Fish House Economics: bail-outs and eelpouts

I once lead a group of men up to Lake Mille Lacs for an ice-fishing weekend. Ice-fishing isn’t necessarily a thrill a minute, or even a thrill an hour. To wile away the time when we weren’t clubbing eelpout or steeling ourselves for a trip to the satellite, I devised a poker tournament.

The concept was simple. Each of the ten guys received $2500 in scrip to use for betting. At the end of the weekend we would use the scrip we’d accumulated to bid on prizes that I brought along. Scrip changed hands at a moderate rate for the first hour or so as we played conventional games such as five card draw and seven card stud. Then someone suggested a hand of “in-between”.

For those not familiar with this type of poker, it is a very simple but diabolical game that calls for very little strategy but generates huge pots and sudden betting reversals that deliver the kind of belly laughs that normally accompany watching another guy take an unexpected shot to the – umm – mid-section. The way it works is a player is dealt two cards face up. He then bets any amount up to whatever is in the pot at the time on whether the next card will be “in-between” the two cards (a card the same value as one of the first two dealt counts as a loss). Sometimes a player would get a deuce/king split and brazenly bet the pot, only to see another deuce or an ace turn up (hilarity would ensue). He would then have to pay the amount in the pot, which fattened it up significantly for the next guy who got a wide split and an opportunity to bet on a “sure thing”.

This soon became the game of choice among our group, and it wasn’t long after that before our first guys tapped out. Since it was hours until dawn and the fish were fasting, “loans” were quickly arranged from the people with a big stack to those less fortunate so everyone could continue to play. Soon enough, the once wealthy were borrowing from other players as well so everyone could “stay in the game.” Some effort was made to keep track of who owed what and to who, but it rapidly became so convoluted as to be impossible.

By the time we were ready to leave, even the guy who had the biggest stack at the end still owed many times that to other players, who themselves owed many of their neighbors. As we tried to reconstruct the transactions I got the idea to add up all the “loans” that had been passed around. Even though there was still only $25,000 in actual scrip, the total of all the loans was easily more than ten times that. The only way we could have settled every thing was for me to go back into town and hit the Kinko’s to photocopy more scrip!

I don’t know what made me remember this story.

8 thoughts on “Fish House Economics: bail-outs and eelpouts

  1. LOL, the news made you remember that story.

    “Ice-fishing isn’t necessarily a thrill a minute, or even a thrill an hour.”

    This officially makes you the king of understatement.

  2. *I don’t know what made me remember this story.*

    You were trying to think of a fiendishly clever way to generate tons of Google traffic from people searching on “eelpout”?

  3. Excellent example in terms anyone (except maybe a liberal) can understand. The slick thing is that it is easily reconstructable and repeatable and should really drive home the point.

  4. If only it were only liberals who did not understand this….most self-described conservatives are perfectly comfortable with it, too.

    On the light side, I see you have a new career as a Fed governor coming up, NW.

  5. Pingback: People Always Say… | Shot in the Dark

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