Most people learn how to play a new game by having someone who has played before teach them. That is the fastest way to get the game going and then "learn as you go." But, the fastest way to win, and then likely be called a cheater, is to read the rules. Growing up, my family played a lot of games. Card game, board games, and guess which word I want you to say games. Each time that a new game was introduced, via birthday present or unsuspecting friend, there was a scramble to understand more of the rules faster than everyone else. Whether it was taking turns reading the side of the box, huddling around the small print pamphlet like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls, or reading all the rules before telling anyone else that there was a new game in the house, the rules were a big part of the indoctrination to the Ellwood family game night.

The reason for the clamor around the rules was quite simple: they tell you how to win. And, when it comes to games, that is the only reason to play. (The "let's not keep score and just have fun" thing just doesn't work for me.) The rules lay out what exactly you would do to win faster than others and says that these things are illegal. But, in telling you the things that are against the rules, it also paints the picture of what kinds of things should be paid attention to and the areas of the game that advantages might be acquired.

This weekend, the Sunday New York Times front page above the fold story featured a detailed look into the complex tax planning strategies of the hier to the Estée Lauder fortune.  The headline and the sentiment of the article do little to hide the author's distain for the ways that Ronald Lauder and his family have structured their finances. Several times throughout the article there are references to his "shrewd use of the US Tax Code." This is followed by general statements about the complexity of "labyrinth of trusts, limited liability corporations and holding companies" that may or may not have been developed to with their likely favorable tax implications in mind.

Looks like someone read the rules.

Looks like someone else doesn't like the rules.

And while this article may serve as further proof in the case against the Haves being made by the Have Nots, I took it from a different perspective. What are the rules that I haven't mastered? What are the advantages that exist in my world that I am not maximizing? What are the angles that I can take in the games I am currently playing that will frustrate others not clever enough to find them?

"If no one is accusing you of cheating, you probably aren't trying hard enough." - Winner