Al Batt: Never gamble more than your beneficiaries can lose

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Do you gambol?

Al Batt

I thought that was an odd question coming from the fellow moving through the casino’s buffet line ahead of me. 

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“I do skip or leap about in play occasionally and I’m not opposed to a bit of cavorting or frolicking,” I replied, wondering where the conversation was headed.

He gave me a look as if I were a visitor from another galaxy.

“Oh, you meant ‘gamble,’” I said with a forehead-slapping realization. That was a fair question to ask another in a casino.

I told him my father had convinced me that gambling had more ways of taking my money than a roomful of lawyers.

The man told me he gambled and had once gambled away his car. He said Hertz was furious. 

“Why do you keep gambling?” I asked.

“Because I know how. And if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

He could strut sitting down.

In the film “Dumb and Dumber,” Lloyd Christmas (played by Jim Carrey) confessed his love for Mary Swanson.

Lloyd: “What are my chances?”

Mary: “Not good.”

Lloyd: “You mean ‘not good’ like one out of a hundred?”

Mary: “I’d say more like one out of a million.”

Lloyd: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

I’m not against gambling. I’ve purchased raffle tickets for good causes, entered a couple of March Madness pools and eaten my cooking. I was in a fantasy football league one year until I drafted players from movies like Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait), Burt Reynolds (“The Longest Yard”) and Nick Nolte (“North Dallas Forty”).

I talked to a lottery winner. He hadn’t won $1.6 billion, but it was a sizeable jackpot. He spent his winnings on 17th-century artwork and musical instruments, which left him baroque.

Any deck of cards hiding in our home has fallen into a harmless state of disuse. I’d played penny-ante poker with high school buddies, but unlike riding a bicycle, I’ve forgotten how to play cards. I could stumble my way through a spirited game of solitaire, go fish or 52-card pickup. In my youth, refined folks played bridge. I drove over one and fished from another. I saw people playing pfeffer, hucklybuck, gin rummy and euchre. They thumped cards onto the table with a snarl of victory or a growl of admitted defeat. It was a combination soapbox and soap opera. Men told time-enhanced stories of when they were my age and tried not to discuss the Gabor sisters or chafing problems as they dealt the cards. They didn’t own tote bags and giggled as men claim we don’t. Wilfrid Sheed wrote, “The American male doesn’t mature until he has exhausted all other possibilities.”

I told stories at Harrah’s in Reno. Tip sheets told people how much money had been paid out each day and which slot machines were due to hit. Still, the nearby pawn shops were prospering. I’m not sure how many pawn shops there are in Reno, but I read Las Vegas has 22. Texas has far more pawn shops than any other state, followed by Florida and Georgia. Vermont has the fewest. The city with the most is Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the country, followed by Miami, Florida.

I watched the winners and the losers at Harrah’s. None exhibited the energy of a hummingbird. Happy wasn’t the happiest.

When tempted to gamble, I remember the nonsensical words of Lewis Carroll, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”

I avoided the frumious Bandersnatch — almost. I played a penny slot machine at another casino, just so I could say I’d played a slot machine. Like Mary Swanson, it told me there was a chance. It took me a long time to lose a dollar, but lose a dollar I did, which still stings because my airbag hadn’t deployed. Just think what I could have bought with that dollar. A small piece of bubblegum, perhaps?

It wouldn’t have mattered had I won. As Homer Simpson said, “He might have all the money in the world, but there’s one thing he can’t buy. A dinosaur.”

Life is a gamble; be sure to gambol.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.