Let's play a for instance game. Just for instance, imagine that you are entering a boxing ring to fight for the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Would you want to enter that ring full of confidence, or frightened out of your mind?
Here's another for instance. It's the last of the ninth in the final game of the World Series. Your team is losing 3-0, the bases are loaded, there are two outs -- and you are at the plate. Would you want to be swinging that bat confident that you are going to smash a home run to win the game, the World Series and a forever glory -- or would you prefer to be so scared that your knees are shaking?
The answers to both questions, of course, are predictable. Confidence is a winner. Being scared is a loser.
And yet I see people going to casinos all the time with money they cannot afford to lose. All they have is a Social Security check. The rent is due, they're two car payments behind, the refrigerator is empty and the shelves are bare of food.
They have all these obstacles facing them, but they still dig in their heels and enter the casino, hoping against hope they will win.
I have news for them. Scared money rarely wins. Once in a great while, all the breaks will go your way. A slot machine will be kind to you. The dice fall exactly the way you want them to land. The cards come to you at poker, blackjack or baccarat. The roulette wheel stops on 22 when you have a bundle bet on that number.
If this were a dream sequence, you could make that wager with scared money and win. In real life, though, it hardly ever happens and here is why.
I was at a casino one night not so very long ago. An expected check for a magazine article had not materialized. The month had been rough on me expense-wise and I was short of cash after being hit with some unexpected car repairs and some other out-of-pocket expenses.
There was a noon poker tournament I wanted to play in. I had just enough money to cover the buy-in, plus a few dollars extra. I was not happy about my expenses, but decided to try my luck. I bought into a cash game to build up my bank roll. That was a dumb thing to do.
First, I was operating with scared money. I knew I needed almost every dollar I had to buy into the tournament that I really wanted to play. When you are gambling with scared money, you make decisions that will protect your money -- not decisions to take advantage of the other players and the moment.
Someone raises the pot, you hesitate and throw away your hand. The flop hits you perfectly, but you have mucked your cards and have just lost a sizable amount of cash.
Or you start out with two good cards. But because your money is scared, you just call instead of raising. You let the blinds into the pot. You hit top pair with a good kicker, but one of the blinds holding 7-2 off suit flops two pair against your aces. You fail to improve and he wins.
For a gambler to have a chance at winning, he needs confidence, good judgement and luck. Scared money robs him of two of those assets.
The next time you want to visit your favorite casino or card room and you are down to scared money, postpone the trip. Figure out something else interesting to do that evening and keep the money in the cookie jar. Another time will come along when the moment and the mood favor you. Now is not the time for action.
Scared money will rob you of your boldness and your good judgement, and for any gambler, that is a sure recipe for disaster.