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High Stakes and Sad Tales

Tomfoolery on the casino floor, featuring Dealer Malcolm and Gambler Osgood

High Stakes and Sad Tales

A poker news website called “High Stakes Database” recently published a column written by “Tom”—seriously, that’s literally what the article’s byline said, “Written by Tom”—headlined “The Saddest Things Ever Seen in a Casino.”

Some of the examples Tom cited actually were sad, like “Gambler Juniato” walking in front of a bus after losing all her money in a casino. Others, though, were not really sad—like “Gambler Tom” throwing strategy out the window to deliberately lose at blackjack, so his wife couldn’t get hold of his dough.

Apparently, Gambler Tom was upset because he caught his wife fooling around, and for some reason, he thought the best way to exact revenge would to become a pauper himself. “That’ll show her,” he thought.

By the way, that’s “Gambler Tom,” as opposed to “Tom” who wrote the article. The author seems to want to brand the tragic subjects of his sad stories as gamblers, so readers know it was gambling that led to all their woes, which he said were “both sad and shocking.”

For the record, the first story, which Tom listed last, was sad and shocking, for sure. But I wouldn’t say Gambler Tom’s story was sad or shocking. I’d describe it as unusual, perhaps baffling, and maybe even a bit comical.

The other supposedly sad tale, with which Tom led off his treatise on the evils of gambling, was not really sad, and certainly was not shocking. In fact, it’s not even unusual.

Just after Tom’s dramatic intro to the piece, in which he stressed that a casino can be “the scene of absolute devastation,” Tom related the tale of “An American in Australia.” It’s about “Malcolm,” an American working as a roulette dealer (that’s why he’s not “Gambler Malcolm”) in an Australian casino, who witnessed an elderly man win a car worth around $30,000 as a video poker jackpot. According to Malcolm, the winner went to a podium and said he’d put more than $600 into the video poker machine that day, before winning the $30,000 sedan.

My immediate reaction to learning this fact was this: “Good job!”

I mean, a $600 investment nets you a $30,000 car? That sounds like a boffo gambling session to me. Not to Tom (the writer, not the gambler), whose first reaction was this:

“Just how much had he spent over the years? Some days he probably spent at least $1,000, and had likely already paid for the car several times over.”

Tom thought this was “sad and shocking.” I call it rampant speculation that bends in a twisted contortion to arrive at—no, jump to—a conclusion.

First of all, spending at least $1,000 “some days,” on a near-zero-house edge game like video poker, definitely means there were other days when the man won at least $1,000. And maybe he even ended up winning on those days his wagers reached $1,000. Heck, it’s possible to spend all of $20 and end up with more than $1,000 going through the credit meter in wagers, maybe more than once. I’ve done it many times.

Secondly, the unnamed gambler—we’ll call him “Gambler Osgood”—obviously has enough money to gamble, clearly enjoys it, and suffers no negative effects from the activity. He may or may not have already paid for the car throughout the years several times over, but he probably also won just as often, and maybe more (he’s elderly, so he had time) and he had a great time along the way.

Just like me. I know I’ve paid for my free hotel room and free drinks many times over if you count losing wagers over the years. But I still love getting the free hotel rooms and free top-shelf liquor. (It makes me feel like Gambler Osgood.)

Is that sad and shocking? Of course not. I’ll maybe concede pathetic, but so is binge-watching Green Acres. I do that, and no one’s calling it some tragic tale.

Finally, it’s a car worth $30,000. What’s that, a Hyundai? I wouldn’t have needed to buy a Hyundai several times over in any event, so why is this even an issue?

Malcolm followed his sad tale of Gambler Osgood with a story of an occasion when he was stacking chips at his roulette table and a $25 chip rolled onto the floor, where a 60-year-old man “cat-like pounced on the floor, scurrying on his hands and knees across a heavily soiled carpet,” before grabbing the chip and running out the door.

OK, that is a little sad and shocking. I would never do that.

Well, not for anything less than a $100 chip, anyway.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.