|Jesse May, multiple
author in the gambling field and sometimes dubded the "voice of poker", writes
a bi-weekly column.
|Most people know Jesse as "the voice of poker" from his
colourful commentary in CH4's late Night Poker. Jesse is also the author of the
widely respected novel, Shut Up And
Deal, which looks deep into the poker playing life. Its the hard faced
21st Century Cincinnati Kid.
also the creator of The Gambler's Guide to
the World, an insiders look at the action and games around the
|Some people might remember a fellow by the
name of Jimmy the Greek. Jimmy the Greek was an American sports TV personality
in the sixties and seventies, drummed out of the industry in 1979 after he made
some inflammatory racist comments on the air. In his heyday, however, he was
considered a prognosticator supreme, the man who always appeared on Sunday
morning television to be asked by Howard Cosell about his enlightened opinion
on this game or that, the Superbowl or the Ali-Frazier fight or the '69 World
Baseball Series. The man with a gift for the gab would always be there with an
opinion and a knowing air that said, "Bet on this."
Funny thing, though.
Not only was Jimmy the Greek often wrong, the man had no experience in sports.
He was not a former player or coach, he hadn't read playbooks or strategies,
the man was in fact, mostly just talk. And I always wondered, just what was it
that made Jimmy the Greek famous? And then I found out. It was the lock.
It seems that when Jimmy the Greek was no more than twenty-five, he bet
everything he had and everything he could borrow on the 1948 United States
Presidential election. He backed the severe underdog Harry Truman to the hilt
against Thomas Dewey, and when the smoke cleared Jimmy the Greek had netted
himself $170,000. No small change in those days. And the reason he gambled it
all, the reason he risked a life of misfortune for glory? As he said, he
figured it was a lock.
Tell a gambler that you like a bet, and he'll
reply with the age old question. "Is it a lock?" Is it a lock. Like the holy
grail, the gambler trudges ever onward for that elusive acorn, the sure thing.
The lock. The best bet, the bet it all, the cheese bet, the double platinum,
the five star play, the can't lose hand. "Once I find that lock," thinks the
gambler, "Then I'll be in high cotton. I'll bet everything I have." But I've
got my own definition for the lock. It's what people go broke on. That's my
definition. Something that's gonna break your ass.
Just once I'd like to
meet a guy who went broke betting on a 100-1 shot. "Hundred to one?" I'd say.
"How could you bet all your money on a hundred to one?"
respond, "I only priced it at ten to one. There was just so much damn value."
That's the way to go out, but that ain't how it happens. Get a gambler to shove
all his money in, and he'll swear up and down that it's a lock. And then he'll
The first lock I ever went broke on was a horse by the name of
Carborundum. I had invented the greatest horse handicapping system the world
had ever seen, and was starting to hit 'em pretty good with two dollar bets
over six furlongs. And when you're winning at gambling and working to boot, you
think why not raise my bets and quit my job and make gambling my work? And so I
I quit my job and started going to the track, and I'd pick my
horses at night and take the train to the track in the morning and sit up in
the sunshine in my box seat with my shirt off and my binoculars and my
calculator and my ice cream cones and my medium size bets, and I managed to win
eighteen days in a row. And when you win eighteen days in a row making medium
size bets, you start thinking about how much you could be making if you were
making really big bets, and then you think that you don't want to lose any big
bets, so you come up with the grand plan. Find the best possible horse there is
and make the biggest possible bet you can make, and win the most money you've
ever seen. The lock. And that's what I did.
Carborundum was the
greatest come from behind horse I'd ever seen. They would practically have to
pull him out of the gate, he started so slow, like a twelve ton freight train
going uphill. He would get about twenty lengths behind before he started to
pick up steam, and often as not he was still dead last when they would come
spitting round that final turn. But Carborundum had a head of steam like no
horse before or since, and when he hit the stretch run the other horses might
well have been treading quicksand, for Carborundum would blow through them like
they were standing still in his blur to the wire. Every time. I'd never seen
him finish out of the money. He was a lock.
Every dollar I had went on
Carborundum one sunny May day at Arlington Park, I left nothing to my name
except the return train ticket which I only bought because I calculated that
the amount I saved by buying a round trip fare was equal to what I would win if
I put that money on Carborundum. I made my bets and went to my seat and
computed how much I would win on my little calculator and watched the tote
boards and fiddled with my binoculars and had no fear. No fear, because I had
no doubts at all.
The gates went up and I followed Carborundum in my
binoculars, as he started out slow and gathered his head of steam and built up
speed and started to fly by the other horses, but then the wire came too soon
and he was fifth. He had started his charge too late, and not ninety stunned
seconds later I was vomiting in a stall of the men's bathroom.
I wish I
could say that I learned my lesson. But the concept of the lock is so
appealing, it has that quality like the meaning of life. The answer, the
future, this is what's gonna happen so wager it all, every dollar you have. The
problem is that gambling mirrors life. There is no sure thing and there is no
ultimate answer. That's why it's gambling, and that's why betting everything
all at once isn't real smart. You should save something, just in case. In case
you get hungry or thirsty before the end of the race.