Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 42° Partly Cloudy

Poker loser: Want best odds? Don’t play

The Spokesman-Review

Richard L. – he belongs to Gambler’s Anonymous and thus will remain, well, anonymous – remembers when he was 15 years old and played cards every day all summer.

“At the end, I owed several thousand dollars to these guys I was playing with,” he said. “And I was 15! I had no way of coming up with that kind of money.”

And that was just the beginning of a lifetime of losing that ended only about ten years ago when he finally hit bottom and joined Gambler’s Anonymous.

He played every kind of gambling game he could find, finally gravitating toward Texas Hold ‘em, since that was what everyone was playing. He wasn’t a bad player.

“I studied it,” he said. “I could tell you the exact odds for hitting any possible (card). I considered myself a student. But you know what? It’s nonsense. It’s a rationalization.”

He said that if you truly study the odds, the obvious conclusion is: Don’t play at all.

He knew that even while he was gambling, yet he simply couldn’t stop. Winning or losing – it didn’t matter. He just kept craving the action.

“I remember one time I went up to a casino with $5,000 in my pocket and ran it all the way up to $2.3 million and lost it all before I came home,” Richard said. “So on my way home, I kept telling myself that I lost $5,000. If I had thought about it any other way, I would have killed myself. Because I lost enough basically to retire.”

He rarely, if ever, played within his means.

“There was just no hook, no excitement, so I always had to play for more than I could afford,” he said.

It finally caught up with him.

“I was practicing law at the time, and eventually, over a period of years, I first lost my business and then lost my license,” he said. “Yeah, I lost my Washington State Bar ticket.”

He will admit that some gamblers, of the non-compulsive variety, might be able to make money off it.

“An exceptional card player will set himself win limits and loss limits,” said Richard, who once managed a 129-table card room. “He will look for a certain kind of game – a game of newcomers, a tight game, a loose game. He’ll have a certain set of standards. Me? My criteria for a good game was that there was a seat open.”

He also acknowledges that most people aren’t problem gamblers like he was, and that some people can gamble with restraint as a form of entertainment.

Yet he’s worried that online gambling is luring ever younger kids into gambling.

“All they need is mom or dad’s credit card,” he said. “They could be 13.”

And he’s even more alarmed about the televised Texas Hold ‘em fad.

“It’s glamour, it’s excitement,” Richard said. “You never have to see these guys dig into their pockets. … It looks harmless. You go broke, you’re out of the tournament. That’s all that happens. It’s not like you can’t pay your rent, or you have to explain to your spouse why you don’t have any money, or you’re having your car repossessed. That’s the reality. People are losing their houses and their welfare checks.”

He uses the following analogy to describe the absurdity of the gambling life: “You take a new job, you go to work for a day and work your butt off for eight hours. And at the end of eight hours your boss comes in and says, ‘You did a great job. You owe me 100 bucks.’ Are you going to show up for work the next day? But we did.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.