Saturday, May 8, 2010


I went through a brief period collecting baseball cards when I was in 4th grade. All my friends did and besides, my dad knew a lot of the Cardinals. This was 1967 and 1968 and we were in the series. I had a personally autographed photo of Lou Brock that I treasured and all the rookie cards of the team.

I’m not sure where I got them, and they were probably reprints, but I had 3 Babe Ruth cards. He posed with Miller Huggins and Lou Gehrig, with Lou Gehrig, and by himself in a suit. I was the only kid I knew that had anything like them.

I was on the Cub Scout baseball team but I only made the B team. I was awkward and never really mastered much of anything back then.

We used to play a game called flipping cards. Two guys line their cards up along a wall. They each had a special shooting card. Now that I think about it was kind of like playing marbles. You’d flick your shooting card at the wall. Whoever knocked the most down got to keep the pile.

It seemed like all the kids were pros at the game except for me. It was an early example of my weakness for gambling. I knew the other kids were better than me but I had to play. I lost all my prized cards. In what became a lifelong experience, I suffered a brief period of loss and then shrugged it off as a lesson learned. I never did really learn.

A couple of years later I was a caddy at the Algonquin golf course in Glendale Missouri. I was a B caddy because I was years younger than most of the others. I made less money. We used to pitch quarters around the back of the caddy shack. There was always a game going and these kids were good. They knew a sucker when they saw one and I never came home with any money.

By the 8th grade I was living in Soulard. There was a carnival on the south side of Busch Stadium my friend Mark Gray and I went to. As soon as we walked in the gates I got suckered into a game. It involved marbles you threw into holes in a box. It seemed like you couldn’t lose.

I spent all my money and was so close to winning. The guy at the game said he felt bad for me and told me he would hold the game if I could come up with more money. I left the carnival and tracked down everyone that owed me money and even borrowed some. I was able to scrape enough to lose over $100.00. As I left I looked back at the rides I never went on. The game was shut down by the cops and even made the evening news.

I suffered another brief period of loss and then shrugged it off. I still hadn’t learned.

Years later my girlfriend Joanie and I went traveling the Southwest and found ourselves in Las Vegas. It didn’t take me long to lose all our money.

Joanie didn’t have the bug and was content to sit at a slot machine feeding it nickels. When she found out I’d lost our money she handed me a roll of nickels. She told me as long as I fed the slot machine they’d give me free booze. She didn’t want to see me for a while.

Fortunately we had $20.00 left. For some reason Joanie trusted me to play blackjack at a hotel at the Nevada border. I turned it into enough to get us home. Even better I had friends in the Colorado Rockies who put us up for a week so all was forgiven.

My girlfriend Valerie told me about her first trip to Las Vegas. Her boyfriend played trumpet in a band that was booked there. One night they got on the elevator in their hotel. She was unnerved by a man who was sobbing.

I was in the I.T. department at Harrah’s casino. I spent a lot of time in the pits watching problem gamblers. Let me tell you the casinos are totally heartless. Their business is money, period!

Professional gamblers will tell you not to walk into a casino with any thought of losing. I won’t go into one if I’m not prepared to lose a certain amount.

A few years ago Valerie and I were into playing the ponies. We’d walk in with a hundred bucks and leave with nothing but the memory of a great time at the track. We took my kids and my daughter won most of the races I let her bet in. She picked horses that had colors in their names. My kids left with money and we didn’t.

I haven’t learned a thing except how to walk away from personal catastrophe with a positive attitude.

It reminds me of a story I’ve already told. Tracey and I came home to our west end apartment to find our stereo and musical instruments stolen. We looked at each other and burst out laughing.

4th grade gambling Dave and a silhouette of Tracy from back in the day.


slot machine said...

slot machines are fun however odds are always against You. good read thanks.

Dorothy said...

I seem to have escaped any gambling compulsions. But my 8 year old is very intrigued with the idea. You can see the gears whirring in his head when he contemplates scratched off lottery tickets he's found on the ground. "Mom, have you ever tried this? You know this looks like a GREAT idea!!!!!!!!!"

Tracy said...

I do have a fondness for blackjack and las Vegas that goes back to my first visit there as a young teen. I've probably won a little more than I've lost I like the steel and glass and lights too. It provide contrast when I have serenity overload.