ODDSMAKER...in a risky world

My mother taught me the rules of poker when I was about 7 years old. I 
loved the game. Playing cards was one of the few activities I enjoyed 
with her. She ran the kitchen at a summer camp for rich boys in the 
Texas Hill Country; part of her compensation was free "tuition" for me.

For chips in the daily games of draw poker we used spent .22 caliber 
shell casings gleaned from the rifle range. My late father had been a 
world class marksman and I was a good shot and very aggressive about 
collecting "chips."

In the sixties I discovered California card rooms, which were the only 
legal form of gambling in the state - made so by a court ruling that 
decreed draw poker to be a game of skill rather than chance. This was 
proven by the fact that good players win rather consistently without 
cheating. I found out how to win with some regularity by studying books, 
talking to successful players, and participating in public games in 
California and Nevada. Chubby Crank had private games which frequently 
became such high stakes affairs that I could actually make a living 
playing. I was fairly good at it but got bored because the main 
requirement was almost unbelievable patience: waiting for good hands in 
the company of dull people in smoke-filled rooms while essentially 
chained to a table.

The most common misunderstanding most people have about gambling is that 
there is pre facto knowledge of an outcome, a hunch or correct 
intuition. The technical names for this delusion are "coulda, shoulda, 
woulda" and "if only I'da."

People who succeed at playing poker or betting on horse races often 
pretend to believe in luck and sometimes feign superstition; this is 
usually contrived to lure losers into continuing self-defeating 
behavior, such as drawing to inside straights or selecting horses by 
program number rather than speed and stamina.

To a winning player the clients are "live ones", "producers", or 
"attractions", never "suckers": valued clients best handled by agreeing 
with their delusions concerning the law of averages and the nature of 

At the chicken fights, horse races, and poker tables there is one 
element that seems universal: there is an association between betting 
and "manhood." When the cockfighter says "ain't a chicken in the world 
can kill this rooster" he is considered less than a man if he won't back 
his feelings with money. Poker players try to "run over" women players 
with bluffs that are transparent to good players. Many horsemen let 
pride of ownership cloud their evaluation of their horses' capabilities.

This machismo can be expensive but it is characteristic of many of the 
groups I have encountered. You can get a lot of good bets by locating 
the delusion that because it's "my team" I will ignore the odds to 
demonstrate my support with money!