Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Learning the Hard Way: An Education at the Craps Table

Growing up in an urban environment in a family of Italian ancestors, you were never very far away from some sort of gambling. The swarthy guys hanging around the street corner candy shops with scratch sheets of the day’s races were a familiar sight. Running home after elementary school each day to pick up my grandfather’s 15cents for a loaf of French bread and his long list of three digit numbers to be played at a nickel and dime apiece seemed normal and natural. Unloading your brother’s piggy bank for a fist full of change to play poker in the park with a bunch of like-minded friends was a weekly activity.

So, in my early thirties awaiting the opening of the only legal casino gambling in the USA outside of Las Vegas, was something like a dream come true. Atlantic City in 1978 held a good deal of promise as a place to makes one’s fortune the easy way.

My father-in-law was a much more experienced and much more fervent gambler than I would ever be. Soon after Resorts International opened, he made the three hour journey there 2 or 3 times a week, parked himself by a craps table and played until he was satisfied or broke. Following a rather successful week of winnings where he was way ahead of the game and proved it by buying bicycles for each and every grandchild, he invited me along to learn the game.

“It’s an easy game!” he said on the long drive down. “Whatever I do, you do!” Eager to learn I fingered the small wad of “hundies” in my pocket – his winnings from the previous week that he had handed over to me as “seed money.” It all seemed easy enough!

And that’s what I did. Every time he pulled out a hundred dollar bill and plunked it down on the table in exchange for chips, I plunked down one of the ten he had given me. Every time he made a $5 pass line bet, I did too. Come bets, hard ways, no problem. And on and on until his $1000 was gone and so was mine! We stared at each other in dismay. His luck had changed and mine never got off the ground.

Yet, for me that first frenzied losing session at the crap table just doing whatever he did, taught me a lot about gambling and craps in particular. Easy come, easy go is not a common expression for no reason. To this day I rarely, if ever, take out a second hundred dollar bill at the same craps table or at the same online casino game. A hundred dollars can become a thousand very quickly. You can get a good education at a craps table.

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