'He whom the gods would destroy, they must first make angry...'
I don't know where I first heard this phrase, but I believe it's Scriptural and it certainly makes sense. It came to mind the other day when I found myself thinking about one of the most successful gamblers I have ever met.
Bob and I first crossed trails in Tucson, AZ. I was a gadabout journalist working as a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star. He worked as an announcer for a local radio station.
Both of us belonged to the Tucson Press Club. In those days, we enjoyed our Friday night soirees when we would meet at the club to share lies about our prowess covering the news and drink a few beers.
The thing I remember best about Bob was his smile. He never got angry. No matter what the situation, Bob would always remain in control. That was true whether we were on a major breaking story like a plane crash or a major fire. We might be covering a double-murder behind a biker bar in South Phoenix where tempers were running hot and the police were difficult to deal with. Never mind the occasion. Bob was always in control and it made me furious.
His easy-going attitude even carried over into gambling.
Nearly every press club in America has gambling. In Tucson and Phoenix, the games were blackjack and poker. When a game started up, the word quickly spread and before you knew it, your competition was fighting for a seat. Radio and television announcers were eager to take on the print media, and even the police would get involved. How I loved to take on the members of the Tucson or Phoenix Vide Squad in a good poker game or some serious blackjack for money. We generally played only for quarters, but four quarters made a dollar and 20 quarters made five bucks and...well, I'm sure you get the picture.
In those early days back in the 1970s, I was not the mellow person I am today. Being of Italian and russian heritage, I had a temper. Gamblingg for money can bring out the best or the worst in a person.
With Bob, it was always the best.
I don't think I ever saw him book a losing session. He didn't care about the money (or at least he claimed he didn't care). He would bring a jar of quarters into the game, carefully lay out his money, joke with the other players, play his hands, and win. It drove the rest of us up the wall.
One of the players, a veteran detective who specialized i n solving homicides, once threw his losing hand away in disgust.
'Bob, just once I would like to see you lose your temper,' the detective said. 'don't you ever get mad?'
'Only when I lose to you,' he said, smiling, as he raked in the pile of quarters. 'And so far -- knock on wood -- that hasn't happened.'
Now you can make an argument that quarters are different from dollars or even hundred dollar chips, which no-limit poker players fight for on a regular basis. But the principle remains the same. 'He whom the gods will destroy, they must first make angry.'
I have played in some serious money poker games where one person will become so incensed at another player that he will lay for that person. He will use every weapon at his or her command to set that individual up for a big loss.
And the player will generally lose his stack in the process.
No, Bob taught me a lesson. Like him, I mellowed out and became determined to enjoy the game, whether it was poker, blackjack, dice, roulette or the horses. The money became secondary. I adopted Bob's attitude of smiling whether I won or lost. And amazingly, it made a difference. When I made love, not war, I began winning. I also found the games a lot more pleasant.
No matter how good a player you are, there are times when you will experience bad beats. You can use your powers of choice to show anger or class -- it's strictly up to you. And you know what they say about karma.
Now I just wish I knew where Bob was these days so I could challenge him in a game and win back some of those quarters he took from me....