Tuesday, March 20 , 2018, 12:48 am | Fair 49º


Brian Burke: About Your Divorce (Letter 138) — A Divorce Lawyer’s Fantasy

Harry, Red Shoes and a Red Dress: A Divorce Lawyer’s Fantasy, Part II

We left Oblique Strategy #32 with Harry and the woman in the red slinky dress and the matching red shoes after they’d finished playing 38 rounds of roulette.

Harry lost 38 spins and $38; Red bet $50 on every spin, won three, and, according to Harry’s reckoning, she was leaving the table with $3,650 in hand.

But she was unhappy. Gambling wasn’t interesting to her unless the outcome could be life changing. If her number came up three times in a row and she let her first bet of $50 ride, she’d win $2,332,800 — and that would be enough.

Harry asked why she needed so much money, and she told him that she wanted to leave “a nightmare of a marriage.” Harry sympathized, and she followed, “you have no idea.”

But of course he does, because he’s a divorce lawyer and this is a divorce lawyer’s fantasy. The story continues below:

“Actually, I do have a pretty good idea. Where do you live?” Harry said, worrying he might sound like he was coming on to her. “I mean, in what state?”

“Bakersfield, that’s in California.”

Harry said, “I know. Too bad. California is a community property state. Half of your gambling winnings during the marriage would belong to the husband you want to divorce.”

“So that damn husband of mine would get half of the two mil I won?”

“Are you still living together?”

“I think ‘living’ would be an exaggeration, but we still share a bed, and The Beast gave me the two grand I started with tonight so I could ‘entertain myself.’”

“That’s an interesting verb you used. To give — it’s difficult for one spouse to give the other anything. They each own half of everything that’s community property to begin with. All property acquired during marriage is presumed to be community. But the exceptions are property traceable to an asset owned before marriage or property traceable to a gift or inheritance received during marriage.”

“What?” Red said, taken aback, but she continued, “I sort of get what you said. If my mom gives me money and says, ‘this is for you honey, and not for The Beast,’ and I don’t mix it up with other money, it stays mine, but how do you know all that stuff?”

Harry admitted, “I’m a divorce lawyer.”

“You and I need to sit down and have a few drinks together,” Red said.

Harry waved a good-bye and said, “I said I’m a divorce lawyer, not a divorced lawyer. I’m going to find my wife, Heather.”

Red pleaded, “so what if my mom wired me some fun money for gambling?”

Raising his voice as he walked away, Harry said, “That could work. Keep it separate from the other money.”

•        •        •

Harry took a lap around the casino, found a place at a different roulette wheel and made another 38 bets, this time on magic number 37, which was one of 18 losing numbers for that set of 38 spins.

The Loser Numbers for the second set of spins is on this Google Sheet under Columns D, E and F.

[Try this yourself: go to the Random Number Generator. Ask for 38 numbers between 1 and 38. Repeat the request until you get the same number three times in a row. You’ll see that it’s not that unusual. What is unusual, very unusual, is for the triplet to be the number you selected in advance.]

Harry was down to $24. He found and followed Heather from one table to the next as she won a little and lost a little and won a little more. When she was up $50 he asked and she gladly gave him the $14 he needed for one more round of roulette.

He found a place at a wheel. He used his iPhone to generate a random number: 30. The woman in red squeezed next to him; the fit was as tight as the dress she was wearing. “Will you get one of those for me?”

“Get what?” Harry asked in alarm.

“One of those numbers.”

“A random number between 1 and 38?” he asked, and she nodded. He made the request and reported to her, “It’s number 4.”

They placed their bets. First spin, $1 for him on 30 and $50 for her on 4. Bang! $1,750 plus the $50 bet; $1,800 on the number 4. Second spin: 7, the $1,800 goes off the table, Red puts another $50 on number 4 and loses four spins.

The sixth spin is 4 and $1,800 is on the table. She leaves it; the spin and it’s another 4. The croupier asks, “You have $64,800 on the table madam, how much will you bet?”

Red asks, “I’ll win about two million?” The croupier explained, “It’s 35 times the amount of the bet plus the bet itself, $64,800 times 36 is $2,332,800, but the bet is far in excess of the table limit.”

Red turned to Harry, whose credibility had instantly skyrocketed. “You said $2,332,800, exactly what he just said,” then to the croupier, “I demand to have the limit increased to what’s on the table, is this a casino or a bingo parlor? Get the pit boss, get the floor manager, get the damn owner out of bed, but let’s play for some real money.”

The croupier nodded to a huge man who had been watching the play who moved in to guard the money as the croupier excused himself, saying that he’d be back momentarily.

Harry said to Red, “You are betting $65,800 on one chance out of 38; that’s nuts! Now that you have the money, it’s half your husband’s, and it’s reckless to risk it.”

“It’s not half his. I called my mom and she wired me $2,000 as a little gift.” She lifted the cup of 35 $50 chips she’d been playing with. “The Beast took everything I won and left me with the original $2,000.” She lifted a cup with 40 $50 chips.

Harry said, “It looks like you might be planning to say the losing bets came out of the joint cup and the winning bets out of the cup from your mother.”

Red, looking stung, asked, “What’s wrong with that?”

Harry said, “It’s in bad faith. A court would probably turn the tables on you and find that the losers were yours alone and the winners were half his. You have to keep the money segregated; separate property has to stay separate from joint.”

The manager, who looked straight out of a James Bond movie, asked Red if she was sure she wanted to wager all $64,800.

He asked if she understood there was only one chance in 38 that she would get another four. He asked if she understood that there were safer bets to make. He asked if she understood that while the odds were 1 in 38, the payout was based on odds of 1 in 36.

A crowd of more than 50 people gathered to watch the action, and Red gave them a show.

Eventually, Red cut him off, “Are we gambling or playing bingo? The $64,800 means little to me and it means nothing to the casino. I know the odds are rigged against the gambler. When you said ‘another four,’ I hope you’re not trying to tell me the chances of getting another four are diminished because I’ve won on four twice in a row. If so, it would be an attempt to mislead me. It would be the flip side of gambler’s fallacy. Just because there have been two fours in a row doesn’t make a third four any more or less likely. Maybe you think it does… Actually, I don’t care what you think. Is there going to be another roll, or shall I take all these people with me to a place where you can actually gamble.”

“Madam may leave the wager on number four; win or lose, the accommodations for your scheduled stay will be provided without charge. Good luck to you. Croupier, spin the wheel.” The Bond boss left the table without waiting to see where the ball landed.

Red looked out at the crowd and saw The Beast approaching. While the ball was still spinning she handed the heavier cup to Harry and whispered, “This belongs to The Beast. Hold it safely for him.”

The ball skipped from slot to slot. When it came rest the croupier announced, “The number is… four.” There were screams in the audience. Red was very still and silent.

She looked at Harry. “Give him the money when he comes over here.”

Harry advised, “When the casino asks what to do with the money, create some witnesses by saying that you were gambling with $2,000 wired to you by your mother as a gift. Tell them you kept the chips from your mom in one cup and another $2,000 from your husband in a second cup. You were betting with the chips from your mother and you were down to — whatever you were down to. They won’t care about any of it, but they’ll remember. Make a note of the name of everyone you talk to.”

The Beast and the manager got to them at the same time. Red told the manager she’d need her own room, whether she had to pay for it or not. She wanted to speak with him in private about the winnings. The Beast insisted on her attention and asked, “What’s going on?”

“I’m done. I’m done gambling and I’m done with you. I’m leaving you, and all these people are witnessing my great escape.”

“Who’s this?” questioned the Beast, pointing at Harry.

“He’s my divorce lawyer, and he’s holding the $2,000 you gave me to gamble with. You can have it back.”

Harry handed the cup of chips to The Beast, and Red left the table on the arm of the manager to the applause of her audience. Harry stayed and casually made and lost the next thirty-one dollar bets, which were somewhat ridiculous after the amount of money that had just changed hands.

He didn’t care; he had just been engaged for the best case of his career. The Beast stood at the table giving Harry the stink-eye, and Harry didn’t care about that either.

He couldn’t resist and said to The Beast, “Your wife was playing number 4 and obviously doing well, you might give it a try.”

The Beast grunted and left the table as soon as the ball dropped in slot 4 for the fourth time in fifteen spins.

When Harry and Heather met up again, he delighted in telling her the story. She was surprised that he didn’t know Red’s name.

He didn’t see Red again that night, so he found the manager and asked who his client was. The manager was also surprised that Harry didn’t know his own client’s name.

The manager explained that the lady was very concerned about her privacy, but he was confident that he’d talk to her again, and he promised Harry that he would give her his contact information.

Harry spent two more increasingly miserable days scouting out the casino in search for his new best client, hoping…

When Heather said, “I don’t understand why you didn’t even get her name…” for the third time, Harry gave her an extraordinarily detailed physical description of his “client,” so she could help him look for her.

Heather was disconcerted by the specificity of the description; she didn’t know that her husband had the capacity to look at another woman in such a lascivious (her word) way. And the description didn’t help either of them find Red, even though they extended their stay from three nights to four.

Harry never saw, heard from, or heard of Red again. He and Heather have not gone back to Las Vegas, and he has no intention of ever playing another round of roulette.

That leaves us with an addition to the digital deck, Oblique Strategies #33 — Timing is critical and coincidence is more frequent than you realize.

For Red, it was $2,332,800, and for us it is this question: exactly where does your sense of excitement, and where do your principles, yield to your acquisitiveness?

— Brian H. Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he is also the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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