Charlie’s Angle

At the start of Thursday’s 9-ball tournament, there is a Calcutta auction. Each player is up for auction and people “bid” on who they think will win. Sort of like betting on a horse race.

There is generally a lot of bidding action on the top players, the “pros,” because, well, they’re really good. I take a different approach. Because the tournament is handicapped, its not necessarily the best player who wins, but rather who plays above his handicap.

I look for discrepancies between rating and actual strength.

Charlie has the same rating as me, A+3, but thats an old rating. Charlie hasn’t played tournament for a long time. But he does play in the daytime, and I rarely beat him. I believe he’s playing above his rating, so I bought him for 500 baht with a chance to get 8000 if he wins.

Someone else bought me for 800, and I exercised my option to buy “half” of myself, by giving my owner 400 baht.

How the whole thing works is a bit confusing to a newcomer, especially the guy I bought, Charlie, who is French and speaks barely a word of English.

Albert tries to explain to Charlie that he can buy half of himself by giving me 250 baht. Charlie nods like he understands, but hands no money over, so I guess he’s declining to wager. No problem, that’s just more money for me because I expect Charlie to do well.

I fail to qualify, getting positively blown out of the water in two straight matches. Not a big surprise, as I haven’t been playing for a few months. Go home early and go to sleep.

Next day, I go check the results and boom! Charlie won and the payout is a cool 8200. Hooray for discrepancies.

Charlie shows up a little later and we’re all high fives and back pats. I can’t understand a friggin word the guy says, but we’re both happy and that’s enough. Maybe he’d be a bit happier if he’d bought half himself, but a wins a win.

Couple days go by until the next tournament, and I go to collect my 8200 from the organizer. He hands me 4100.

I say, “Very funny, where’s the rest of it.”

“I gave it to Charlie. After he won I asked him if he bought half and he said ‘yes’.”

Shit. He didn’t give me any money so why did he say yes? Chances are good he didn’t even know what the question was, but either way, I’m out 4100 baht.

Now what?

First thing, I need a translator. The situation is complicated enough even without a language barrier. I enlist fellow Canadian Gordon, who apparently paid attention during French class, and confront Charlie the next day.

I am mostly a spectator as Gordon and Charlie speak in French, until Gordon says to me, “I think you’re fucked.”


“Charlie says that Albert told him that Albert was going to pay 250 to you on behalf of Charlie, but if Albert didn’t pay then he’ll make the 250 up to you.”


This story makes no sense. There is no way that Albert would make such an offer, but it seems that Charlie earnestly believes it, so I say, “Okay, let’s talk to Albert when he gets here.”

Time goes by. Some of Charlie’s French buddies come in, and by the loud discussion and glances in my direction I know just what they’re talking about.

What I don’t know is if they know what is actually happening, because I’m not convinced that Charlie does. Its possible that they think I’m trying to scam. Tension in the bar is rising. I send a text to the owner telling him to call Albert and get his ass down here.

Albert shows up and a conference is called. With Charlie’s French friends here to help translate, reality is made clear. Albert made no such offers to bankroll half of Charlie, and Charlie owes me 4100.

I can tell by the look on Charlie’s face that this possibility had not occurred to him. It also seems to me, that Charlie needs the money.

I don’t particularly need the money, but I do want to do things right, and that money is rightfully mine. What’s fair is fair.

But fairness exists on more than one dimension. It’s not fair that Charlie couldn’t understand Albert’s explanation when it mattered, it’s not fair to accuse Charlie of wrongdoing when he was only ignorant, and it isn’t even fair that I have much while Charlie has little.

Life is not fair, and its beyond my ability to make it so, but I can ease the burden. I say, “Just give me 2000 and we’ll call it even.” Charlie is happy. Charlie gives me a hug.

Albert is pissed. He says to me, “You don’t accept a baht less than the 4100 he owes you.” And says to the French, “How can you take money that doesn’t belong to you? Have you no pride?” Albert storms off in disgust at the lot of us.

Charlie can’t pay me at the moment, because he gave the money to his wife. This may account for the look of fear when he learned he was going to have to get the money back.

Gordon asks why I settled for 2000 when I could have forced him to fork over the whole 4100.

“Oh that’s easy,” I say, “This way I get to be the good guy.”

I’m out 2100 baht, but peace has been restored, and that’s good enough for me. Besides I’m not ‘really’ out anything. My 500 wager still paid out 6200, AND I get to be the good guy.


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