Anyone who knows me knows that I love to play poker. Indeed poker, roman history & Orbo are some of my greatest loves.
Now at the same time I HATE gambling and this really does cause many to raise eyebrows. I know quite a few people who I would consider gamblers – to me anyone who puts a bet on something with a head, tail and four legs is crazy. That’s not to say that I don’t take bets with people, I do, quite a bit – but mostly they involve bets with mates over a ‘my team vs your team’ game and they are always about the fun, never the money. I have several times in my life placed bets on a mates horse, but I am not a gambler.
Many (most) people will look at poker and consider it gambling, and this is a debate that rages across the net, and I think that anyone who actually plays a lot of poker will get it, but for those interested in that follow the link:
Due to my love of playing poker I have spent quite a bit of time over the years in casinos (playing poker), and if you spend a reasonable amount of time in a casino you will always get to see some interesting, amusing and sometimes sad & unsavory things. The thing in a casino for me is never to play a ‘house’ game. That is a game where you are betting against the house, so black jack (21), roulette and so on are just games that involve you losing money over a period of time, the house always wins. The thing with poker is that the house takes a rake (percentage of the money passing the table) and does not care who wins, the rake guarantees the house does not lose, the rest is determined by probability and skill.
Now to say that I don’t gamble and yet can still tell this story will seem out of kilter. Long before Orbo was a twinkle in my tiered eyes there was an evening where I did bet €306,250 on a single number on a roulette wheel. As far as I know the single biggest roulette bet in Ireland ever (my kids will be so proud). A win would have netted over €10 million. I did not win, it was after all a gamble, and I don’t gamble.
So here is the story, it is unbelievable, but it’s true. At the time I was doing a lot of forensic work for the UK coppers, and as part of that we used to have them over to deliver evidence and collect a witness statement. That of course involves an overnight stay. An overnight stay involves drink. Drink with the UK coppers always involved a lot of fun. Anyway on the night in question, I think we had two-three UK coppers, a couple of Irish cops and a couple of the ladies from the local credit card association. Good fun was had by all and as the pubs closed it was suggested that we head off for a game of poker in the local casino. The casino (the Sporting Emporium) has a poker room up a couple of floors and traditional casino games on the floor below that. So myself and the lads are sitting playing away and having a bit of fun, and I am doing ok (up €250). However one of the ladies has decided just to stand and watch us play, which to be fair can’t be any fun at all. Lets call this lady Jen – because Jen is her name. I ask the dealer if I can take my €250 profit of the table and give it to Jen to play (technically you cant do this, but it was a friendly table). Jen takes the chips and says that she does not know how to play. I say, hey go downstairs and stick it all on red 7 on the roulette wheel (I have no idea how to play roulette or even what the different bets are, I just know that you can bet on a number). 15 mins later Jen wanders up stairs saying we won, we all have a laugh and she asks me what to do. With the appropriate level of male bravado (I am up in the poker game even after the €250) I say, put it all on Red 7 again. So downstairs she heads and we kinda forget about it.
So we continue playing our poker game and a while later up comes Jen and tells me we won. Now this has quite a sobering effect on me (there is no drink in a poker room and I have been on coffee for a while now). So I don’t know the rules of roulette, I don’t know the odds, but I do know that there are quite a few numbers on a roulette wheel and so our €250 having hit once, then again must be a fair amount of money.
So down Jen and I wander, and there is a fair pile of chips on the table, and in my still somewhat drunken mind I think, fuck it – I am winning tonight so lets just let it roll. So I say to Jen – Red 7? She asks how much is it? I say I have no idea. Jen says ok, we roll it one more time but no way on Red 7, so she picks a different number and we try to place the bet. Unbeknownst to us there is actually €306,250 worth of chips, and a bet of that size is so far beyond the table limit of the casino that the croupier (who to be fair has that cash your chips in you gobshites look) has to call over the floor manager. Now I know the floor manager (Alex) for a long time because he used to run the poker room, and he decides that we can make the bet. We do, Jen calls some number that is not Red 7, the wheel spins and Red 7 hits, good bye chips, never gamble. Of course if I take a gambling addicts view and we had stuck with the Red 7 we would have had €10.7 million of chips.
There are a couple of things about this story. The first is that the story is completely true, this happened and if I heard it in my local pub I would not believe a word of it. But it happened just as described. The second thing is that if I adopt my poker players head the truth is that I walked out of the casino with more money than I went into it with (thank you UK law enforcement officers). But perhaps the most interesting thing is that I have sat at a table with someone who placed a bet of 850k sterling on the spin of a wheel, between courses at lunch. And that is a story I will have to tell soon!