Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The House Always Wins

It’s been said that gambling is cheap entertainment for people who are poor in math.

It doesn’t take much sense to know that, in the long run, the house always wins. Always. They wouldn’t play if they didn’t. They’re smarter than that. Many times, the same can’t be said of their customers.

It’s true that in the short run, it is possible to make more money in a few seconds than what the ceo of Exxon makes in a year of retirement. The chances of that happening are almost negligible. Let’s just assume that’s not going to happen in your lifetime. Or mine.

Which brings us to today’s story from the Associated Press. In 1991, John Daly entered the pga Championship as the ninth alternate. That’s kinda equivalent to starting the Indianapolis 500 on the outside of the 33rd row. Or starting a Major League Baseball season with the word “Royals” on the front of your jersey.

In other words, he wasn’t expect to win. But he won. Instant success. Instant fame. Fans everywhere. Endorsement contracts. Okay, so he wasn’t a Tiger, but he had a pretty comfortable life.

In the next 15 years, he won a total of five pga Tour victories. And he lost somewhere between $50 and $60 million dollars gambling. I can’t even imaging earning that much money, let alone losing it.

He’s rehabbing now, but he’s gotta be looking over his shoulder saying “Wow, I coulda been rich!”

Daly tells the story of last fall when he won $750,000 in a tournament, drove to Las Vegas, and promptly lost $1.65 million in five hours. How does one do that, you ask? By playing $5,000 slot machines. He was actually betting more on one pull of a handle than most cars that I have bought. And he was doing it over and over and over.

He tells another story about how he lost $600,000 in 30 minutes. What was his response? He borrowed another 600 grand from the casino. It took him two hours to lose that.

At one time, Daly owed $4 million dollars to casinos. Fortunately, he won the 1995 British Open. The earnings from that paid the casino debt. I guess the tournaments were kinda like an enabler, letting him make stupid decisions and then bailing him out of them.

During the time he was doing all this gambling, he was still playing a winning golf game. But his earnings from golf totaled “only” $8.7 million. I guess wearing all those Nike shirts made him enough money to play his stupid little games.

Okay, I’m not going to get into the moral aspect of gambling. But if you decide to treat it as “cheap” entertainment, at least practice “safe” gambling. Set yourself a “walk-off” limit and stick to it.

Approach the floor with only a certain amount of cash in your pocket and expect to lose it all, because you will. Play that money, have fun, get your free drinks.

And when that money is gone, get up, thank (and tip) the dealer, and get out of there as fast as you can. Enjoy your memories of the eye candy and adrenalin rush.

Next time, do the math and ask yourself if it’s really worth it. If you think you can afford to lose $60 million on earnings of $8.7 million, go for it. The Associate Press will do an article about you. And I’ll have material for another blog entry.

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