Written by Pat Boardman
Playing the Game and Knowing the Odds
Civilizations all through history have enjoyed peaks of development where people find themselves with a wealth of leisure time to pursue sports, hobbies, and games of chance. Human nature demands that the mind stay active so that the individual remains competitive and promotes survivability for the mere six cubic feet of existence he finds himself inhabiting. This invites an examination of this constant urge to walk the tightrope and the irresistible instinct to tempt fate.
If people knew the ultimate outcome of their lives, there's a good chance they wouldn't enjoy venturing out of the womb in the first place. Life is a gamble, and the first prize is the fact that we got here at all. When you consider the infinitely improbable odds that you are somehow looking out of a pair of eyes as a living person, it's a jackpot that most of us take for granted. In spite of this, humans can't resist laying it all on the line.
Risk-taking is associated with strength of character, courage, and tenacity. People routinely climb cliffs, go skydiving, drive racecars and such as exciting pastimes. Things can and do go terribly wrong every so often; a friend coming down on a parachute hits two hydro wires simultaneously and is killed.a hiker ventures far out into the woods and is mauled by a bear.a snowmobile falls through the ice and a fun afternoon turns into a tragedy. The human being himself is set out as the wager, whether he's running with the bulls in Pamplona or playing frequent rounds of golf on busy public courses where impatient foursomes in the rear are only too eager to zing golf balls past his head, and sudden bolts of lightning can zero in on a bag of clubs in order to pull the poor duffer up by his cleats into the great beyond.
Betting on things like cards, dice, horses, dogs and other forms of gambling has been a long-established pastime throughout history. Betting money is a substitute that compensates for the adventurous inclination to take physical risks where a person stands to pay with his life should Lady Luck desert him. The placebo effect satisfies the competitive urge of our genetic heritage and provides a more controlled recreational environment. Putting it simply, you have a very good chance of coming out of the casino with the same number of body parts as when you went in.
In spite of having constructive elements, gambling has been wrongly associated with vice; it's also lumped in with drugs and alcohol as addictive behavior. Images are conjured up of back alley craps games, pawnshops, and goons collecting losses. The recent explosion in popularity of poker tournaments is now showing the traits of entertainment and social interaction that gambling is intended to provide. The average person has a chance of getting good online and advancing to televised professional tournaments.
The positive effects of gambling are many, but like all activities there are a percentage of people who let things get out of hand financially and run into problems. They don't set affordable betting limits, they don't follow time restraints, and they think they are going to beat the game on a lasting basis - all the while knowing that the odds are against them. People who cast blame on gaming are the same ones that joke about their weekly lottery tickets and what they will do when they win. Keep in mind that the government joyfully participates in running lotteries as a cash cow because it is such a profitable numbers game. Consider these statistics: your odds of getting hit by lightning are one in two hundred and eighty thousand. Your odds of winning a lottery jackpot are one in a hundred and forty-six million, one hundred seven thousand, six hundred and ninety-two. People still buy tickets regularly without giving it a second thought.
A few can afford weekly tickets, but the vast majority of players are non-gamblers who hold onto a desperate wisp of hope that someday they'll be free of the dreary grind of scraping by every day, and they spend money they can't afford. They are in a far different category from those who understand the odds and observe the disciplines of the game. People who know the rules and are able to match wits with those they play are also wise enough to know when it's time to step away from the table and avoid chasing losses. Only the person who can assess his situation and make an educated guess on his next move will avoid the pitfalls that await the undisciplined gambler, drinker, drug user, sky diver, or motorcycle racer - any of those daring types who thrive on adrenalin rushes.
Avoiding any addiction requires a stable support base of family and friends to recognize the problem while it develops and intervene accordingly. Alcoholism is an addiction that is far more damaging than others because the drunken person believes that instead of going home, he should have a nightcap of thirteen or fourteen more, and then tries to drive home. The wife and children are usually neglected as obstacles to his escape into the security of the bottle. Parents expose babies and children to second-hand smoke as if it was their right to maintain that addiction no matter how much it damages those they are supposed to be caring for.
Those who enjoy gambling should be able to stay within their financial boundaries and know when it's time to call it a night. If you have sixty dollars to wager and you happen to lose it in two hours, then you've had some interesting fun for thirty dollars an hour. If you find yourself ahead after two hours, don't overstay your welcome. It may be better to tuck a few dollars in your shirt and wander home as a winner. If you get greedy and unlucky at the same time, you might end up losing that shirt.
About the author:
Songwriter, martial artist, former radio newsman, and novelist Pat Boardman writes on subjects of entertainment and health. His writings and music are found on his website Rock Music Records. Downloads are available for members of MP3 Extension where visitors can hear samples of each song.
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