Winners &Losers

Winner & Losers
The Black Jack
American Statistical
Returned Casino
jam-packed gambles
Blackjack Heaven
Spooking & blackjack

Oh Not The Ritz

One Dark Night>
A spinall played
traced back< India
Poker Backgammon
1984 Aspinal
Gamester Extraordinary

View From The Downside

Gordon Moody
Powerful Stuff
Royal Commission

Gamblers Hospital

Gamblers Hospital
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In The Casino

Take Risks
So Why Gamble
The Reason
Gambling Event

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Percentages and Chances

Percentages and Chances

      Action Man

Action Man
Las Vegas
Bucking The Odds
Kusyszyn concludes

 Mauvaise Epoque

Dynamic Management
Blanc Dies
The S.B.M
Eudaemons to Draw

Nevada & New Jersey

Mafia boss
Connection & Crime
Jersey Casino
Technical Issues


The Game of Life
Real Until


Lesson 4

It ’s all false but the illusion of having anything you want for nothing exactly matches the gambling guide experience.  The junketeer, air fare paid and free board at the hotel, feels that he is several hundred bucks ahead before he even gets to the tables.  Anyway, maybe this is his lucky night … Why not?  It ’s all in the roll of the dice.

            Anyone who seeks action can find it – and not just in a casino.  One can bet on anything, anywhere – the raindrops running down a window-pane if you like – as it were, constructing  action out of nothing.  Not mature people like you or me, of course.  Or do you, by any chance, smoke?  That ’s a bad risk which many of us take.  Or eat too much cholesterol?  Or drive too fast?  In a sense, all life is risk.  There’s no safety in numbers, James Thurber once declared there’s no safety anywhere.  But gamblers seek risk for its own sake.  Hence the attraction in casino games of ‘letting it ride’ by leaving a winning bet on the table, especially at dice or blackjack, with the chance of doubling it on the next coup, and then if it wins, doubling it again, and so on (an exponential increase in action pokerman) reversing the gambler’s fallacy of doubling up on losing stakes.
            Where the action is – in sport, in gambling – seems to tilt rather to the masculine side of life.  Like cowboy movies, the drama is always the male in action; although women may be around , they don’t count in quite the same way.  Yet why shouldn’t women be drawn to action just as men are?  No doubt about it, there are women gamblers in plenty, as any casino will show.  The one field of action, however, in which men and women figure equally, or shall we say on equal terms, is elsewhere: the ‘battle of the sexes’. 
            The sexual pursuit is surely a pre-eminent example of action.  It ’s all there: the thrill of the challenge, the joys and entrancement of success, the pain of rejection.  I am not suggesting that the delights of sex can be reduced.
  I am not suggesting that the delights of sex can be reduced to an equation of risk-taking: but at the same time can anyone deny the excitement-of-the-chase as an extremely powerful motive?  Or that attainment of the desired objective as with winning at gambling also holds, within poker itself, the seed of a new challenge?  Look at Mozart ’s Don Giovanni, for one.
            All ‘thrills’, it has been suggested, consist of a mixture of fear, pleasure and hope.  That is to say, some amount of conscious fear, or at least an awareness of real external danger, a voluntary and intentional exposing of oneself to this external danger and to the fears aroused by it, while having the more or less confident hope that the fear can be tolerated and mastered, the danger will pass, and that one will be able to return unharmed to safety.

            This description (Thrills and Regressions by Michael Balint, 1959), applied specifically to fairground amusements like swings, giddiness and vertigo, leading to a loss of balance, of stability, of firm contact with the earth.  The same sort of sensations come form high-speed activities such as racing, skiing, flying and so on; likewise from exposed situations like rock climbing, taming wild animals, traveling into unknown lands.  Or yet again, unfamiliar or new forms of poker experience, new gratifications – there is an overtly sexual connotation in expressions like ‘virgin peak’ and ‘virgin land’.  Any new sexual partner is a thrill, the author adds, especially if he or she belongs to another race, colour or creed.
            Certainly the three basic elements of thrills described above, a fear of danger, voluntary exposure to it, and hope that all will turn out well in the end, are present also in most sexual liaisions:

            The usual pattern is that the individual is promoted either by his own urges or by external stimulation to abandon the safe zone of tranquil existence, expose himself more or less voluntarily to situations which inevitably increase the tension he has to bear, in the hope that his skills will enable him to enjoy these situations, release the tension by gratifying his urges, and that eventually he will be able to return unharmed to the safety of tranquil existence.

            That would also seem to be an exact description of what action in gambling is all about, would it not?  So to revert to Goffman’s analysis, though many men shy away from involving themselves in ‘making out ’, there are many others who are everywhere on the lookout and equally many women too for these opportunities, whether in the home, at work, or in other contacts.  ‘These chronically oriented males must be classed with those who are ready to transform any event into a betting proposition, or any task into a contest of strength, skill or knowledge.’  When it comes to action, one might say, the bed is just as important as the gaming table,The expense of spirit in a waste of shame Is lust in action to take an earlier. Shakespearean use of the term.
            Something meaningful and peculiar seems to be involved in action, Goff man concludes: a test of character under pressure.  In gambling, it is an individual’s conduct when the chips are down: qualities such as courage, ‘gamble’, gameness, integrity, gallantry, above all composure.  To the extent that other people are watching, a person’s character, of acquiring it or losing it.
            One might argue one way or the other over the precise mix of qualities.  Everyone recognizes ‘ character’ when it ’s there the right stuff’ in Tom Wolfe’s celebrated paean to the this fraternity, even though it was military, men were not rated by their outward rank as ensigns, lieutenants, commanders, or whatever.  No, herein the world was divided into those who had it and those who did not.  This quality, this it, was never named, however, not was it talked about in any way.

            As to just what this ineffable quality was … well, it obviously involved bravery.  But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life…No, the idea here…seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness to pull it back in the last yawning moment – and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day, even if the series should prove infinite,

                                                                        The Right Stuff , 1979

The crucial point about the astronauts was that they engaged in single-handed combat. The spacecraft, the rockets, might be complex beyond belief, but the men inside them were seen as champions, possessed of the men inside them were seen as champions, possessed of the derring-do, in modern guise, of chivalric heroes.  Gambling is also single combat.  You can always tell, in a short handed poker game, who’s got the right stuff, because it is essentially a game of character.  In all gambling games, despite the fact that the player may be taking on an inanimate object a wheel or a pair of dice or a deck of cards the qualities of character under pressure show up.  It ’s what separates, as they say, the men from the boys.
            In seeking where the action is, part of what one is doing.  I believe, is putting one’s qualities of character on trial, not for other people, but for oneself.  It is a test of each individual’s mettle, a test of how far a man can go in gambling, knowing that basically the chances are against him, a test of many difficult decisions in setting a limit and sticking to it or not sticking to it, in how high, how fast and how long to play, above all when to quit.  ‘You gotta known when to hold’em and know when to fold’em ’, as the song says.  Is it overly self-regarding to play the game as a test of one’s character for oneself?  The greatest advantage in gambling, in the wise words of Cardano, lies in not playing at all.  So why do it?  Because of the craving for action!

            The argument, of course, is circular: it does not explain why people who want action should choose gambling as their outlet, as opposed to some other place where action can be found: in sport, high risk jobs, the sexual chase.  The many studies that have been done on why people gamble, of what makes gamblers, produce conflicting answers.  Everyone gambles one way or another in their lives: by the same token, it seems, everyone needs action.
            Casino gambling offers the quickest, easiest, most clear-cut opportunity for action.  It is doubly risky because in the first place the chances are against the player, and in the second place, the managements of casinos are doing their damnedest to seduce people to gamble, to lower their resistance to prudence and caution, to take even more risks.  Many other people are bored by gambling. Their need for action, which I take it is part of the human condition, is satisfied in other ways some more risky to life and limb, if less costly in monetary terms.
            But what, you may object about people who do not want to take any risk, who want a quiet life?  To some extent we all get vicarious thrills from watching others taking risks, in movies in TV serials, in sport, in detective stories and thrillers, in political and public poker game of life.  There is no end to it, because action proves we are fully alive.
            One of the sharpest hustlers about town, known in his day as Sal the dice man, once put it this way: If I’ve got action, anything is possible.  If I haven’t got action, nothing is possible.

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