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Dinner with Dopes

27 February 2011

I was sitting at a table in a wonderful Italian restaurant thinking about how I was going to improve my golf game. I was paying no attention to the other people in our party of eight. I had been out to dinner with this group before. The ladies have been friends with my wife since they were kids. Now they all lived in different parts of the east coast.

My wife enjoyed reuniting with them. I hated it, but I go along and smile to make her happy. I really had nothing in common with the husbands. Two of the guys were ambulance-chasing attorneys. One was a podiatrist. All three were very impressed with themselves. I had heard their same boring stories so many times I was starting to think I had actually been there when their mundane crap happened.

When the waiter appeared at my side asking for my dessert order, I was brought back from wondering if my golf "swing through" of not swaying would keep me from hitting the ball "fat" when using my driver. I told the waiter I would have a double espresso and an anisette.

I pondered ordering the tiramisu as a reward for sitting through this torture again, but remembering my doctor's comment earlier that day about watching my weight creeping up -– I am 6' 2' and fast approaching 250 lbs -– and since I doubt I am going to get any taller at this point, I let it go.

The waiter brought me a double espresso. He brought "American coffee" and desserts for the others. I was coating the rim of my espresso cup with the zest of the lemon rind when I heard the dreadful words from one of the ladies, "Let's pick a date to all get together again!"

The thought of doing this again, so soon, was excruciating. I needed a plan. I was running my excuse menu through my head but I could see my wife wanted to see them again. I was not getting out of it. I needed a new strategy. Maybe something other than a restaurant? Someplace where I could separate myself from the group.

"How about the next time we get together we go down to Atlantic City?" I said to everyone. At first there was no response, but when I looked at them I saw that, other than my wife, they were all looking at me as if I were diseased. I had not seen that look from this group since I told them I thought Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents.

"We do not like Atlantic City," said ambulance chaser number one.

"What is it you do not like about it?" I replied.

"First of all there is nothing to do there," he said.

"Nothing to do? There is plenty to do. When is the last time you were there?"

"About ten year ago, I went with my wife and my mother-in law. It was terrible."

"Well, it changed a lot in ten years. There are now great restaurants, shows, fun lounges, exciting clubs plus they have outlet shopping for the girls," I informed him.

"Well, we do not gamble," said ambulance chaser number two and then made a face as if saying the word, "gamble" left a terrible taste in his mouth.

"Neither do we, it is a waste of money," said the foot doctor. He added, "I work too hard for my money to just throw it away."

"I just told you there was other things to do there," I said. "Besides there is nothing wrong with gambling in moderation."

"There is no such thing as gambling in moderation, it is like saying you use heroin in moderation," pronounced the doctor.

Now my pressure was rising. "That is ridiculous! All of life is a gamble. This country was built on gamblers. The whole history of humans pivots on the acts of gamblers. From the first guy to eat an oyster to astronauts getting in a rocket sitting on top of a giant fuel tank, gamblers have advanced this country and the human race."

"It is not the same thing," said ambulance chaser number two. "You are talking about gambling with money."

"It is not that much different," I said, looking him straight in the eye. "Either you are a risk taker or you are not. The founding fathers of this country were by-in-large successful businessmen. They risked everything they had for a dream of being independent from the British monarchy. They had everything to lose. They were gamblers. I am not saying sitting at a blackjack table compares to their bravery. I am saying that taking a risk is part of being human and playing it safe all the time is worse than taking a shot and losing."

"Besides, a little while ago the three of you were talking about your investments, isn't that gambling? Do you think handing your money to a so-called financial advisor that really only has his own best interests involved is not gambling? Do you think the broker buying stock in some company that may disappear when it turns out the CEO was cooking the books is not gambling? Whether you know it or not you gamble everyday. So don't act like gambling is for cretins."

I continued: "I grew up with gambling. In my neighborhood everyone gambled. Whether it was on 'the number,' the 'daily double' or a football pool, everyone gambled. And guess what? I do not remember any of them falling into dire financial straits as a result. It was entertainment. Some days you won, some days you lost. In the long run, did the house edge kick-in? Sure, but the fun was worth the cost. On the other hand, are there people that have a gambling addiction? Of course. But an over indulgence in anything whether it be food, drugs, alcohol or even religion for that matter is unhealthy."

I was on a roll now. "Most casino gamblers know that the odds are against them. They know that very few will walk out of the casino with more money than they entered with, but they are there to take a shot. They want to spend an evening dancing with lady luck. If they are prepared, if they did their research, they know which are the better bets to make. The knowledgeable player can play very close to an even game with the casino. You have to remember the casino is paying the bills to provide the luxurious surroundings. They pay for the dealers, the gorgeous cocktail waitresses, the alcohol and the band playing in the lounge."

I finished with "the small edge you give the house is not expensive when you consider what the casino provides."

The debate went on for a while and the waiter brought the check. When we got in the car my wife noticed a smile on my face. She said, "I see you are happy that you made your points."

I replied, "Yeah, I guess so."

What she did not realize was the fact that I was smiling because in all the back and forth debate a new get-together date was never made.

Scan
Scan works in a top-secret government agency and he is therefore not allowed to reveal his real name or show a picture of himself. We’ve used a clip-art drawing to indicate his nature. Needless to say, he is an extremely bright guy. He is an active member of the goldentouchcraps.com private members-only Web site where he posts his thoughts and gambling theories on a regular basis.
Scan
Scan works in a top-secret government agency and he is therefore not allowed to reveal his real name or show a picture of himself. We’ve used a clip-art drawing to indicate his nature. Needless to say, he is an extremely bright guy. He is an active member of the goldentouchcraps.com private members-only Web site where he posts his thoughts and gambling theories on a regular basis.