I’m not a gambler. Um, well, I’m not a conventional gambler. Just being a writer is gambling. I pound out story starts that may never get endings. I submit or share drafts and hope my work will be well received. And I do freelance work to keep the lights on so I can write fiction into the night.
Writing leaves enough to chance for me, but many people love to gamble and I’m fascinated by their worship of LUCK. When I learn that a friend, client, colleague or acquaintance enjoys trips to Atlantic City and/or Vegas, buys lottery tickets on a regular basis, or participates in sports pools, I feel compelled to inquire. I want to understand what it is about courting chance that inspires them to play—and play and play.
Compulsive gambling is a big, bad deal and, like other compulsive behaviors, is self-destructive. We all know people addicted to food, or to being thin, or to work, or to working out, or to shopping, etc. It’s also obvious that, in smaller doses, there’s nothing wrong with food, staying fit, working hard, going to the gym, enjoying a bargain, etc. It’s the scale of the behavior and the overwhelming compulsion that pushes normal eating—and normal gambling—into the big/bad category.
I’m most interested in the normal end of the scale, in the person experiencing a thrill in winning five bucks in the state lottery & dreaming of the multi-million dollar win. I want to understand the thrill in playing a one-armed bandit with a bucket full of tokens on the busy floor of a casino. I don’t get it.
I spend plenty of money on entertainment—theater, music, going out dancing, visiting museums, traveling—so it’s not like I’m cheap about fun. I just don’t get the ‘game’ part. Yes, it’s true that when I buy expensive tickets to a Broadway show there is no guarantee that I’ll enjoy it. The same goes for paying the entrance fee at a Milonga (Tango dance), downloading an ebook or handing over a $20 to go one of the more expensive museums in New York or other cities.
But gambling is all about taking the chance and that is both intriguing and distressing. The monetary payoff is a potent carrot that fails to entice me the way orchestra seats at the winner of last season’s Tony award does…(I just bought tickets to see Fun Home and I hope it’s as good as the reviews.)
So, tell me what I’m missing. I take risks in my life and write about risk takers, but gamblers are still mystifying and I want to know more!