch. So I met Tefek. He was willing to play with me. Amazing. I (Riesendummkopf) also had my own board with me. How could I find opponents? But I had succeeded!
Only Tefek was convinced that there would be people who “could do something out of the cup.” That is, who so skilfully place the dice in the cup and let them roll out that they can influence the throw in this way. Since he was still willing to play with my board, he only had one condition: We roll the dice from the hand.
I could easily follow his reasoning. What’s more, I was eager to play. Besides, I had painstakingly collected a thousand. But one was simply not enough for the backgammon tournament taking place that weekend in Austria. I had to earn some extra money. I wondered if I had come to the right place.
Tefek played quite well. He knew without a doubt in which direction his stones had to go. And he also knew that you were allowed to hit stones standing alone and that you were not allowed to hit two stones standing together. So he knew practically all the rules, if I may summarise it like that. After a short explanation, he even knew the doubling cube.
But I was simply powerless against his variations on the theme of “dice luck”…
My money was completely gone. I temporarily fell into depression. What do you do when you’re depressed? Go on, what else. And I had known another pub for a short time. Lothar & Ich, Dominicusstrasse. I was new everywhere. But a few people knew me. They knew I was quite good. At least playfully. Micha and Detlef, later partners of mine, were there. And they already had some experience. They actually arranged a game for me. But the conditions were also clear: I had no more money, so everything through three if I won.
Well, red Paul was about on the same level as Tefek in terms of play. However, this time we used one cup, no two, one each. In that case, the playful luck was not quite enough, at least temporarily. Red Paul had lost all his cash. And if you do something together with Micha and Detlef, you get your money too, he had paid for everything in cash. It was 2600 DM. Now his buddy was sent to get more money.
Well, then I can keep playing. And in backgammon there are still a few special rules. We had played 40 DM per point. I had won exactly 65 points. We played with “decline”. Both parties had the chance to refuse the first throw. If one did, the bet was doubled with it. The doubling cube was set to 2, sometimes even to 4. Ideal if you are on fire, have lost a lot: Always refuse, turn up the dice.
There is another special rule. It goes like this: If the opponent doubles, then you can accept or reject the dice (only Mickey mice reject, a real man accepts). But you can also beaver! Not to be confused with beavering, which is what those who refuse do, because they are afraid. So only real men beaver.
You double the dice a second time, but you keep it on your own side, and you can double back again if the opportunity arises.
I was in a winning frenzy. However, if you divide 2600 by 3, I hadn’t even got out the money I had lost to Tefek. In any case, in this game the dice had already been turned up to 8. It was about 8*40, 320 DM. You could also lose twice. In that case, 640 DM. All right, if it should happen. The money man was not back yet. Would he come at all? So if I had won the game, we would have had to wait anyway. If I lost, we’d go on. Red Paul had his chance: it was an extremely complicated position with distributed chances on both sides, in technical jargon such a type of position is also called “two-way-gammon”. Both can win twice, but also lose twice.
Paul had his chance. He doubled. Of course, one would absolutely not do that unless one was considerably on fire. The die was already on 8, he doubled to 16. Now I had three choices: Throw it away, give up. Only mice do that (one could also say: the sensible ones). Or one accepts. That might be justifiable. But at least I don’t know what I can win. Maybe 0? That’s a whole different way of calculating equity!
And what did I do? You know. I’m a real guy. A real free spirit. A real brainiac. I beavered, took the cube and doubled it on my side, it now stood at 32. I lost the game twice. The two-way gammon became a one-way gammon. And the one-way went my way. 2*32 makes 64. I paid out the DM 2560. The session ended immediately. Paul was out of the fire, that was enough for him. We never played again.
And what happened then? Well, it’s quite simple: the tournament was off, since then I’ve been called Biber-Dirk and I probably still owe Lothar DM 2. Because the 13 DM I had left simply weren’t enough for two coffees, two waters and a hot dog…
And the moral? I don’t need them
Only this: greed alone
And – let’s say – skill in the game
Is not enough. Much is still missing.
Above all: learn to distinguish
Who is smarter of the two?
Not the one who knows
To see the best train that goes?
Rather the one who found something,
…be it with a cup or with his hand..,
That gave him the luck of the dice
Who doesn’t care what he draws
As long as he hits the stone
At the moment where it should be.
The world is open to this gentleman.
He does not even have to hope for long.
Surely someone will soon find
Someone who will pay him
and who will also gladly pay.
When your own money is all
Go home. But in case
That you continue to play, think,
Be on your guard, be on your guard, be on your guard.
You can’t get it all back
If you want, try your luck.
Play well, be who you are
Even the little things, they make a mess.
If you win something, be happy
Better something than zero.
He who is polite and modest
He’ll suffer less if he loses big
When he loses big
Sure, sure, it happens.
Anything helps, even pulling your hair out.
Tomorrow can be better
If you keep your wits about you
Even if it’s only for the money.
And here’s some advice, my dear
Dirk, do anything but beaver.