I walk into the room straight out of a scene from a James Bond movie. I have on a crisp, blue suit and gray tie. I reek of class and sophistication. I walk with purpose as the crowd steps back to let me through to the center table. A roulette wheel, black jack, poker, the particular game doesn’t matter.
The room falls to a whisper as I step up to the edge of the table and nod to the dealer. I flash a slight smile and place my bet. I have everyone’s attention. The dealer goes into action. There’s a hush and in unison the crowd lets out a deep breath as I win. I nod again and let my winnings ride. Of course, I win again, and again, and again, and again.
Okay, you get the picture. That’s the dream. I’m a high roller and everything’s coming up roses.
Now here’s the reality and here’s why I’ve never been much of a gambler or even a risk-taker for that matter.
In real life, I have too many compulsive traits. It doesn’t matter if it’s checkers, chess, or picking the winner of the Thursday night college basketball game between Never Heard of It State University vs. Timbuktu College, I want to win and keep winning.
I’m not sure that fits the scientific definition of a gambling addict. I certainly don’t want to make light of a serious American health problem, but the few times where I’ve felt like the need to win took over my being still felt too close for comfort for me.
Sad but true
I got my first taste of gambling as a young kid, when I snuck my way into a game of Kelly Pool, a game of chance that used little pea pods and a cue ball, at a local firemen’s festival. I soon wiped out whatever money I had saved over the summer and would have gone through more if my mother hadn’t stepped-in to pull me away from the table.
I don’t remember much about the game, but I remember the out-of-control feeling that took over me. I was sure that my twelve-year old luck was about to turn. My luck didn’t turn, but it taught me an invaluable lesson.
Let me pull out my slide rule
A few years ago I was pulled into a casino by friends when we visited Niagara Falls. With my memory as a child fresh in my mind, the financial analyst in me came out. Or maybe it was the small-town practical homespun advice coming out in me. In any event, I could hear a voice in my head saying clear-as-day: “You just blew $20. Did you consider the opportunity cost of that $20? Do you realize all the other things you could have spent with that money?”
I wanted to yell back at my conscience to go away and bug someone else. I wanted to scream out loud that I was just trying to have fun. My best move was to find a quiet corner, order a beer, and watch all the people coming and going until my friends had gone through their money.
If truth be told, my biggest worry about myself and gambling is that I would come in the next day, my clothes in tatters, my hair and complexion a mess, straight from a night in the gutter.
‘The House always wins’
Now I need to say, I have nothing against anyone who makes the weekly trip to the casino or plays the lottery or puts down big time dollars on fantasy football or bets the big game each weekend or any other of the millions of ways that are possible to gamble each day in America.
And this isn’t to say that I don’t throw a dollar into the kitty in the office lottery collection or Super Bowl bet, I’m not lifeless. I just don’t find any fun in betting.
The end of the day, I figure I can come up with plenty of ways on my own to throw away my money, I don’t need to invent new ways to hand over my money to the house. I don’t need to make the wolves of Las Vegas and Atlantic City any richer than they already are.
Am I the only one who thinks like this? I’m betting that I’m not. In poker terminology, I see your 75¢ and raise you $2.