"Drunken Barfly Game" Orientation

The “Drunken Barfly Game”, if it exists, is a relic of times past.  It is inspired by a mythologized world of grimy pool halls, bartenders slipping rubes the “Mickey Finn”, and fast-talking, charming rogues played by Jimmy Cagney or Pat O’Brien.  Nostalgic feelings for this vaguely located, if colorful, lost era are certainly misplaced.  Nevertheless, for those who may wish to revive the spirit of old-time grifting, we offer, reluctantly, our own version of a venerable, almost certainly apocryphal, low confidence game, the bar bet scam.  This is not a game for the faint of heart or the weak of will. It requires face-to-face deception before a well-lubricated crowd of strangers.  If you are exposed, you risk having your hand crushed by irate suckers, like Paul Newman in “The Hustler.”  The following untested instructions on how to use our Infogrifter materials in bar-based con game come with a disclaimer: don’t do it.  It is far safer to grift your friends online at GKCB.org.  Nevertheless, here goes:

Enlist the participation of an accomplice (a shill, in con artist lingo.)
Browse the Inventory of betting propositions until you find one that works for you and lends itself to a persuasive set-up bet.  (More on this in a moment.)
Enter a bar with the shill and be sure to attract attention by appearing alcoholically impaired and make it loudly apparent that you and your friend are engaged in a dispute over some point of fact.
Theatrically make a set-up bet with the shill on a point closely related to your chosen sting bet proposition and take care that your side of the bet is clearly, obviously, flagrantly stupid to everyone within ten yards.
Have the shill theatrically prove you wrong, perhaps by using a hand-held device to go online.  [The shill must not find the answer too quickly; this will look rehearsed, suspicious; he/she must do a search.]  Theatrically pay off your loss.  This will establish to the onlookers that you are an idiot and that there is real money to be made betting against you.
After dithering for a moment, announce that you now realize that you were slightly mistaken in your position in the last bet and triumphantly announce that you now remember what it was that you were so certain about.  This new position will sound to everyone like an equally idiotic re-statement of your first losing position.  [We will provide examples of set-up bets and sting bets shortly.]
The shill now wearily offers to teach you another lesson by proposing a second, larger bet.  You accept and challenge onlookers who have been drawn into your entertaining conversation to bet against you as well.  Ideally, they will be volunteering already.
The shill then goes online again and is shocked and appalled to find proof that you are right.  [Important: the answers to the two bets should not be obtained from the same web page, for obvious reasons.]  Collect from the marks as the shill theatrically stomps out in a huff.  Follow your friend out and escape.

The key to this game is the relation between the set-up bet and the sting bet.  They must appear, except in the befuddled mind of the character played by the grifter, to be disputes about essentially the same question.  Many of the “catastrophic breakdowns of common knowledge” that are crafted into multiple-choice questions for the Inventory and the GKCB.org quiz can be re-worked for this barfly game.  Here a few examples of how the material in the Inventory questions can be adapted for barroom use:

“Korean Congressional Medals of Honor?”

One set-up bet could be about the grifter’s confident proposition that the United States fought a major war in Korea in the 1970’s. The grifter cites as proof his knowledge that many Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to U.S. servicemen for heroism in action in Korea in the 1970’s.  The shill offers to wager anything that the Korean War was in the 50’s not the 70’s; and this is the set-up bet.   The shill finds proof for his position and the grifter pays.  The grifter then says, no, the Korean War was in the 1870’s.  The astonished shill reminds him of the last bet and the proof that the Korean War took place in the 1950’s.  The grifter says, no, I’m absolutely sure that there was another Korean War in the 1870’s between Korea and the United States.   As proof, he insists that more than a dozen Medals of Honor were awarded for action in Korea in the 1870’s.  The shill then demands a bet on this point.  Onlookers are drawn into side bets on what appears to be a sure thing.  The shill goes online and finds proof that the grifter is right.

“Heaviest planet?”

The grifter confidently asserts that the Earth is more massive than Saturn; he knows that because things weigh more on Earth than on the surface of Saturn.  The shill takes this set-up bet on the relative mass of Earth and Saturn and proves himself right.  The grifter than offers a second bet; no matter that Saturn is 100 times more massive than the Earth; an object on Earth’s equator still weighs more than the same object on the equator of Saturn.  The shill insists that this is the same bet he just won; gravity is a function of mass; that’s why the astronauts could leap and bound on the surface of the moon in near weightlessness.  The grifter insists on a larger second bet, the sting bet, wagering that the equatorial gravity of Earth is larger than that of Saturn.  Bar patrons who have been drawn into the dispute also bet against the grifter and lose.

“Lowest murder rate city?”

The grifter drunkenly insists that New York City has one of the worst murder rates in the country; sadly, everyone knows this about New York and it taints the City, like in “Escape from New York”.  The shill says the grifter’s information is wildly obsolete; “Escape from New York” was from the 70’s; New York is now famous for being a safe city with a relatively low murder rate.  The grifter insists that’s crazy, like the ridiculous myth that Texas has a lot of gun violence; in reality, cities in Texas like Dallas and Houston have a much lower murder rate than New York City.  The shill asks if the grifter would like to bet on that.  Of course, says the grifter. The shill accepts this set-up bet, looks up the statistics for New York, Dallas and Houston and collects.  The grifter then realizes that it is actually the border cities of Texas that are very safe; being on the border with a peaceful, meek country like Mexico probably has a calming affect on the American side.  The shill incredulously asks if the grifter has heard about the hundreds of unsolved murders of women on the Mexican border.  That’s probably another myth, probably promoted by the anti-immigration lobby, counters the grifter; El Paso is right on the border and it has a murder rate less than a third of New York’s.  The shill insists that the grifter back this up with another wager, the sting bet.  The shill looks up El Paso statistics and can’t believe he has lost, as have the pumped up onlookers who eagerly bet against the grifter.

You can perhaps begin to understand the principle and the pattern here.  In shorthand, here are a few more Inventory questions with possible set-up and sting bets:

“Before it was New York?”: Set-up bet: The Dutch founded Miami, Florida, which they called “New Orange” before losing the city to the British.  Sting bet: If New Holland was not in Florida, grifter concludes “New Orange” must have been the Dutch name for New York before it was finally ceded to the British.  He is sure the capital of New Holland was called “New Orange”.

“Most Pacific Islander state?”: Set-up bet: Utah is proportionally more Asian than California.  Everyone thinks California is so racially diverse and Utah is just white bread; it’s a myth.  Second sting bet: Utah is proportionally more African-American than California.  Sting bet: Grifter says, no, I remember now, Utah is a very Polynesian state, much more than California, proportionally.

“Easter Island time?”:  Set-up bet: Someone who leaves New York and flies to Tahiti doesn’t have to adjust his watch; they are in the same time zone.  Sting bet: New York City and Easter Island are in the same time zone.

Just for the heck of it, we offer this little play to more fully illustrate the Barfly Game:
A handsome couple enters a crowded, perfectly respectable Manhattan bar.  They are noisily engaged in an argument and are difficult for anyone in the establishment to ignore.  The man (visualize the mature Albert Finney) has clearly had a few prior to their arrival and is feeling no pain.  He immediately and loudly orders a double bourbon and a beer, for himself, and something for his friend.  He tries to fold everyone nearby into his state of benevolence and amiability, smiling and making eye contact with his neighbors and chatting up the bartender.

She: (visualize Jennifer Connelly, why not?) You are an amazing idiot.  But, you know, it’s even more amazing how you combine complete stupidity with mindless self-confidence.  It really is remarkable.

He: (voice slightly slurred) A person of lesser self-confidence might be offended by your insults, but I, as you see, am unhurt.

She: I can’t let this go.  Seattle is not sunny.  Seattle is not famous for sunshine.  Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Boeing, Microsoft, café latte, and
rain, that’s what Seattle is known for, it’s lack of sunshine.  Everyone knows this.

He: Oh, that’s just a myth, an urban legend, if you will.  Like, that butter is fattening and the Beatles sold a lot of records. (Turning to his neighbors)  You see what I mean, don’t you.  It’s all just folklore.  You have to be scientific about these things.  Seattle gets a great deal more sunshine in the course of a year than New York.  This, I think, is common knowledge.

She: (Incredulous) Common knowledge? (Turns to the “audience”) Who here thinks Seattle gets more sunny weather than New York?  Can we get a show of hands?

(No hands are raised, but a good many comments are offered: “Seattle really gets the rain, man”; “It just pours out there, week after week”; “New York weather is really pretty good”; etc.)

He: The mob killed Socrates.  And Jesus.

She: It’s a good thing there are no children present.  A grown man of advancing years, making a fool of himself in a public place.  It would be sad if it wasn’t so damn irritating.

He: You know, you might have a point if I was wrong about this, but I’m not.  I’m willing to bet you any amount of money on this.  Really, I am, but I don’t know how we could find the answer in the current circumstances.  I doubt the bar has a meteorological almanac.  (Looks at the bartender for confirmation)

She: You think you can just slide your way out of this, don’t you.  Well, it’s too bad for you that I have a blackberry.  Never go anywhere without it.  I think, a little googling could find us an answer, hmm?  A little google search, yes?

He: (A bit sheepishly) Well, yes, I suppose so.

She: Don’t worry.  I won’t hold you to it.  Escape by all means.  I hope you’ve learned your lesson and we can spare you further humiliation.

(She beamingly makes eye contact with the patrons listening to the conversation and makes a toasting gesture of victory with her glass.)

He: (Turning up the volume) Humiliation?  What on Earth are you talking about?  Of course I’ll bet you.  Bring it on, as they say.  What are the stakes?

She:  (Dramatically extracting a $20 bill from her purse and slapping it on the bar)  I’ll go easy on you.

He: (Duplicating her gesture with the bill) Please, my dear, don’t do me any favors.

She:  Okay, now, let’s define our terms.  What are we betting on, number of sunny days per year?  Percentage of total possible sunshine? What?

He: (Expansively) Whatever you like!  Don’t make no nevermind to me.

She:  Alright, let’s try to find the average number of sunny days per year for Seattle, Washington and New York, New York.

He: Okay, Okay. (Smiles at his little joke)

[She puts on a bit of a show with a running commentary as she proceeds with the search.]

She: Let’s see.  Go to google. Okay, got google.  How shall we put this?  Sunshine, U.S. cities? 

He:  (While she is searching, he addresses the gathered audience)  Where does everybody get the idea that Seattle is so wet?  I’ll tell you.  Seattle is populated almost entirely by crybabies,  “Oh, it’s so rainy here all the time.  Will it never stop?  Boo hoo!”  Bunch of whiners.

She: Yes, this looks promising.  “Sunshine hours page.”  Source, NOAA [pronounced “Noah”], national climatic data center, is that good enough for you?

He: (Benevolently) Yes, of course, my dear child.

She: They have hundreds of cities here.  Yuma, Arizona is number one, 242 days of sunshine a year.  Okay, scrolling, scrolling.  Here we go, New York, Central Park, 107 sunny days.  Wait a minute, they have statistics for JFK and LaGuardia too, 98 and 96 days.  Any preference?

He: (Muttering softly) No, I’m sure Central Park is fine.  What about Seattle?

She:  Oh, it’s
way down here.  Seattle C. O., whatever that means, 71 sunny days.  And Seattle Tacoma airport, 58 days.  I guess it doesn’t matter which one we choose. does it?

He:  (Subdued) No, I suppose not.

She: (Gathering up the money and waving it in the air) There you have it.  Common knowledge is common knowledge because, most of the time, it’s correct.  You can have another cup of hemlock now, Socrates.

(Scattered applause for her victory from around the barroom)

He: (Talking to himself or whoever will listen) I can’t understand it.  It just doesn’t make sense.  I guess I got a little bit confused there.  I’ve been to Seattle.  The weather was just fine, just fine.  Perhaps, the old granddad, just got the better of me.  Maybe it’s the fact that Seattle doesn’t actually get very much rain that threw me off.

She: (Turning away from the side conversation she has been having as he rambled on)  Excuse me, what did you just say?

He:  I said the old granddad maybe got the better of me.

She:  No, not that.  What did you say about the rain in Seattle?

He: Oh, that.  I just said, maybe I got confused by the fact that Seattle really doesn’t get that much rain, relatively speaking.

She: Yes, perhaps you are more confused than I thought.  Do you realize that you just lost this bet?

He: Yes, of course.  Do you think I’m a moron?  But you do acknowledge that it’s common knowledge that Seattle doesn’t really get a great deal of rain.  I mean New York gets a flood more rain than Seattle.  That’s what I meant before I got confused. (Turning to his neighbors)  You’ll back me up on this, won’t you?

Neighbors: “No I don’t think so.” “You’re on your own, fella.”  “That’s not what I’ve heard.”

She: Unbelievable.  As I’ve said, amazing, remarkable.  I think perhaps you need a stronger dose of aversion therapy.  I’ve got 60, no $80 that says Seattle gets more rain than New York.

He: No, stop.  You don’t make as much money as I do.  You really can’t afford to be making bets like this.  I’d feel just terrible to take a whole day’s wages from you.

She: (Reddening) I make more than $80 a day, thank you.  I probably make more than you.  Anyway, don’t do me any favors.  How about it?

He:  Well, of course, darling, if that’s what you want.  I’m absolutely sure about this.  I’ll bet any amount you like, honestly.

Onlooker: Hey mister, I’ll bet you $20, if you want the action.

He: I don’t know you, sir.  I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable taking your money.

Onlooker: Don’t worry, you won’t.

He: Okay, then.  Fine.  I think you’ve all been brainwashed or something.  I’ve got $200 plus cab fare in my wallet.  I’ll bet the rest of it if there are any takers.

Other bar patrons: “Okay, I’m in for ten.”  “Here’s my twenty.”  “My mother always said, if they’re giving money away, don’t be proud.”

(The money assembles on the bar, each bill covered by the glass of the bettor.)

She: Let’s get this straight.  We’re betting on the average yearly total rainfall, precipitation, for New York and Seattle, inches or centimeters, whatever.  You say New York gets more.  All of us say Seattle.  Am I right?

He: Yes, dear, that’s it exactly.

She:  Okay. Here we go.  Back to google.  Search words.  Average precipitation. U.S. cities.  Here we go, “Climate of 100 Selected U.S. Cities.”  Infoplease.  Okay, scrolling.
New York, 49,69 inches.  Seattle. 37 inches!  Mother******!  I can’t ******* believe it!

Onlookers: “Let me see that!”  “Me too!”  “Holy Christ, he’s right.”  “I don’t get it.”

He:  You know, Seattle has a dry season.  It hardly rains there at all six months of the year.

She: (Furious as she gathers her belongings and starts to leave) I’m out of here.  I still say you’re an idiot.

He: (Gathering his winnings from the bar and starting to follow her out)  Hey, wait up.  It’s only money.  Don’t be like this.  Be reasonable, darling.