Barely 21, a kid really, I had just placed a foolishly large Blackjack bet at a Lake Tahoe casino.
The lonely column of chips in front of me represented my net worth.
This was going to be my last hand, one way or another.
The dealer fanned the cards around the table.
Oh no, he drew an ace as his up card!
I felt flushed in the face, embarrassed I had stuck it out at that table for so many losing hands in a row.
Expecting the worst, I looked at my cards.
I held two Jacks, which in most circumstances would at least give me a draw, if not an outright win.
He peered at his down card.
“Insurance?” he asked, gazing at each player in turn.
I was at 3rd base, the last seat, so it took a while to reach me.
I had been taught insurance is a sucker’s bet. You ante up more cash on a bad hand not worth protecting and the dealer still beats you, with or without hitting 21.
But this time, instead of reflexively declining the “coverage” and the additional premium I would have had to pay for it, I looked at him and starkly asked:
“What do you suggest?”
After a two second pause that seemed to spread a sound deadening vapor throughout the casino, allowing only he and I to hear each other, he said, “Take it!”
Would he lie to me? Was he actually admitting he held a ten beneath that ace, that he was on the verge of busting me out if I didn’t accept the offer?
I bought the insurance. He had Blackjack. I recovered my bet.
And, tossing him a serious tip, I graciously left the table.
This wasn’t a gaming episode, though by all outward appearances it seemed to be.
It was a negotiation, demonstrating that the most important thing your counterpart has isn’t power or money or more options than you have.
He has INFORMATION that is critical to your success. If you can get him to disclose it, you’ll come up a winner.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of asking, though that’s the last thing we do.
We disable ourselves by thinking “He’d never tell me that!” or “It’s against his interest to make such a disclosure!”
You’d be surprised, as I was when that dealer helped me out.
Remember, the only sure way to take the gamble out of negotiating is to get the information you need!