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Chapter 43

Life is a Gamble

Whoever said "Life is a gamble" sure knew what they were talking about. I grew up in a Baptist home where gambling, dancing, strong drink and just about anything else that was fun was verboten. However, at forty-two (domino) parties, the object was to win. Since no money was involved, it was okay in the eyes of the Lord and the Preacher.

I was gambling by the time I completed first grade. Two games played for keeps were marbles and tops. These were school yard games played in the dirt with the blessing of the teachers although I think they were looking the other way. Sometimes I came home with several new tops I had knocked out of the ring, same with marbles. The real object was to win the opponents "taw." That way he was less of a competitor. Kinda like disarming him. I learned crap shooting in high school. Not much money involved but interesting.

Let me say here. Gambling lessons can be expensive. Payday crap games sprung up all over the barracks. Some soldiers would lose their entire pay checks. They were easy to spot, they were the ones bumming cigarettes and borrowing money at usury rates. Ten for five and the lender would always be near the pay line to collect. I am ashamed to admit, I found this to be more lucrative than shooting dice. It was also illegal and carried some stiff penalties if caught or turned in.

As a newlywed and short of cash, I had to rely on my poker playing skills to make it to payday. I love poker, not for the money but the study of human nature. Learning to "read" a player is the challenge. Bad hands win pots with bluffs and other ruses. Another favorite game is roulette. Anyone in the business will tell you this game offers the worst player odds. It also has the highest payoffs. Seems simple enough. All you have to do is pick a color, red or black to win even money. Bet on a single number and win thirty-five to one. There are only 38 numbers to choose from. People bet birthdays, anniversaries, "lucky numbers" and sometimes they just toss chips on the table.

I have to stop here and relate a funny story. I was in Egypt with Sonny Bowles in 1984. We were playing roulette at the Hilton one evening and enjoyed a run or good luck, pulling in winnings just about every spin of the wheel. Later on I asked where he had come up with the numbers we were betting and he turned red and said, "They are my wife's measurements, 34, 24, 36." I told him I was glad she wasn't a big fat girl as there are no numbers larger than 36.

System players go broke systematically. Therefore, I don't call the method I use a system. Studying a photo of a roulette wheel and table I discovered that a certain combination of numbers enhanced the chances of winning. I also discovered it didn't work every time but this is about a time that it worked beautifully.

On vacation this summer, my brother in law suggested a trip to downtown Detroit to the Indian owned Greek Town Casino. The place is huge and rivals Las Vegas in some respects. I found the roulette tables while the others went to the slots. By the way, did you know that the slots pay the overhead in a casino? Now you know why there are so many.

I tried a couple of tables before I found one that suited my purpose and won a pretty fair amount, enough to change the value of my chips from one to five dollars. I seldom do this as winning is the thing, not the amount. Since it was casino money, I made the change. As soon as I did, I started losing. Before I lost it all, I changed tables, one that was occupied by a single cute little hair-brained lady.

I had my original stake in my pocket plus a small win. I had eleven chips and placed ten of them on the numbers I always bet. The dealer spun the wheel and the pill landed in the two spot, one of my numbers. The young lady squealed and said, "I won, I won." I don't where the dealer was but he pushed thirty-four chips over in front of the lady. I moved faster than a rattlesnake and reached across the table to drag the chips to my side. That is not exactly kosher but it was my hundred and seventy bucks he was giving away. I was holding the lone chip I had left and asked what color the girl was playing. He looked at the board where the marker still sat on my chip, no other chips under the marker. He asked the lady what color her chips were and she could not produce one or seem to remember.

The Pit Boss spotted the commotion and walked over. He could have settled it but instead said security would decide, "The Eye in the Sky." Folks, it really works. Pretty soon a well dressed man came to the table and the first words out of his mouth were, "Lady, you did not win. You didn't have a bet. This gentleman won. He has been playing the same combination for over an hour." Then he apologized to me. I changed color for money chips, headed to the cashier and rounded up the rest of the family.

The moral of this story. If you must gamble, treat it as entertainment. Most people budget a certain amount for entertainment and stick to it. Decide beforehand how much you are willing to spend for "entertainment" and then walk away. Most people will lose, they don't build those magnificent casinos by paying customers to gamble.

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