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Loran Smith Columnist

Published Saturday, April 07, 2012

Gambling and the lottery

In case you haven’t heard, I did not win the lottery. 

Wasn’t much chance that I could become a lucky stiff since I didn’t purchase a ticket? In fact, I never have played the lottery. I have played enough poker to know that when you major in gambling, you are going to spend a lot of time for little reward.

Once or twice I joined some guys for a weekend in the mountains for a poker game that began late Friday afternoon and didn’t end until the wee hours. Then the next day everybody slept in and following mid-morning bloody Mary’s, the game began again. After a late lunch and a nap, it was time for the next marathon session late afternoon until the wee hours. I was one of the winners and took home something like $28. My contribution for food and refreshment was more than that. Spent the whole weekend hoping for a full house or the low spade on split-the-pot games. While the fellowship with good friends was refreshing, wouldn’t I have been better served to go fishing or have read a book?

During my college days, I got into a casual poker game and had a streak of luck. It was a nickel, dime game, but by the end of the first week, I had pocketed about $20. The day after, I went to a local men’s store and bought a charcoal sweater. My plan was then to play with the remaining $5, but guardedly. When that ran out, I planned to back away from the game. Good fortune followed.

Had another good week and won another $20. I was back to the men’s store again — this time the choice was a brown sweater.

This went on for about a month, until one day that $5 I had tucked away to continue playing went pretty quick. I stuck to my plan and left the game. You should have heard the howls and threats.

Las Vegas is fun, but I watch others gamble away their savings or their hard earnted income or their inheritance. My sense of the crap tables is that the house guy seems always to be raking the chips in his direction. I don’t understand keno and those playing roulette usually are frowning. Most slot machine aficionados need Tommy John surgery by the time they return home.

There is something redeeming about Vegas, however. I like the shows and the bright lights and the art gallery at the Bellagio. The food is good, and the people-watching is sometimes spectacular although I have noticed that there are a lot of older guys with their young nieces everywhere you go in Las Vegas.

The best thing about Las Vegas is the shows. You can enjoy some exceptional entertainment that leaves you laughing and often exhilarated. Talent finds its way to the desert. And so does the thieves, the hustlers and the IRS agents.

Ten years from now, we may hear a tragic story or two about the big winners last week. Somebody will likely blow the millions that came their way in the windfall of a lifetime. It was interesting to hear all those interviewed while purchasing tickets muse about what they would do if they marked the winning ticket. People always wax generously about what they don’t have. Likely they would have promised to share with special people in their life— one guy said he would build a hospital.

All of this was a reminder of the story of two country yokels walking down a dusty road and one said to the other, “If you had a million dollars would you give me half?” His buddy replied, “Sure. As good of friends as we are, if I had a million dollars I’d give you half.”

They walked a little further and the guy said, “If you had 100 bales of cotton would you give me half?” Again a generous reply. “Sure. As good a friends as we are, if I had 100 bales of cotton, I’d give you 50 bales.”

A few more steps and this question. “If you had two hogs, would you give me one?” His friend shot him a piercing glance and said, “Man you know I’ve got two hogs.”

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