Gambling

I must confess that I love to gamble.  I first realized this when I was in college.  I guess I fell in among evil friends who influenced me in this direction.  I don’t regret this evil influence one iota.


When I first began to gamble, I realized that I loved it...maybe a little more than was healthy.  I gave up both eating and smoking for a time to finance my gambling.  I enjoyed this episode in spite of the sacrifices, and it served as a good lesson for me: I’ve always kept a close eye on my temptation to gamble more than I can afford.


Two-thirds of the adult population placed some form of bet last year.  Since 1975, gambling has grown tenfold in the U. S.  Casinos pull in about $30 billion each year. Thirty-seven states now have lotteries.    Lotteries sell about $40 billion worth of chances annually.  Although illegal in the U. S., internet gambling has doubled every year since 1997; it’s now over $2 billion wagered annually.


My first love was bourre, but while at LSU, I also participated in betting on football games.  It was totally illegal but readily available undoubtedly run by the Mafia.  I never got to meet any of these fellows for a payoff.  I always bet 10 games which provided the biggest payout, but the odds were pretty astronomical against winning.  I guess I overestimated my football knowledge; who doesn’t?


After moving to Somerville, I fell in with a few local young fellows about my age who had contact with a bookie.  We pooled our knowledge and our money to place bets on college games.  Apparently the sum of the parts was less than the individual parts.  It was a short-lived association because, once again, we overestimated our football knowledge.  Oh, well.


As I said, my first choice for gambling is bourre.  My friend Jim and I played many a hand of bourre sitting at the same table.  The beauty of the card game is that the rules are simple and the stakes can accelerate rapidly.  I paid my dues to learn the game, but I was never as good as Jim, but good enough for everyday use. 


When one plays bourre, patience is essential.   Losing one’s patience and one’s memory can lead to losing money and losing a playing partner.   To one bourre game, I was accompanied by Woody, a good friend but not a regular gambling buddy.  I took abuse all evening from the host about my conservative play.  At the close of the card game, not unexpectedly, I was the big winner.  The host egged the folks remaining in the early hours of the morning to cut cards.  Against my better judgment, I participated: I lost all my winnings and hastily departed the premises disgusted with my foolishness.  About ten miles down the road on the way home, I suddenly realized that I had left Woody at the disgruntled host’s home without a ride.  I hung for a few moments between returning to pick him up or continuing home.  Continuing home won out: surely he’d get a ride home.  The next afternoon I gave Woody a call.  Yes, he had gotten home just fine.  He had called for a cab.  Good.  However he was a little unhappy about the fact that the gay cab driver had made a move on him.  Oh, well, I guess I can’t count on Woody for the next card game.


When I came to Texas and to Somerville, I found a few folks about my age who liked to play cards for a few bucks.  Sometimes it was poker; sometimes bourre.  Sometimes they were friendly games; sometimes there was a hint of hostility, but they were card games which was good enough for me.  But I was pretty much on my own.  I’ve always felt more comfortable when attending card games with a buddy...just in case.


Fortunately after Linda and I married, I realized that I had not only gained a life partner but had also gained a gambling buddy.


Linda, being much smarter than I, was slow to warm to the whole gambling thing.  One of our earliest gambling endeavors together was one of the most fortuitous. We decided to participate in a gambling board at the old Country Inn.  Linda and I were pretty broke at the time, but we put down ten dollars on a Texas-Texas A&M Thanksgiving football game with a total pay out of $500.  It paid off by quarters.  Linda and I won the first and last quarters, $250.  We really needed the money at the time, and Linda began to warm to the idea of gambling.


I taught Linda the game of bourre.  This was probably one of the best educational attempts I ever made.  I gave her the benefit of my hard-earned experience, and she proved to be an excellent student, and I trusted her enough to support her playing in any bourre game, regardless of the ante.  We had a lot of fun playing bourre at the same table.  We also enjoyed the money won.  The few local folks who really liked to gamble, dispersed or died or did both.  We became limited to playing for matchsticks or pennies with friends.  Not very satisfying.


Today about my only chance to play cards is at the annual fantasy football party.  Do you know that gambling at cards, even a friendly game, is illegal?  What a bunch of hooey.  I recall that some of our leading citizens were fined for participating in a card game at the local American Legion.  Usually the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ignores such gatherings.  I suspect in this case that their hand was forced by a local bad loser and spoil sport who petitioned the Bureau folks to stop this sinful activity.  A curse on whoever it was.


I recall the first time Linda and I ever played a slot machine together.  It was in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  We had been visiting New Orleans and made a run over to Mississippi to do a little gambling at a casino.  I purchased some dollar tokens and began to explain to Linda how the slot machines worked.  On the third dollar token, she won three hundred: lesson complete.  To say she was hooked is an understatement.


We’ve gambled in Lake Charles, Kinder, Marksville, New Orleans, Natchez, Bay St. Louis, Biloxi,  and Gulfport and several places in Oklahoma; we’ve gambled on land and water.  We’ve never been to Las Vegas: Linda would go in a heartbeat, but I’m not much for flying.  I don’t think Texas will ever wise up to the wisdom of legalizing casinos in Texas.  Texas allows nonprofit bingo and the state lottery but can’t pull the trigger on casinos.  Go figure.  Although I’m a little tempted to play some of the card games at the casinos, we limit ourselves to the slots.  I prefer to let the gods of gambling determine my fate, not skill.  Watching Linda play is worth the trip.  Although Linda gets discouraged pretty easily, she usually responds to my encouraging words to keep playing...one more spin.  Although we lose more than we win, we truly enjoy the experience together.  Today when we get a nice payout at a casino, it’s nice but I hardly click my heels over it.  I guess that’s just part of becoming older and wiser and more prosperous.  However, I do miss the old days when the money gambled was really meaningful...at least to me. 


Of course when Texas lotto came along (authorized in 1991, began in 1992) twenty years ago, we jumped on the bandwagon.  Since the first lotto drawing, we’ve invested $10 a week (over 10,000 dollars over 20 years) on this venture.  Yeah, yeah, I know the odds of winning are astronomical, but the potential payout is enormous.  I don’t mind investing $520 a year for the opportunity.  We’ve used the same numbers in every drawing.  The most we’ve ever won is a little over a hundred bucks.  I don’t even think about winning the big prize, it’s just participating that is important to me.


Of course the scratch-off tickets give one a little better odds.  We purchase a handful of these once a week.  Some weeks this is the highlight of my week: I know, I know, a pretty sad life.  I’d say we just about break even on these little fellows.


Speaking of the lottery, there’s a quick stop about fifteen miles north of us that has sold two state winners, millions of dollars.  You should see the folks line up to purchase chances there.  Like many things, I don’t get it: what are they thinking?


Online gambling has officially been banned in the U. S. although it has been available through offshore operations.  The door was cracked open recently by the Justice Department’s opinion which may allow states and their lotteries to bring online gambling to their state’s residents as long as it doesn’t involve sports.  I have to admit I’ve been a little tempted by online gambling, but the part of me that has good sense has avoided it.  I’ll save it for my days ahead when old age prohibits my traveling.  I guess I’ll have to place two chairs in front of the computer, so Linda and I can share the experience. 

enough







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