Thursday, February 27, 2014


If you hang around gamblers enough you begin to be as superstitious as they are. And, they all are. The good omens they conjure up are as plentiful as the bad ones. Those of us who know something about the numbers are sure that none of those superstitions make any sense at all. Or do they?

Coolers and Lucky Charms

If you are a gambler and you haven’t seen the film “The Cooler” with William H. Macy, Maria Bello, and Alec Baldwin, rent it right away. Coolers are for real and if you’ve ever spent time around casinos you know they are.

In the movie, the Macy character, Bernie Lootz, is a casino employee with a down-in-the-mouth look, a depressed life, and a black cloud that follows him everywhere. When his boss, Shelly Kaplow, the Baldwin character, sees a hot table developing on the in-house video system, he sends Bernie in. Bernie shoulders up to the crowded table, pulls a few chips out of his pocket, makes a bet, and the table immediately goes dead! It’s not scientific; there’s no rational explanation; he just has this uncanny ability. Bernie walks away, the boss is happy, and the house wins again. Of course the whole thing turns around when Bernie finds love (Maria Bello plays the love interest) and his cooling abilities suddenly vanish.

Now, I’m not saying that casinos hire “coolers.” What I am saying is that there definitely are people who can walk up to a table or “sit down” in an online scenario and shut down the good vibes immediately. On the other extreme, there are those who can turn an otherwise dull table into a win-fest.

How many times have you been at a craps table when someone has held onto the dice for a good 20 minutes? Everyone has their bets doubled and tripled, their racks are full, the pit boss has a frown on his face and the dealers are smiling from all the tokes sent their way. Then some puny rat pushes his way in, drops a $5 chip on the “Don’t” and everything goes to hell in a hand basket! It happens all the time; you know it! Coolers are for real.

If you are in an online poker tournament slowly losing your stake hand by hand and suddenly someone with the handle of “GhostRider13” gets pulled from your table to fill a gap in another and before you know it your stack starts growing again! You hope, of course, that you won’t run into this “black cat” at the final table!

Then again, you know that you’ve been at craps tables late on a Saturday night that are uneventful when suddenly out of no where a loud, drunken, old guy with his hat askew appears, puts his drink down, waits for the dice and rolls for an hour! Lucky charms? You bet! The problem with these guys is that you can never predict when they are going to arrive and often they are just boisterous, rude, and disrespectful – traits that we all would be happy to tolerate if they consistently made passes.

Like everything that has to do with gambling, it’s all so very unpredictable. But that’s why they call it gambling. Those of us who can keep our wits about us and take all this mumbo jumbo in stride and chalk it up to chance and happenstance will survive to play another day. I have; you can too.


I have a few stories (articles) that I've written about gambling in general that are worth sharing. Hopefully you will find them entertaining.


My daughter is precocious. She was always the one chosen to give the speech at the end of the year exercises in grammar school. She was the one chosen at 16 years of age to be the manager of the entire supermarket where she expected to work only as a cashier. She was the one who after getting her undergraduate degree and spending a few years out on her own, decided she wanted to return to school to be a nurse practitioner and found enough grant money and scholarships to do it.

She was also the pretty, bright eyed, 5 year old who proudly stood among the other kindergarteners and boldly announced when the teacher held up the number “2” for all to identify, “That’s a ‘deuce!’”

We taught our kids about gambling early and we never regretted it. Gambling, like drinking, eating, and using medications, is a part of life and the sooner a child learns how to handle all of these potentially addictive behaviors the better.

We not only played Uno and Old Maid in our house, we also played Poker and Casino, Rummy and Mahjong; We not only enjoyed the tension and excitement of Monopoly and Yahtzee, but we also played craps on a green felt layout that we spread over the dining room table or on the floor. When we weren’t paying attention our kids sometimes played on this layout with their friends!

Our children accompanied us on Saturday outings to Monticello race track and Friday night church bingo sessions. At the race track the novelty of picking numbers from a scratch sheet wore off very quickly and off they’d go exploring and playing with the other kids whose parents brought them along for a day in the sun. Church bingo nights were more about Danish and hot dogs than covering numbers on a paper sheet.

They learned how to count, add, strategize, win and lose, take a risk or fold while they were very young and neither of them is the worst for it today. My precocious daughter lives in Vegas with her military husband and rarely makes a wager but enjoys it when she does. My son, in his forties, rarely, if ever, places a bet on anything.

Unfortunately, some people think gambling is categorically bad. These are often the same people who think nothing of investing a great deal of money in the stock market. The stock market is a huge gamble. Some will say that you need to be in the market for the long term to reduce the risk. Tell that to those who recently lost all of the retirement funds they had invested over the years as the stock market plunged. Life is a gamble, let’s face it. Better to learn how to handle the risks than avoid going out of the house altogether.

My wife and I continue to take pleasure in the ups and downs of gambling (we do still invest judiciously in the stock market too!) and, when the opportunity presents itself, we teach our grandkids the same things we taught our kids. Twos or deuces – there’s really not much difference.