Winner Take All


I’ve never played poker. That’s not to say that I don’t take risks in other areas, but the thought of playing a game involving stakes even as low as penny ante seems absurd to me. Of course, that may be just an excuse for me because I don’t like table games. If gambling is involved, I certainly don’t want to be a party to that process. You may wonder why?


Truth be told, I have a clear recollection of the only time I’ve gambled where it cost me money. It drew me in like a sucker that couldn’t stop until I spent all that I had. It was my senior year in high school. I thought it would be nice to be a winner for the pretty girl at my side. The venue was a carnival. I’ll never forget the experience because I learned something from it. I doled out seventy-five cents at a time for three chances to hit the bull’s eye with a ball. Had I been successful, my girlfriend would have walked around the carnival grounds carrying a stuffed animal affirming that I was a winner. Instead, she walked around with a loser who collectively spent more than the stuffed animal was worth, attempting to win it in the process.


I guess the thing that bothered me was that I was so sure I could win that I wasted my money.  In the process, I got nothing in return other than the reminder that gambling can allure even the most unsuspecting. Sometime ago, by happenstance at a gathering, I ran across a friend and met her boyfriend. They were in the process of planning their wedding. In the course of the thirty minutes or so that I was at the party, I heard her intended telling  a couple of guys that he had recently lost $3,000 on a bet that didn’t pay out. He hadn’t told his fiancée.


Why?  Why would anyone ever bet that kind of money on anything? If betting is addictive behavior, gambling could be the Achilles’ heel that ruins a relationship. Unless you’ve got money to burn, it seems like self-destructive behavior. Back in the day when I was spending $.75 for three throws, my part time job only paid $.50 an hour. Before I was done, I had lost half a day’s pay.


In case you don’t remember Achilles from Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die young. Consequently, his mother dipped him in the River Styx which was thought to have a protective quality. Unfortunately, his mother held her son by his heel and it was not washed over by the water of the magical river.  Achilles grew into a man of war who survived many great battles. Sadly, his undoing was the poisonous arrow that lodged in his heel, killing him shortly afterwards.


Consequently, an Achilles’ heel is a weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially be the undoing of one’s existence. Sometime ago in the course of a work related venue, I met a lady from another organization who said something about her husband. I was shocked when she said matter-of-factly that he was a professional gambler.


I didn’t ask the question out loud, but I had the thought: “Are you kidding me?” Of course she might have responded: “You can bet your lucky stars that I’m not kidding.” I think it was a Men’s Journal magazine that carried the story of Mark Dudbridge, age 43, who makes his living throwing darts. I like the way the article framed the story: “The dangers of darts are apparent: it’s a game of throwing sharp, tiny objects that’s mostly played by – let’s be frank here – folks in bars. For Mark Dudbridge, it is something very different. At the time the article was written, his biggest single tournament take was $47,000.


You’re probably wondering where my thoughts for today’s blog originated? Actually, when I got home from work yesterday, I opted to do a little more tweaking on room arrangement in our living area. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but an antique oak table was just the size I needed for the finishing touch. Consequently, I moved it from the sunroom to the living area and strategically placed it next to a hutch that belonged to my grandmother and subsequently my mother. It looks great.


The antique oak table was purchased from a friend who inherited it from her father. Her father was a childhood friend of President Johnson and their friendship extended throughout their lives. Reportedly, the antique oak table was in the “camp-house” which was a venue for quiet conversation and an evening of poker. Maybe the antique oak table is my only claim to fame. Both President Johnson and Governor John Connally were known to engage in quiet conversation and play poker and dominos at the camp-house.


Actually, I’ve never told anyone sitting at the table that the elbows of both men have previously been propped on the oak surface in front of them as they held their winning hand. Actually, that is a misnomer. Isn’t it winner take all? Both couldn’t have won the same hand. It simply isn’t in the luck of the draw.


Some suggest that Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States, “played politics like a game of poker. He was aggressive, cunning and always played to win”. A May 6, 2005 article from Poker Play Magazine included the following:  “As President, Johnson continued to enjoy dominoes and poker. His brother tells us Lyndon liked “to play against people with a big reputation for brains.”


At any rate, my taste may be all in my mouth, but the table looks like a winner in the place it now holds.


All My Best!



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