September 3, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


A fool and his money are soon parted.

Old saying

I've done my share of gambling. Before, during, and after my stint in the army, I played a lot of poker. Sometimes I won and played with considerable skill. However, I've lost considerably more money than I've won. Not many gamblers will admit to this, although it is invariably true of people who go to casinos to gamble. When I hear someone say that he/she has won more than he has lost, I am pretty sure that he is full of beans. I don't doubt that they really believe that they have won more than they have lost. It is natural to forget pain quickly and to remember pleasure for a long time, so people always forget the times they lost and remember the times that they've won. No one keeps a ledger of lifetime gambling wins and losses except the house.

Most of my gambling has been with friends. I have been consoled in my losses, that my loss was a friend's gain.

I know one person who said that he used to win at blackjack in Las Vegas during W.W.II, and I believe him. He is a retired physicist with a very unusual mind. He remembers every card that was played. I used to play pinochle with him; but not for money. Toward the end of a hand, I would play a card and he would say "You reneged; in the second hand, you played a jack of hearts." And sure enough, when I went through my cards, there it was. When he played blackjack in Nevada, he won by remembering every card that had been played and he only bet when the odds were in the player's favor. I understand that it is no longer possible to do that, because they have a fresh deal every time. Now the odds always favor the house because it has enough money to cover a string of losses and you don't.

In blackjack and roulette(playing red or black) you get close to even odds with the house, although the odds always favor the person or institution with the most money.

In a friendly game of poker, everyone has the same chances; theoretically. However poker is also a game of skill and the better players usually win. In a game with professionals an amateur doesn't stand a chance. I remember a game that I played in the army and the dealer asked me to cut the cards. I said "run 'em." He dealt the cards and then turned up his pair of kings. "I stacked the deck, just to teach you to always cut the cards," he said. I thanked him, but he still took my money without stacking the deck.

I suspect that the poker games in Nevada are usually honest, but the dealer and one confederate can run anyone out of the game anytime that they want to. The only reason that they are probably honest is because the game doesn't have to be rigged in order for the house to win.

I have come to the conclusion that anyone who gambles with professionals is not only a fool, but a damned fool! The roaring success of gambling casinos is clear evidence that there isn't, nor will there ever be, a shortage of fools.

Lotteries are in a class by themselves. They take a small amount of money from a large number of fools and give some of it back to one of those many fools, in order to keep the rest playing. This is done with the help of the media who advertise those rare ones who have won and ignore the multitude of people who consistently lose from a dollar to their whole paycheck.

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