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 statistics. 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!