Majoring in Life
A valuable caution: gambling is a mine-field of danger.
Lesson 19: Gambling is for Losers
(For poor souls dying to make a fast buck)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
One minute to go, and the jerk sportscaster was way too excited. So was everyone else in the room. Miami had just scored a touchdown, putting them ahead by five points. Popcorn flew through the air as guys made diving receptions on the sofa. When they shifted to catching with their mouths, the noise escalated, popcorn falling on the carpet like hail.
With mouths as big as theirs, you would think they could make a completion. The morons. Daniel fidgeted with the MasterCard in his hand. Dallas had to beat the Dolphins by three and a half or he'd be out $320. He always bet opposite his friends. More often than not he won. Today he'd boldly covered everyone's wager—Daniel could still see their eyes popping—but now he was going to take it square and hard on the chin. Worse still, he'd used his dad's credit card to drum up a stake.
"Computer World, I'm yours!" a female voice yelled above the noise. "Daniel's going to buy me MechWarrior 5—aren't you, Daniel?" Karla Dillingsworth was cute but totally tomboy. What was a girl doing gambling anyway? Any excuse to be around guys? Whatever.
Daniel scowled while the Cowboys launched a last-minute drive. Too little, too late. He watched Karla pump her fist at the TV, shrieking like a banshee. It was usually nice to have her around but not right now. Besides, Daniel had better places to be.
Like the Domino Palace.
Twelve seconds to go and Dallas scored, winning by two. But they were supposed to win by three and a half. The losers. The missing two points would cost him 320 bucks.
The MasterCard in his hand folded in half with a snap. He stared at it as if someone had died.
Suddenly they were all around him, their smelly, popcorny hands sticking in his face. Daniel reached into his pocket, counted the money, and threw it across the room, most of it falling behind the sofa. Everyone but Karla scrambled for his winnings.
"You all right?" Karla asked.
Daniel stood quiet, trying to unkink the credit card.
"You'll win it back. No time. Guaranteed. It all goes and comes around, you know that." Karla punched his shoulder, but Daniel brushed her off and walked out of the house. It would be a while before he exchanged bets with those lame-brains again.
Jumping on his mountain bike, Daniel rode off, determined to shake the loss. He'd crashed and burned before. But he'd also rushed some major digits together.
As the wind raced by his ears, he felt the old, smooth feeling flow over him like warm oil. Oh, yes. This was it. When Daniel felt like this, he hardly ever lost. Lady Luck was tapping him on the shoulder, blowing sweet nothings into his ear. The Cowboys worked the bad luck out of his system. Now for some serious high rolling.
The Domino had plenty of that.
There was just one obstacle: Daniel had eighty bucks in his pocket, but he needed a bigger stake. His bike would do for now. He'd pawn it, then win enough to buy it back in a couple of hours.
Daniel rode into the parking lot of Leon Bickle's Pawn & Cash Exchange, the flashing neon sign of the Domino Palace a minute's walk away.
In the distance stood the spire of Daniel's home church. Seeing it used to bother him, but he had long since ceased to notice.
A Clear Look at the Domino Palace
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
Among other things, God had gambling in mind when he inspired Paul to write those words. Gambling is a mine-field of danger. It stands like a house of horrors for those who dare enter. It tortures its victims with a fever, a sickness that has no earthly cure.
Is gambling a real problem for youth? You bet. Several researchers who surveyed 1,700 students from six colleges and universities found that 33 percent of males and 15 percent of females gambled once a week or more. For many of them the Internet is the game of choice—"www" has come to mean "World Wide Wager."
One person has said, "Gambling is the sure way of getting nothing for something." Here are the reasons why. And as you read, understand that though the names are changed, the stories included are true.
Even when you win, you lose.
Gamblers who win for the first time invariably try again. They're convinced that "luck" will score once more. At first it may, but when Lady Luck disappears, most gamblers feverishly chase their bets, and things go from wrong to really wrong. Rarely does someone win big and walk away, never to return.
Not too long ago nineteen-year-old Gregg Wilson won $30,000 at blackjack over three months. Then he started losing. A few weeks later, having dropped two-thirds of his winnings, he was desperate. In one night he lost the last $10,000 in a red-eyed roulette spree.
It's a quick way to wager away your pals.
Gamblers can shed friends faster than they do money. As losers they generally are miserable, desperate to hit up others for loans to pay gambling debts. Then they find themselves isolated, their buddies suddenly scarce. And welched bets among friends always result in bitterness, sometimes in violence.
You take your chances with addiction.
Nearly one in ten youth develops an addiction toying with the tables—or with lotto, bingo, craps, five-card stud, coin pitching, sports pools, scratch-and-win games, pull tabs, faro, racetracks, or Powerball. The variety could mesmerize anyone.
Some students are so hooked that they'll put ten bucks on whether the next person to appear has brown eyes or blue.
Bradley Thompson had a gambling problem that eventually cost him his chance to go to college. He had to settle for grunt work to pay off a $20,000 gambling debt.
The high-stakes world is full of cheaters and liars.
Bookies make their money by "shifting the lines" in their favor. Occasionally too many people bet the winner. When that happens, bookies often disappear to set up shop elsewhere, leaving the winners as losers. Some simply decide not to pay, smiling in your face instead. They may scare off your business, but there's always another sucker around.
Gamblers tend to exaggerate stories about their winnings and go mute over their losses. No one likes to admit he's a loser. The whole scene is self-deceiving hype—all glitter and no gold.
It may kill you.
Nine out of ten problem gamblers consider suicide. Bradley Thompson sure did. Killing himself seemed like the easiest escape from his $20,000 debt. By working it off instead, he's chosen the smart road. Sad he didn't find the smart road earlier.
One addict in six will attempt suicide. Gregg Wilson succeeded. After losing his last $10,000, he went home, took a shotgun, and ended it all.
Where Are Your Eyes Fixed?
God doesn't want your heart set on riches. He wants your heart set on his Son, Jesus Christ. The two don't mix. Gambling is inherently a fixation on money. If you want true riches—ones that don't make like a bird and fly away—be fixed on Christ.
Paul, after warning Timothy of the dangers in loving money, continued,
"But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
Christ is coming back. A life lived in obedience to him has a payoff that involves no debt, no guilt, and no gamble—a jackpot that lasts forever.
Back to Our Story
Leon Bickle's Pawn & Cash Exchange was long closed when Daniel finally left the Domino. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, trying to spot a taxi in the neon lights.
What a rush he'd had. Tomorrow he'd come back and get his bike, riding off with a wad of change to spare.
Two guys in dark jackets came toward him. Daniel had seen them watching while he ran up the numbers at the wheel. He couldn't find a taxi.
He walked faster.
So did the two behind him.
Daniel had heard about the recent mugging near the Domino. He had dismissed it as one of those things that happened only to other people. Of course, he'd never left the Domino a winner before. Strange how clearly the realization came to him now.
Winners were targets.
It was over before Daniel had the chance to yell.
On the ground, the back of his head bleeding, his money gone, he thought about his mountain bike. His stomach lurched with regret. Leon Bickle would probably sell it before Daniel ever got out of the hospital.
Barely conscious now, he saw the blurry outline of a cross on top of a church spire, silhouetted against the light of a full moon.
Daniel closed his eyes, glad of the reminder.