man playing poker

What is the difference between responsible gambling and degenerate gambling? Simply put, the responsible gambler will only gamble money that they can afford to lose, in addition to adhering to responsible bankroll management principles. The degenerate gambler will essentially do the complete opposite, and most notably, will chase their losses far beyond the point of no return.

As you can probably suspect, this will often put the degenerate gambler in a position of either winning substantial amounts of money, or conversely, losing everything.

With $1,000 on black, slightly less than half of my entire bankroll for the Turning Stone trip, I anxiously await for the dealer to announce the winning number. This was my first time ever in the pits, and I couldn’t watch. I had to close my eyes. My heart was racing from the anticipation, I was beginning to sweat, and my throat was parched as I took a reflexive, dry gulp.

“19 — Black”, the dealer exclaims!

I open my eyes to confirm my reality. Indeed, the number to hit was 19 black! I had just won $1,000 in less than 30 seconds! This was my first taste of the pits, and I could instantly see why people got hooked. What took me almost half a day to earn from playing poker, took less than a minute to win in table games. Victory, at least for the time being, was mine.

Chris and I start to cheer loudly, giving each other high fives and fist bumps. We’re both in a state of euphoria.

“Dealer, take out $200 for yourself and let it ride!” — I was confused, I didn’t know what Chris was saying.

“Wait, what does ‘let it ride’ mean?”

“It means we keep all of the money on the same bet and we spin again.”

“Hell no, dude. I’m good. I don’t know if I can handle another spin like that. That was both terrifying and exciting. I’m good, cash me out.”

I tell the dealer to take my bet off. There was no way I was going to risk another $1k. I didn’t even know what I was thinking, in fact, I wasn’t thinking anything at all. I was so excited and enamored from all of the lights, energy, and chaos that was happening on the casino floor — I was almost in a hypnotic state.

The dealer pays me out in two, $1,000 chips, and I ask her to break down one of them. I toss her a black chip — 10 percent — as promised.

“Thank you! Nice hit boys, do you have player’s cards?”

“Yeah, thanks!” — as we both toss our cards onto the felt. I had signed up for one in the poker room, Chris already had his own. Being persistent and impatient, he wants to bet big on another spin.

“Let it ride, baby! Dealer, make sure you take out $100 for yourself. $1,900 on black!”

The dealer quickly does her work, and with another flick of her forefinger, launches the roulette ball into motion. Sure enough, black hits again.

“That’s what I’m talking about, motherfucker! Here we fucking go!” — The floor approaches, and politely asks Chris to watch his language. I don’t blame them, he was roaring like a lion.

Should I have let it ride? After all, I was here to gamble, but certainly not for that much, right? A memory of Andy runs through my mind — a lesson about knowing when to get up from the table. Sure, this wasn’t poker, but the same principle had to apply.

“Chris, let’s go man. You’re up almost $3k, that’s huge! Let’s go play blackjack.”

To my surprise, I didn’t receive any resistance. Chris asks the dealer to color him up, and he tosses her another black chip for her time. The floor that had asked Chris to watch his language was still present, and immediately interjects.

“Excellent win, sir. Would you two gentlemen like a food comp to one of our restaurants?”

“Absolutely, can you get us a comp for 9 people to Wildflowers?”

“Nine people is a lot at the moment, but if you stay and play for a bit longer, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Make it for two then, thanks.”

“Certainly, sir. I’ll be right back.”

Chris gives me a nudge on my shoulder and gives me a distinct look. The floor walks off to get us the comp, and Chris teaches me a valuable lesson.

“I’m sure you noticed, but you saw what he was trying to do, right dude?”

“Yeah, he was trying to get you to keep playing so you would lose it back.”

“Right on. You know that it’s time to leave when the floor is trying to get you to stay.”

A moment passes and the floor returns with our food comp. We thank him and the dealer, then leave the roulette table. We weren’t hungry yet, so we decide to go meet up with the rest of the group.

We make our way down the casino floor and spot a mix of our friends playing blackjack. As we begin to approach, I spot Theo further up on another table, playing a game heads up with the dealer. Being the curious and inquisitive type, I continue walking to go see what he’s playing. I see the sign for the game, it’s “War”.

“What’s up Theo, how are you doing?”

“I’m on a heater! I’m up about $500!”

I didn’t know that War was a casino game, I was only aware of the most popular ones — Blackjack, Roulette, and Craps, even though I had no clue as to what Craps actually was.

I didn’t know that War was also a casino game. The same card game that we all learned as kids. You know, where you just draw a card and the highest one wins, but if they match, you go to “War”. Sure enough, you could bet on it.

I congratulate Theo on his win, while resisting to tell him about mine, not wanting to undermine his enthusiasm.

“Awesome man, what did you start with?”

“I bought in for $100. I’m up to $650. Matter of fact, I think it’s time to cash out. Let’s go back up to the room and take a few shots. One last bet though.”

Theo puts out a $50 bet and binks it — score! The dealer asks if he can color him up.

“May I color you up, sir?”

“Definitely, thank you.” — I decide to chime in on the situation.

“Dealers don’t pay their bills with ‘thank you’s’. Did you tip him?”

“Uh, no actually, I didn’t.”

“No better time than the present, man. You know I deal too, come on, you had a good session.” — Theo asks the dealer to break down one of his greenbirds for 5 red chips.

“You serious man? Just give him the green chip. Don’t be a cheap fuck.”

It had never really occurred to me yet at this point in my life, but not all people would agree with me in terms of how much to tip your dealer. I was already pretty intoxicated, and at the time didn’t think twice about embarrassing Theo. He gives me a sharp, penetrating look, and tosses the dealer the $25 green chip. He gets his color up and we make our way over to the blackjack table, letting everyone know that we’re heading up to the room for some shots.

On the elevator ride up, Theo rips into me.

“What the hell, bro, why did you blow up my spot like that?”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“Back at the War table, you made me look bad when I was going to tip the dealer $5.”

“Make you look bad? Man, you were gonna only give him a nickel.”

“Yeah, so? What I tip is my business, not yours.”

“Come on man, you know I’m a dealer, too. We make our money on tips. You really think that $5 was enough?”

“Yeah, why not? It’s a fucking tip after all, it’s not required.”

I could sense a huge argument was going to come next, had I proceeded to press the issue. I decide to concede my position, wanting to avoid a fight and bask in the success of the trip.

“You’re right, man. I’m sorry. My bad. Let’s go get drunk.”

“It’s fine. Anyway, did you even play? What are you in for?”

“Yeah, I played a little roulette with Chris. I won $1k.”

“Holy shit! Nice, bro… and what did you happen to tip the dealer?” — I could see that Theo was trying to needle me and determine if whether or not I was a hypocrite.

“I gave her a black chip.”

“A black chip… You mean you gave her $100?”

“Yeah, I put a $1,000 on a single spin and won. She told me to put it on black, and I was gonna put it on red, so I felt like she saved me.”

“Well, nice bro. Good for you. You’re a fucking idiot, though. $1k on a single spin? Pfft… How do you get so lucky?”
“Karma, I guess.” — I give Theo a self-righteous smirk.

The elevator makes its “ding” sound, and we get off onto our floor, only to make our way back to the room for some more liquor.

I wish I remembered more details about what happened during the rest of the trip after this point. Unfortunately, I don’t. Theo and I got pretty hammered, smoked some pot, and all of this combined with pulling an all-nighter and more evenings of binge drinking to follow, led to a foggy haze.

The last thing I can vividly remember, besides passing out for the entire drive home, was that a bunch of us decided to try and make one final run at blackjack, immediately after we had checked out.

With our bags in hand, we walk towards the casino floor and find a dealer on a dead spread — an empty table. We occupy every seat, some of us splitting the action because there weren’t enough spots.

At this point, my bankroll for the trip had grown to over $5k, and that was after all of my expenses. Some of us were incredibly hungover, some still drunk, some in the black, and some in the red. I’m pretty sure that Theo was a little bit over even. After all, it was his suggestion that we play for one final time before leaving.

I buy in for $1k and lose everything in a little less than 2 shoes. That was it for me, I was done. I was pissed, but I was trying to remind myself that I came up here with $2k and was leaving with over $4k, after expenses.

How could I be upset? Of course, this is the fundamental pitfall of losing. When you feel upstuck — meaning, you feel like you’re stuck because you were up more money earlier on — you tend to chase and often wind up losing everything. Thankfully, this wouldn’t be one of those times.

I clear my head and notice that Theo is on a hell of a run. He’s got over $2.5k in front of him and he’s ecstatic — winning so much, so quickly. The shoe ends, and the dealer begins to shuffle all of the cards for the next one. At this point, we were all done playing except for Theo. A few of us try and persuade him into leaving with a huge win, but he’s not interested in what we have to say.

The shoe plays out and Theo wins another thousand, now sitting on over $3.5k. We all give him the look — the “come on dude, let’s get the fuck out of here” look. He recognizes it, but announces that if he drops to $3k he’ll cash out.

Halfway through the shoe, and without a doubt, he loses $500 and is down to $3k. He sticks to his word, however, and asks the dealer for a color up. I glance over at his chips, and then give him a look to remind him to tip the dealer, just before stopping myself. I realize that it really isn’t any of my business at all — a valuable lesson that I was lucky to learn very early on in my gaming career. I keep watch anyway, and I notice that he stiffs the dealer. No tip. I doubt it was intentional, he was probably just in a trance from booking a huge, final win just before leaving the casino.

We make our way out of the casino floor and towards the lobby. We head towards our cars, but I make sure to ask Chris what his final outcome was for the entirety of the trip. He had been up quite a bit during the last night we had spent gambling.

“So, you in the black or in the red?”

“Let’s just say that I’ll be putting in some overtime at the club this week.”

“Enough said, sorry man.”

“It’s alright. You think I could borrow $500 and I’ll give it back to you Sunday?”

“Sure, man, no problem.” — I count out $500 in crisp, $100 bills, and fold them into Chris’ hand. I didn’t ask any questions, I just felt bad and gave it to him.

He did not look pleased with the situation. I later found out that on our last night, he was up almost $9k from a deep run in Baccarat — a game I was not familiar with, nor even knew existed. However, he unfortunately gave it all back before he got up from the table.

“I’ll see you Sunday man, get home safe.”

My buddies and I load up our bags into my hatchback, and then pile into my silver, Mazda 6. I was about to get into the driver’s seat when I remembered that I had made a deal to pay for all of the gas and tolls in exchange for not having to drive. I toss Theo the keys, reminding him of the huge win he just had. There was no way he was going to get out of driving.

We begin the drive home, and I almost immediately pass out from exhaustion.

I wake up a while later, and we’re back in Long Island, almost home. My phone buzzes from receiving a text — it’s Andy.

“Gotta talk to you buddy, I won’t be playing at Spades anymore. Call me when you get a chance.”


Chapter 1 – Fox’s Club Chapter 9 – Spades — 1.8
Chapter 2 – Spades — 1.1 Chapter 10 – Spades — 1.9
Chapter 3 – Spades — 1.2 Chapter 11 – Spades — 1.10
Chapter 4 – Spades — 1.3 Chapter 12 – Spades — 1.11
Chapter 5 – Spades — 1.4 Chapter 13 – Bell Boulevard — 1.1
Chapter 6 – Spades — 1.5 Chapter 14 – Bell Boulevard — 1.2
Chapter 7 – Spades — 1.6 Chapter 15 – Bell Boulevard — 1.3
Chapter 8 – Spades — 1.7 Chapter 16 – Bell Boulevard — 1.4