This I Believe

Cara - palm springs, California
Entered on November 2, 2007

I have been around casinos most of my adult life and there is a lot to be learned because there are people in life who gamble and then there are gamblers.

Some people recoil in horror against gambling, and lead crusades to ban it. But there is one sure bet, each of us gambles, every day of our lives. We gamble that our investment in a college degree will guarantee us a good job, that the house we buy will increase in value, that the spouse we choose will not leave us for another, and that the company we buy stock in isn’t run by a CEO who cooks the books. But I can guarantee that if you play in a casino, just by reading a book, you can find out what your true odds are.

Calculating the true odds, is the key to gambling. To be successful a player has to know the rules and the odds. That is why there are so many books on basic strategy.

The rules of blackjack favor the house by a small percentage. Basic strategy instructs a player when to hit, when to split, and most importantly, when to increase their bet in order to decrease the house’s edge. All gamblers learn basic strategy, and they never stray from it. In contrast, people who gamble split tens based on a feeling.

When I announced my plans to become a blackjack dealer my distraught mother pleaded, “I did not send you to college, so that you could work in a casino, a place so bad it has SIN in the middle,” She was afraid that I was going to open my mouth and get whacked, by a mob boss.

When I arrived in Lake Tahoe, I found out (to my slight disappointment) that casinos are strictly on the up and up. Caesar’s is run like any other modern day corporation. It operates on the high volume — low return theory. A joint might entice you in with neon and free drinks, but all the contributions you make are strictly voluntary.

For many years, I changed jobs on a whim, dated men with terrible romantic pasts, and bought stock on tips supplied by friends. I believed I was a smart gambler, even though I usually lost. Frustrated, I decided to study the successful gamblers who played at my table.

Gamblers set limits, win or lose they leave when they reach them. People who gamble find it hard to walk away from a winning streak and even harder to walk away from a losing one. The casino doesn’t need to cheat, greed does most people in.

Gamblers realize that even if they play their best game they won’t always win, but they keep their cool. Because some days the cards just don’t run your way. People who gamble are easily frustrated by a loss and look for someone to blame, usually me.

Now that I apply these lessons to my life, things are great. When our contractor abandoned our house, I chalked it up to a loss, and my husband and I finished the job ourselves. I don’t buy stocks on tips anymore, I use income diversification. I married a trustworthy man, and though I can’t guarantee happily ever after, I know that after eleven years we have already beaten the odds.