VIVA LAS VEGAS newsletter

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, December 17, 2001-----In this Newsletter I report on:

'Greed' should be a four-letter word

By Guest Columnist Maryann Guberman

With as much exposure to casino gambling as  I've had, I should know better. With the number of
people I know on a casual and close basis who have lost mini-fortunes to the casino, I should
know better. But, they say experience is the best teacher and last month, I had my little experience
.... and now I know more clearly why most people lose at gambling.

My epiphany came on a Friday night when a friend and I went to a local casino for a quick bite,
an evening of listing to some terrific karaoke, and some video poker play. The meal was worth the
$6.95 plus tip; the music was outstanding; the video poker play was outstanding -- at least for a while.

I decided to try those newer 10-play machines, choosing nickels because I was down to my last
few gambling allowance dollars for the week. For those who aren't familiar with the 10-play
machines, they're like playing 10 machines a time -- sort of. You can play up to 10 coins per hand
but you can make a decision only on the base or first hand.

Understand, I consider myself a pretty darn good video poker player. Not only have I read all the
important books (I even helped author a couple), I practice regularly with Bob Dancer's WinPoker software.
But I hadn't done any research on the 10-play option so I wasn't sure whether there'd be much strategy change.

Not that it mattered. Within a few plays, I hit four deuces for $100 by holding two deuces on the
main hand and catching two more on the third hand.

On any other occasion, I'd consider that a nifty profit but not tonight. No, somehow those nickels
that added up to $100 weren't quite the same as $100 in quarters, especially when it costs
you $5 a pop to get to that point. Besides, that win came so easily, so quickly, surely it could come
again. Besides, we were planning to stay for at least another hour, so ...

So I played a few more hands and then a few more. And before I regained my sanity, I'd lose
more than half the hundred. And then I got angry with myself and ended up losing even more.
Soon, I was only $10 ahead!

At this point I understood why a friend of mine used to call herself stupid and pound her forehead
with her fist. After all, banks don't pay as much interest as I just won and lost.

So I cashed out and took the nickels to the automatic coin counter. And while I was waiting in
line, I did some soul-searching. Was this loss a turning point in my gambling life? Was this loss a
result of playing an unfamiliar game? Was this loss avoidable?

I was still bouncing questions off my brain cells and steaming about the loss when I decided
where some of the problem originated.

First of all, I was right. $100 in nickels doesn't seem as much money as $100 in quarters or in dollars
for that matter, especially for someone who rarely plays nickels. It's perception, really. On any other "payday,"
I'd have taken half that money and invested it in something I needed or wanted. On this day, I invested it
back in the casino and had nothing to show for it. If I want to invest in the casino, I should buy stock!
No, this wasn't the reason I fed all those credits back into that hungry machine.

Second, I was out for an evening of entertainment, not serious gambling. But as a
serious player on a budget, I shouldn't really be looking for that kind of entertainment. I'd have
been better off sitting in the keno lounge and playing a $1 ticket every 15 minutes. Valid point
but still not completely on target.

Third, I must have been greedy! That win came so quickly and seemed so easy, that I just knew
these machines were a gift to me and they were just waiting for me to run up the credits. Yeah, right!
You'd think I would know better and the fact that I "didn't" can be translated as greed, pure and simple.

On Saturday, I called one of my friends who borders on compulsive when it comes to video
poker, and asked her what she thought. I could see her nodding through the phone lines. "Yep,
you just can't believe you're not going to win more," she said. "It's as if you just got back the
money you lost tonight and now you want to win back the money you lost last Tuesday or last
week. Tell me about it -- I've been there." I was grateful she didn't say, "Welcome to the club."

Over the years I've written a number of essays, opinion pieces, and advice columns on how to
walk away from the casino winners. I wrote from experience and practice. I've used my winnings
at one time or another to buy a vehicle, a TV, Christmas presents, and airline tickets. I've used
my slot club points just as prodigiously. And here I was, doing exactly what I've warned people
against. I was going for the throat of the beast with no weapons.

As kids, when we made gross mistakes like this, we were paddled and forced to write stupid things
like, "I will not skip school again," a hundred times. Luckily, no one is going to paddle me over
this. But just as luckily, I won't berate myself for making the mistake. I just won't let it happen
again! (Besides, the paddling and writing didn't keep me from skipping school another time.)
But this episode gave me a new perspective on gambling and losing and losers, and naturally, I have advice.

If you play until you lose or hit a jackpot, you might be a compulsive. If possible, don't take all
your money with you when you go to the casino. If you lose what you have and aren't ready to go
home, try sitting in the lounge for a while. Or go outside for a walk. But don't go to the ATM or
even to your car where you might have a couple of dollars in the glove box. Resign yourself that
you've lost today's allowance and give up the ghost for the day.

If you win a jackpot and stay until you lose it, you are compulsive. Stop playing immediately and get
help! If you play until you lose or hit a major jackpot every time you go out, you might be a
compulsive. Think about getting some help. Maybe money's not important enough to you, but
likely, something else isn't important enough. Money can't buy everything, we know, but the lack
of money can cause a lot of heartache.

If you play until you lose, move down to a lower denomination game. Go from dollars to quarters
or quarters to nickels. This won't solve all your problems but your money might last longer and
you might get too tired to play before you run out of cash.

If you play until you lose, set a win/loss goal. Think of how much something you want or need
costs. Then, if you win enough money to buy that, cash out. Chances are, unless you're strong, you
might want to win "just a little bit more." Don't even try. Cash out. Take the money out of the
casino immediately! Put it in your car. Don't worry about somebody breaking in and stealing it. You
probably would have lost it anyway. Now, if you still have to play, take a small (I'll repeat that...
small) amount of the money back with you. Maybe, however, the fresh air will help
and you'll get home with the cash.

If you play until you lose, don't gamble alone. Go out with a friend who will be nearby and instruct
that friend to help you keep some of your winnings. When you have a healthy number of
credits, let the friend turn them into cash and keep most of it until it's time to go. Make sure you'll feel
embarrassed if you have to ask for more money. (And make sure it's a friend you can trust!)

Maybe one of the above points will help; maybe not. Sadly, gambling can become as addictive as
drugs. You can use it for escape, for pleasure, even for pain. What you should be using it for
is entertainment. So, before you step in the casino again, try to figure out why you play. If there's the
slightest bit of negativity in your answer, rethink your plans because once we're in a casino, we all
have the tendency to become kids in the proverbial candy store.


Maryann Guberman lives in Las Vegas and contributes articles regularly to several gaming
magazines. She is also the editorial director for the Gamblers Book Club. Their internet site is:

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