I’m now 75 years of age. I have mild COPD, which is a lung disorder partially caused and/or exacerbated by second hand smoke. I’ve been in casinos averaging more than 50 hours a week for the past 30 years. Before that, I played backgammon at a smoky club for more than 15 years.
A case could be made that had I chosen a different career, I might be healthier today. While I have been fairly successful, was what I gained worth what I lost insofar as health goes?
This is a question that each person has to answer for himself. I can’t tell you what is right for you. I can only tell you how I answer that question myself. And my answer has several parts to it.
- I can’t say how healthy I would be had I continued in school and become an actuary for an insurance company. (That’s one possible career path. There were an infinity of others.) Assuming perfect health at 75 years of age had I not spent time in casinos is not realistic. Many senior citizens have ailments quite a bit more serious than mild COPD.
- I’m betting I am happier with my career than I would have been working for a big company. Playing well with others has not been my strong point over the years. Being my own boss is more satisfying.
- I’ve had considerable success in this career — monetarily and being relatively well-respected. (Yes, I’m quite aware I have my share of haters. But overall, more people respect my work than put me down for it.)
- I’ve seen much of the United States and the world because of this career. At age 45, before I knew what video poker was, I had been to about five states along with Canada and Mexico. Today I’ve been to more than 40 states and more than 30 different countries. I’ve nowhere near “seen everything,” but I’m closer to that than I likely would have been otherwise.
Some of that travel has come from scouting and playing in casinos all over. Part of that travel has come via cruises, which have come highly discounted via casino play. Yes, I could have paid retail for as many cruises as I like, but paying retail is not my style. If I can’t get a good deal, I probably will stay home.
- The teaching part of my career has served to expand the number of people I know. It’s hard for me to meet people. In the classes, I fought my way through that and as a result have more acquaintances and friends than I otherwise would.
- The columns I’ve chosen to write have allowed me a vehicle to express myself. It is truly a privilege to be able to speak to an audience, or to write for a blog that is read.
- I like the idea of leaving something behind when I die. I don’t know how long the Winner’s Guides will be relevant, but I do know that many tens of thousands of players have been able to improve their gambling experience because of things I’ve said or written. It’s not the most socially useful thing to leave behind, I suppose. Curing cancer would have been a lot better. But there is a trail behind me that many people are not able to leave.
- My wife Bonnie is the most important person in my life. Being a successful gambler had very little to do with attracting her (although gambling trips to New Orleans and Lake Tahoe, along with multiple cruises certainly helped.) Everyone who has found a good partner took an individualized path to do so. I hope I would have found one no matter what my career path was.
Overall, I come up with a resounding, “Yes, it was worth it!” I would love to live my life over again (it’s been fun!), and if I had that chance, I would have made a high percentage of the same choices. I don’t much believe in luck, but it’s a lucky man who can look back on his life with satisfaction. In that respect, I’m very lucky.