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What Are the Odds?

When I was the lowest ranking officer aboard, I had a portfolio of collateral duties. The exec called me his SLJO, for "Shitty Little Jobs Officer." I was dumb enough to take it seriously.

"Shitty," you ask? One of those jobs was to audit the funds for the crew's illegal recreation fund.

"Illegal," you ask? We did not have a bonded disbursing officer aboard, so the rec fund was illegal ever since the first penny went into it in 1944.

"Dumb," you ask? Yes. More on that in a minute.

One time when we had been at sea for several weeks we decided to hold an illegal casino night to raise more illegal money for the illegal rec fund. Um, not "we" in the co-conspirator sense, of course. More like "we" in the, uh, I guess it really was in the co-conspirator sense after all. We submerged to a keel depth of 100 feet on a Saturday night, so that there was no movement of the boat to mess up a roll of the dice. Some chief petty officers produced playing cards and dice and chips and pre-printed green felt tablecloths from various casinos ashore, and the crew started in.

I had never played craps before, so I tried out the game on the wardroom table, being run by our Chief Electrician's Mate. The math didn't quite make any sense, so I tried to explain to the Chief that he was going to lose the stake put up by the crew's illegal rec fund. He was insistent that he knew what he was doing. I was young and dumb, so I said, okay, I'll show you, and I started betting the defective odds.

There is nothing dumber than an Ensign trying to teach something to a Chief. Ninety-nine per cent of the time the Chief will turn out to be right. The other one per cent of the time the Ensign will still be wrong.

After the Chief had sent back five times, for another $20 worth of chips each time, to keep the table in operation, I had proved the point that I thought I was trying to make. Then I realized, oh, shit, I've just taken a hundred bucks away from the illegal rec fund that I'm supposed to audit!

So I decided to lose the money back by making stupid bets. But that's when The Law of Stupid Bets kicked in. I starting winning my stupid bets.

When my total winnings reached $200, I went to the custodian of the illegal rec fund and donated all my chips back to the fund. I had learned something. But I had not taught anything.

Double-entry that transaction, all you beancounters!

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