A Question from a Reader

All sorts of comments get posted to www.gamblingwithanedge.com concerning the various blogs or podcasts posted there — including mine. The following comment was posted a week and a half after the original came out, and I assume most of the readers had already moved along to later posts. Still, it occurred to me that I have something to say about the post, so I’ll do it here.

Bob…have enjoyed your blogs and books throughout the years. At 75 I’d be thinking you’ve won enough and banked enough to try something less stressful. Like square dancing . . . or if that’s too much maybe fishing!

I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my writing. I’ve always attracted some mix of fans and detractors. It seems to be my lot in life. While I won’t actually be 75 years old until mid-February, I’ve been announcing “almost 75” for a month or two now. And yes, I’m pretty much financially set so I’m not out there gambling for my monthly rent. So why do I do it?

The part of the post that didn’t ring true was the implication that staying away from gambling would be less stressful for me, and that would be a good thing. I’m going to quibble with both halves of that implication.

Paraphrasing an old expression, I believe that stress is the mind of the beholder. A losing streak is stressful, to be sure, but different people experience that stress in different ways, measured by such things as heart rate, brain waves, skin conductance, etc. (I’m no expert on this. Google is a writer’s friend!) 

Although I don’t have scientific data to back this up, I believe I am somebody who experiences less stress due to normal wins and losses at gambling than many other people do. I’ve been gambling for more than 50 years. I know I have the long-term advantage. I know there will be ups and downs along the way. And the fact that today has been down so far (or up so far) is just one more data point. It will all work out. And if I have a down year or three, my financial well-being isn’t threatened. So why stress?

A little stress comes through, of course. A royal flush feels good. Losing half a royal flush in two hours doesn’t. But we need certain amounts of stress. Living in a vegetative state is not my idea of bliss. It’s more like hell!

A key part of my decision to play video poker, stress aside, is that I still enjoy the activity. Planning my work and working my plan accurately gives me pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment. If and when that changes, I’ll try something else. But right now, such a change is not on my visible horizon.

During the pandemic when I didn’t get out so much, I read more to keep my mind active. I joined Zoom groups of various types to try to get better at a variety of things. I told stories across the country via Zoom, which was a totally different desirable form of stress for me. I joined some online writing groups to improve my skills in that area. Keeping my mind active is a key part to my enjoyment in life. Netflix and Grub Hub were not key parts of pandemic survival for me.

In the question to me, square dancing was mentioned. Bonnie and I have enjoyed square dancing for years, that’s the venue through which we met, and for the last several have participated in what they call “Advanced” square dancing. We had a tough time getting enough people together regularly for that before the pandemic in Las Vegas, and it’s been impossible since.

They have other levels of square dancing locally, but it’s become political. The most active participants here are loud anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers. Many of the dances devolve into shouting matches where nobody is listening to anybody else. That doesn’t strike Bonnie and me as a pleasant way to spend an evening, so we stay away. Whether I agree or disagree with your political view, dancing should be an escape from that sort of discussion. If I want to argue about that, there are numerous forums available where I can do that as much as I like — from whatever political point of view I like. There are other forms of dancing we enjoy and participate in, but right now, square dancing is not one of them.

Insofar as fishing goes, that’s never appealed to me. A number of people really enjoy this hobby, and more power to them. There are umpteen thousands of possible hobbies that hold no interest for me, and fishing is just another one on that list.