By Vince Van Patten
Gambling! Good or bad? It is an age old question. Is this hobby/addiction/slice of life a good thing? I’ve pondered that for years.
For me, the action, the wagering on chance, on cards, horses, poker, or whatever, was always natural for me. A “spice of life.” Something I was inherently attracted to and considered a wonderful deviation.
Not everyone feels this way.
My father was a gambler. He taught me everything I wanted to know, and some things I didn’t, about gambling, all before the age of seven.
At 13, I ran a crap game at junior high and would pitch quarters to a wall on a daily basis. I went to school equipped with a racing form, at which I studied as a ‘bible.’
I played poker with school chums, dealt three-card monte, made sports bets with anyone, basically speaking. Gambling was always a big part of my life.
Now I’ll save the other interesting details about when I got older and how it progressed throughout my 20s, 30s, and 40s and still does through today for another time.
Today, I want to talk about whether it is morally right or wrong to gamble. For me, I have no problem with it.
I’ve taken my hits with the best of them. I’ve learned to lose and win and do so with a certain amount of angry resistance or grace that comes with putting my money on the line and gambling for stakes that can hurt.
I’ve been lucky at times, and unlucky as well. I’ve schooled myself. I’ve played well. I’ve picked my spots and like to think I have “feel” for when to get in, and when to get out. I haven’t lost my house (yet). I’ve never stiffed a bet, and sometimes, okay, most the times, I’ve enjoyed my life in the gambling world. But I must humbly say, I’m probably in the minority.
But is it good? For everyone? Hardly. It can affect people in a negative way, that’s for sure. Bring a certain percentage to its knees, three percent they say, according to Gamblers Anonymous.
To some, it’s a dark hole, a nightmare addiction. They can lose everything, and some have, and that’s sad. But to the other 97 percent? Is it fair not to let the other 97 percent not have their little fun?
Some people obviously want it and crave it. Been going on since the start of time. Besides, in life, you’re always gambling in some form believe it or not. Making important decisions that have serious financial consequences. We do this every day whether you know it or not. You gamble when you choose what school to go to, which job to take, who to befriend, or even when you get married. Right?
So, I’ll keep on gambling because for me it works. Because to me, there are some really good things about it. When people have action on a game or play the lottery …there’s a dream that’s very much alive. That’s important. No matter how small it is. Also in poker, it can be very social. Many lonely people can go to the table and make new friends. And if you lose a lot, you’ll make a lot of new friends!
But seriously, it’s not just the social aspect. Or the dream. For me, and many others, it’s the challenge.
I enjoy battling wits and beating the odds. I enjoy the proposition of putting myself, and my opinion, on the line (at poker or anything else) for the only true test that means anything – cash.
I always tell my amazing wife (who loves the gambling action herself, and takes 50 percent of all my sports betting), “Babe, whoever picks the game for us today is either the hero or the bum. You want in?”
And then we decide who does the picking then that day becomes a lot more interesting. It’s more intense, more fascinating, and definitely more entertaining. Because now your opinion is on the line. Your cash qualifies your gambling skills, and you get a rush, possibly some well-earned bragging rights.
You’re not like those non-betting sports announcers on TV who waffle both ways not to look bad! “If the Rams can stop the run I like their chances, if they don’t I like New England’s.”
No. There are no “ifs” in cash betting! You put your money where your mouth is and now you have to live with it! Good for you! But, you get action…one way or the other! At least for that day. Or that moment. And you should be proud! Sometimes you’re the hero… and sometimes you’re the bum.
But it doesn’t matter, because you played. You gambled. You put yourself on the line.
I love putting myself on the line. Is gambling good or bad? To me, it’s just a part of life. One I don’t think I’ll ever give up. Meanwhile, anybody got a little money I can borrow?
Till next time…play loose and bluff on the river!