An Introduction to the Art of Gambling

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 19, 2009 · 39 comments

in Gamesmanship, Manly Skills


Editor’s note: Christatos Aristad is a recently retired professional gambler. He has most graciously volunteered to write a series of posts for AoM on the ins and out of gambling in general and the basics of various games for the education and enjoyment of those AoM readers who are interested in this subject.

Gambling is probably a different thing to everyone who takes the time to form an opinion on the matter. Job, diversion, hobby, glamorous lifestyle, addiction, sin, vampyric drain on the economy and the body politic, half hearted restitution to the indigenous population of a wealthy country, mob business, diversion of royalty and the wealthy, social occasion, or legitimate business. What you, the reader thinks, I do not know. What I do know is this. As a man, gambling, the skill, the art, the technique, the manners and the etiquette, are not just a way of making money, but an effective tool for building your social, political and business circle, as well as mingling with the highest echelons of society in a manner that will display your class and dignity. But how can you learn this lost art when every book on the subject today is written to teach you how to make money, or in such a way that no one who isn’t already in these circles could possibly ascend to them? There is no simple answer, and in truth, there is no guide. To rise up through gambling is one part training, and five parts nature, but that one part can be possessed by the soul of brevity, so without further ado, allow me to present the first part of a series of articles on the heart of gambling, the purpose of which is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the shark from the gentleman.

You Know What They Say…

The average gambler is superstitious, and ultimately not very smart. And their method, such as it is, is defined by three sayings that are in truth three logical fallacies or statistical rules from which no one can escape. The trick is to recognize them, and then to escape them.

Saying #1: “I’m Due”

Explanation: This fallacy is appropriately called the “Gambler’s Fallacy.” It is the belief that based solely on a previous run of bad luck, you are certain this time to get a good hand or a good roll. This is nonsense. The failure in reasoning here is the belief in a certain outcome, the positive benefit, without actual evidence. This fallacy is the logic behind slot machines  and the marketing genius behind the gigantic boards advertising how long its been since the last jackpot.

Solution: Recognize the nature of the situation. Each game has a set of controls you can employ to alter your outcome. In the absence of your use of one of those controls, expect nothing except an even game.

Saying #2: “I’ll stop while/when I’m ahead”

Explanation: This saying is also called the “Gambler’s Conceit.” This is also the little voice that tells us, “just one more drink.” The problem with this saying is that if you are ahead, your capacity to predict when you will stop being ahead is likely zero unless you possess clairvoyance. And if you are behind and therefore waiting to get ahead, there is most likely a very good reason you are behind, and you are therefore unlikely to get ahead at all on a meaningful basis within any reasonable time frame.

Solution: QUIT NOW! As soon as you think or say this phrase, or any phrase that sounds like it, that is an immediate sign from God, Allah, Buddha, or whoever you pray to to stop playing. If you have to justify why you are playing, you shouldn’t be playing.

Saying #3: “The House always wins”

Explanation: This saying is rather appropriately called “Gambler’s Ruin,” for it is the rocky, mist clad shore upon which Viking ships full of gamblers are wrecked. Now I know what you are saying, “Plenty of people beat the house. You beat the house.” This is true, for a little while, but play the House long enough, and they will win. And not just win, but break you. Why? Because they have unlimited cash and you don’t, and given enough time, the player with unlimited cash in any fair game will beat the player with limited cash.

Solution: Don’t play the house. The object of the game is not to beat the house, it is to make money. The house has the most money, but they also have the advantage. They make the rules, and they have every edge. But the other players at the table have money too, and they can’t close the table or kick you out. Go for them, and while people may hate you and flee the table like rats from a sinking ship, you will last a lot longer in the long run.

The Basic Tells

The key to gambling with class once you have control of yourself and the situation is the lie. Not just the bluff, but the construction of an entire table facade that allows you to deceive and obfuscate your opponent so that whenever you wish, you may drop it and produce confusion and fear in your enemies. Unfortunately, this skill can not be taught. To learn how to hide who you are with absolute effectiveness, you must first gain a certain level of self-awareness, and then apply the basics of obfuscation to yourself in the specific. However, there are three basic tells that the observer can use to identify the great liar from the poor liar, and to learn the craft themselves.

The Eyes

Many gamblers will tell you that there is a magic to the eyes, that every gambler is different, that when you lie you look one direction and when you tell the truth you look the other, that every person has a different pattern of how they move their eyes, and that by reading it, a skilled gambler can divine complex truths about a player and predict their every move. These gamblers are either stupid, lying or both. Allow me to pull back the curtain on hundreds of years of gambling magic, and reveal the conscious or subconscious trick to the biggest tell in gambling. When people have a good hand, their pupils dilate. When they have a bad hand, their pupils contract. Now the reasons behind this are some fairly complicated neurochemical ones that escape me at the moment, but this is the basic truth of it. Watch the pupils. If they are too small to follow, watch the iris’s.

The Smile

There are two kinds of smiles. One is genuine and one is fake. A fake smile involves only the muscle of the mouth and expresses little if any genuine joy or happiness. A genuine smile involve the muscles around the corners of the eyes, causing crows feet to temporarily develop, and is an expression of genuine joy. Now human testing has determined that a genuine smile is difficult but not impossible to fake. Observe your opponent and his smile and its relationship to the cards. If he can only fake a smile, then he is a passable liar. But if he can produce a genuine smile on command, then he is a liar of respectable skill.

The Hands

Always watch the hands. Busy hands means someone is bored. If someone is bored and winning, they are good. If someone is bored and losing, they are bad. But how does that affect their status as a liar? The key is to pay attention to how busy they are when they bluff. If someone stays busy even when they bluff, then they have it. But if they have to focus to keep everything together for the bluff, then you have a perfect way to identify the quality of their hand beyond their bet. Now almost all gamblers fiddle, but the key is to pay attention to the exceptional fiddlers, especially the people that bother the other players. They are either really bored, cheating, or they have a system.

Casinos today are an eyesore. Built to distract from the ugly cities they sit in, they follow no known design law other than the kind used to keep in Minotaurs, and generally use a color scheme that appeals more to the human psychology that deals with spending money than with staying sane. To add to the problem, the inhabitants of these ugly places are poorly dressed, foul smelling, and ill-mannered. That in mind, today is the day you become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. So here we go gentlemen.


1. Evening Wear at Par

While a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City is, in the United States, a way for young men to blow off steam and make an ass of themselves in a number of different ways, the instant you step into my world, the gambling world, I expect you to dress for success. So before you head to the table, always think of your manner of dress in this light: If you wouldn’t wear it to take a young lady out to a nice dinner out on the town, don’t wear it gambling. If you wouldn’t wear it to a funeral, don’t wear it gambling. If you wouldn’t wear it to a wedding, don’t wear it gambling. If you wouldn’t wear it in front of your significant other’s parents the first time you met them, don’t wear it gambling!If the kinds of people you see on those occasions don’t want to see it, we don’t either.

2. Button up

Now that you’ve put on a button up shirt, a nice pair of slacks, a decent pair of shoes, and a respectable belt, you’re ready for the tables. Except for one thing. You’ve made a rookie mistake. You have assumed, as does every young man these days, that because you have good muscles, or a decent chest thatch, that the world wants to share. You’re wrong. We don’t. You don’t have to button the top button and wear a tie, but for goodness sake, leave something to the imagination. Remember, class. Show some.

3. Hair

I’m not going to lecture you on hair. But let me be clear. If your hair identifies you with any group, subculture, region, ideology or idea, then it’s wrong for gambling. The idea is to be presentable, and hopefully slightly attractive. But if the latter is impossible, go for the first.


1. Keep it quiet.

Don’t shout, scream or yell. I recognize that this might seem a little robotic of me, but this is for the dealer’s sake. I recognize you just hit 21 and made a ton of money. I recognize you just were totally bluffing about your straight flush and got the other guy to fold. I recognize you just rolled a 2 to 12 World in craps, but these people listen to players for a living. They don’t need more ear damage.

2. Keep it polite.

This is not personal. If it ever gets personal, leave the table. If you win, be sincerely sorry. And you are. If you lose, be sincerely happy for the winner, and you are. And never get uppity with the dealer. They do not cheat, they do not play favorites, they call it like they see it, and if you mess up, you mess up. Do not blame other people for your problems. You chose to sit at that table, and that means everything that happens to you is your fault. Period.

3. Keep it light.

No crying, no politics, no religion, none of that nonsense. You keep it light and happy. The dealer doesn’t want to hear about your problems, and just because they are forced to listen doesn’t mean they like it. This also applies to bartenders. If you have a problem, get a therapist. Otherwise, stop complaining. You got a problem with another player, you get a new table, not the other player, even if you sat down first.


1. Tip the dealer.

If you win, there is absolutely no excuse not to. None. I have lost and tipped, but I am professional. These people put up with extremely unbearable people all day, and have put up with you, and your odd behavior. They deserve a share of the winnings. In my opinion, there are no hard and fast rules for tipping dealers, but as your winnings go up, your tip should exponentially rise as well.

2. Do not act like a “player.”

Don’t have your girlfriend blow on your dice. Don’t carry a good luck charm. Don’t act like this is a movie. You are not Robert Downey Jr. or Daniel Craig. Chances are if you meet a beautiful woman in a casino who wants to gamble with you, she just wants a piece of the action. There is nothing wrong with this. These women are called con artists. Respect and fear these women as they deserve. If you take them to your room and spend the night with them, you deserve every chip or dollar they take from your wallet before you wake up. Lesson? Be who you are at the tables, not who you want to be.

3. Don’t drink.

There are two big reasons not to drink while gambling:

  • It makes you look like a cad. The guy with the glass of wine or glass of tequila or whatever at the table is very hard to respect and is displaying a lack of respect for the others at the table. Now if someone shows up with a bottle of gin and proceeds to pound the entire thing back without swaying even a little, that is a man to be feared, but unless you have the constitution of a pirate or a Russian conscript from the Second World War, you will run into the second reason not to drink.
  • It will destroy your technique. Very few gamblers can gamble with alcohol in their system. Unless you are both an experienced drinker and an experienced gambler, you are not one of these people. Being a steady drinker is not enough. Absolute resistance to alcohol is required.


In conclusion, to gamble like a man, all that is required is that you act like a man. Don’t lose your head; act like an adult. Dress and behave like one, and you will be treated like one by others and by the game. Now this is not to say that every game is the same. Indeed, each game has its own rules, and we will get to them in time, but for now, play by the rules I have given you, and you will be all right. See you next time, kid. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

1 Jason June 19, 2009 at 6:36 am

Gambling sucks! It is in no way associated with being a man.

2 Charlie on PA Tpk June 19, 2009 at 6:47 am

A good read. Contrary to previous post, when done properly gambling is every bit a manly activity as any other.

3 Seth Q. June 19, 2009 at 6:48 am

Excellent post! Agree completely about the bit on how casinos are designed today. They’re atrocious! And thank you for suggesting that people actually get dressed up when they visit a casino. I’m tired of seeing people dress in cut off shorts and t-shirts prowling in the casinos. No class.

4 Jerry June 19, 2009 at 7:06 am

I wonder if Jason has anymore substantial criticism to level at gambling other than it “sucks.” Or if he’s even gambled.

If men are by nature lovers of competition, of strategy, of cunning, and fun, then gambling is indeed manly. It is like scotch whisky or sex-it can be used and abused, or can be enjoyed properly.

I enjoyed Christatos’ job interview post and this article as well. Keep em coming.

5 Frank June 19, 2009 at 7:06 am

A fantastic read. Mr. Aristad should think about taking up writing in retirement.

I can attest to the “I’ll stop when I’m ahead” fallacy. As soon as I learned to stop when my gut told me to, I stopped losing money. When things start going bad, stop and go some where else.

And I agree with Charlie. Like any activity, if done with maturity, gambling can be a manly activity. My weekly poker nights with my buddies are one of the highlights of my week. Lots of male bonding going on there.

6 Patrick June 19, 2009 at 7:56 am

Jason, I’d have to agree with you. I’d much rather spend my money on important things such as my mortgage, bills, food etc.. Even if I did have a little extra income on hand, I would never take a gamble and throw it all away. I find a savings account to be much more preferable than a Blackjack table. I will say though, the fact that you covered the risks involved is great. However its very easy to say you’ll limit yourself to a certain amount and then get caught up in the game and lose more than you ever thought possible. Its happened to even some of my more responsible friends. I’m not against a weekend in Vegas every so often, but the truth is, gambling can take its toll even in small doses.

I like how you just wrote an article on the vices of porn and then you write this article. Essentially they are the same in concept, both can be addictive, both can disrupt family life, both can exploit people etc…again thats all a matter of perspective, but you seem to be a bit biased on what YOU personally think makes a man and not what men think as a whole.

Just my opinion, I do enjoy this site, but every once and a while I think you let personal views skew the truth.

7 Bernie Franks June 19, 2009 at 9:34 am

I’m with Patrick on this one, this article seems to be rather inconsistent with what you’ve posted in the past. Despite the strategy employed in (some kinds of) gambling, it is kind of hypocritical to denounce pornography while praising gambling.

8 Michael J June 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

As a man in my late 20′s, i have found that playing poker against total strangers is one the most competitive and fulfilling pastimes I have ever enjoyed.

The amount of skill, cunning, logic and empathy required to actually win at a session is in itself an intense exersize of the mind,
To sit down at the tables without following a system of class and grace like the one described by Mr. Aristad would seem to me like financial suicide.

By not taking what you are doing seriously, you disrespect the table, the money and the other people that are competing with you. You will leave with no money.

That said, gambling is like any other addiction, and it is wrong to overindulge addictions.

i look forward to reading more of what mr. Aristad has to say about this very interesting subject.

Mike J in San Diego

9 Brett June 19, 2009 at 10:08 am

@Bernie and Patrick-

I expected some criticism in my posting this, and that’s fine. I respect your opinion. I also readily admit that my personal opinions will often come through on this site. That’s only natural since as the editor-in-chief of AoM I decide what to write and what to post. And so perhaps you see me as hypocritical in condemning pornography but not gambling. But I see major differences between the two. The most important being that in my life I have not met a single person who’s life has been ruined by gambling, and yet I know many many men who enjoy it in moderation. If you read the pornography thread there are dozens of stories people shared of how pornography ruined their life and ruined their relationships, and people keep adding stories every week. If this post gets that level of response, I will surely reconsider my position.

Speaking of personal views skewing things, I do find it interesting that I did not hear any complaints when we posted say, the cocktails post, but isn’t that a vice just like gambling or porn? I think at the end of the day we all make personal judgment calls on what we feel is wrong and right.

10 Christatos Aristad June 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

I appreciate the intent of the critisicms presented here, and as such, I have a little to say here.

My desire here, as I said before, is nt to encourage gambling. It is to educate and enlighten. The philosophy of forbidding the young as they embark on life and take risks and prepare to make mistakes has never produced positive results. As enlightened individuals, our responsibility is not to simply stand in stony silence and wag our collective finger at our younger fellows, but to educate them, so that they can avoid the pitfalls we see before them, or at least have a cushioned landing when they fall.

Consider an alternate situation. I see young man in a bar, depressed and heavy into his first drink, prepared to spend the night deep in his cups. Now what do I do? Do I simply tell him to walk away, a tactic almost guaranteed to fail, or do I take another tack, engage him in conversation, and perhaps educate him on the manner of drink, not trying to be his therapist, as that is certain to drive him away, but help him to avoid drowning his sorrows and instead give him a firm grounding in the lore of liquor so that there need be no fear on my part that he will, in the future, walk the path of the alcoholic. I posit that the second tactic is the superior one for an educated gentleman to take.

In light of that, I would ask you this. Do you really think young men are not going to gamble? I do not believe so. I believe they will. As such, I believe it is my obligation to educate them in the proper way to gamble so as to preserve their chances of a full and healthy life. I can not stop the addict from gambling away his life. Nothing I do will stop the worlds future Brian Molony’s from their path, but I can do my part to help the next generation from the kind of foolish self destructive behavior that every older man is obligated to assist his fellow man in avoiding. That I would say, is manliness. The obligation to your fellow. And I intend to fulfill my own.

That said, if Brett sees fit to end these articles, I will quite happily tender my resignation, as I have no intention of negatively affecting the fortunes of my generous host.

I hope that we can all meet somewhere in the middle on this gentleman, and that courtesy will win out over our less generous instincts in this matter as it should in all things. I look forward to any further conversation or questions.

11 Frank June 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

Patrick and Bernie-

Not to threadjack, but Patrick and Bernie, what are your thoughts on drinking? Just like porn or gambling, alcohol can be addictive, disrupt family life, exploit people, etc.

If you’re not drinkers, than I would understand your beefs about Brett not being consistent. But if you do occasionally enjoy a nice stiff drink or a beer, why the beef with being inconsistent? Alcohol is much as a vice as porn and gambling.

12 Kate June 19, 2009 at 10:46 am

Dear Christatos-

I think you’re the bees knees.


13 Hallock June 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I notice our percentage of Puritans on the boards have risen.

If you don’t like gambling, quite simply don’t gamble. This article isn’t suggesting that it is the hallmark of manhood, simply that if you choose to, you should conduct yourself in the manner of a gentleman.

14 Brad June 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm

“If your hair identifies you with any group, subculture, region, ideology or idea, then it’s wrong for gambling.”

Asking people to avoid this seems impossible at best and intolerant at worst.

15 David June 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Wow, talk about taking all the fun out of gambling. I understand that some of the things here might be applicable to some games (when playing poker, be more reserved, always respect other players, etc) but a lot of this is pretty bad advice. dress like you’re going to a funeral? If you’re standing there in a black suit and tie everyone is going to think you’re an employee. The fun in playing craps is yelling out the bets and being excited by the roll of the dice. standing there silently is a boring way to lose a lot of money.

16 Jack McNiel June 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Why not “an introduction to the art of bankrupting your family and ruining your marriage”?

17 O June 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

@Christatos, Brett

I have to fundamentally disagree with you. As you alluded to in your post, betting against the house is a fools game. To win in the long run, you must bet against your fellow man. To win consistently one must have skills that those you play against do not. I suspect those you play against are (in general) not happy to give you their money. If they know going in that they would be playing against (and loosing to) someone of much greater skill, I doubt they would be so eager to put their chips down.

The question I pose is this: “Is is manly to take advantage of others?” In effect, that is what you are doing when you don’t disclose your skill level before buying in. The argument can be made that the excitement for your victims lies in that uncertainty. I say that is bunk.

To quell any suspicions, I am not a jaded gambler looking to find ill’s because of his losses. In fact, I’ve never gambled. I find the frugal life to be much more manly. I should state that I am not denouncing gambling, in moderation, all things have their place; but is it manly? I say no.

18 Noelle June 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Excellent read! I enjoy dressing up and going to the casinos, as much for the people-watching as for the gambling itself. To me, it’s no different than going to, say, the movies + dinner: I know beforehand that I’m going to spend XXX dollars and I choose how fast or how slowly it leaves my hands. I certainly never EXPECT to win, but I do expect to have fun, even if I “lose” $$. But, that’s $$ I would’ve spent anyway, on having an *experience*. Some people might choose to drop $150/ticket on a concert; I might choose to drop $150 on nickel slots. I disagree with thinking of gambling as a road to “bankruptcy and ruining your marriage.” Perhaps that is the case for out-of-control spenders, but that’s their fault, not the casino’s.

19 Simon June 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

Gambling is certainly not manly. It is just stupid. A “way to network with people”? I would never want to network with the kind of people enjoying such moronic activities as gambling.

I have also to agree with what has been said: it is hypocritical to condone gambling while criticizing pornography.

20 Nick June 20, 2009 at 3:46 am

It seems unfortunate that many here seem unable to see the compromise that Mr. Aristad is proposing and the sensibleness of his post. Whatever your opinions on gambling the fact is many people are still going to do it. As Mr. Aristad already adequetely pointed out his intent is not to encourage but to educate so that people who do gamble are better prepared and educated. It’s somewhat equivalent to teaching teenagers the importance of safe sex without actively encouraging it. Perhaps not idealistic, but pragmatic.

And indeed on the contrary Mr. Aristad and the careers of many other professional gamblers are testament to the fact that gambling is not unequivocally a bad thing, or a stupid thing, it can be enjoyed and done sensibly to the individual’s benefit.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article and look forward to more.

21 Brett June 20, 2009 at 6:08 am

While more critics have weighed in, I find it interesting that none have yet:

1) Provided a real story about themselves or a loved one where gambling ruined their life, caused bankruptcy or broke up their marriage.

2) Explained in a meaningful way why they oppose gambling and how it is different than any other form of entertainment.

3) Explained why they cry hypocrisy here, but not on our alcohol-related posts.

I am always open to listening to reader feedback. But if one’s criticism does not move beyond “sucks” or “stupid” or passing snark, then there’s little chance of my being persuaded to your position.

22 Aaron June 20, 2009 at 8:45 am

I’m confused. To my knowledge, the only casino game you can play against other players is poker. You can definitely make money playing poker, but the table games casinos play will always favor the house. While outside-the-box gray-area play in blackjack (see the books Bringing Down the House, Busting Vega$) might be profitable, playing craps, roulette, bacarrat, etc. always has a negative expected value for the player.

23 Christatos Aristad June 20, 2009 at 11:30 am


Roulette is a dead mans game no doubt, something with which I would never argue.

Craps is a more complicated question, as again, negative expected value is determined in the long term while in the short term, with a properly cultivated throw one can manipulate the short term odds involved and derive profit, especially depending on the betting structure being used and how th other players are betting. I will explain more in the article on the game.

As for Baccarat, I will not argue that Punto Banco is strictly a game of chance, but Deux Tableux and Railway both allow for strategy and skill.

My response to strict games of chance is simple, as it was my intention to elaborate in future articles. You determine the odds before hand. you can either win or you can’t. There is no breaking the bank. I believe I covered this in the Saying section of the article. If I was unclear, I will be happy to respond in greater length and detail in e-mail.

24 NT4thBook June 20, 2009 at 6:40 pm

My uncle was a professional gambler. Must have been a pretty good one, too because when he died, he left a pretty nice estate to his wife. It was the only job he had had since the mid-1970′s. He used to tell me he had “quit, trying to quit”. It was like a drug, he had to do it. It made for a lonely life. Every Christmas Eve, at 11PM, my grandfather would slip away from our family festivities, answer the phone. My uncle always called. No matter where he was in the world. His wife, who inherited his estate, “wasn’t much of a talker” even on Christmas Eve. When my Granddad died, my Dad took the calls. I reckon I would have taken it on, if he had lived longer. At his funeral, very few people came, no one knew him in his hometown, but there where bountiful flower arraignments from folks around the country and from establishments in familiar gambling destinations. I guess he was a “good Folk”. But often I think, the memorandums were sent in acknowledgement of the drink they were sharing “called loneliness.”
The advice from this article is solid, in the sense of the “truths of the Game”, but it glamorizes the lifestyle, that is no more real, than the movies it is often depicted in. Granted, it is a fair sport. Golfers throw money at new clubs and golf outings. Softballers buy $400 bats and $250 gloves, pay dues whatnot, but gambling is different. There is never a time when your body says “That’s it! I am done!”. As a professional gambler, you can’t lay down the cards and walk away. Ever.
Chances are, the “recently retired professional”, Christatos Aristad, will be in a backroom playing a $50,000 hand, before the summer is done.
I bet you anything.

25 O June 21, 2009 at 6:49 am

@ Brett

Did you miss my explanation as to why I don’t think gambling is manly?

Really, when you picture the archetype gambler in your mind, do you see a gentleman or a scoundrel? If you want to make money at it, gambling isn’t a sport or a game. At its base gambling is about taking advantage of others. It may be fun and a great exercise in strategy and psychology, but it isn’t manly. At least, no in the idea of manliness presented on this site.

And as to your first question, there are countless stories of gambling ruining lives. I don’t see that as a condemnation of the activity as much as I see it as a condemnation of those that let it take over their life.

All said, it was an interesting article and I look forward to reading more, I just don’t think its a fit for this site.

26 Christatos Aristad June 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Gentleman. I wrote up a significantly angrier response to your posts, but decided we would all be ill served by it. so let me keep this simple.

NT4book: I have been retired for a year and a half, without so much as gambling on a horse race. You lose. Strictly speaking, based on the traditional rules of gambling, I get to define anything in a bet with a variable value, so I’ll let you know when I figure out what I want.

As to the meat of the issue, considering the fact that one half of my article is an explanation of how human psychology will cause everyone to lose by instinct, and the other half is telling them to get a haircut and dress like they are going to meet their parents, I really can’t imagine how that is glamorizing the lifestyle, or even describing it, but I am told I am comically out of touch with todays youth so, by all means, educate me.

You fail to, one, bother to even copy and paste one of the articles you provide, and two, respond to the points that Brett and I have made thus far which leads me to the conclusion that you are intentionally responding in a selective manner, which is a discourtesy to everyone involved in the conversation, and the next person who does it is not going to get the kinder side of my personality. To reiterate:

Brett: How is this article worse than the cocktail article in that alcoholism, an addiction, ruin lives, wastes fortunes, destroys families, and certainly isn’t manly? Again, have any of you bothered to read this question? Where I come from it is polite to listen to people you are having a discussion with.

Me: My intention is to educate not glamorize, and if you think not talking about something will stop young men from doing something, you are an ostrich of a man. No where do I advocate addiction, and in fact I specifically detail in the Sayings part of the article how to now fall prey to the very failings that lead to addictive gambling.

What’s more, let me re-iterate something. There seems to be a misconception here that gambling is taking advantage of people. If the definition of taking advantage of people that you provide O is someone of greater skill taking on someone of lesser skill and defeating them, than every proffessional sport is taking advantage of someone, as is every conceivable form of negotiation, the act of salesmanship, and virtually every job I can think of off the top of my head. As far as I can tell the difference here is that I cut out all the middle men and do my contesting directly, which, somehow, makes me less honest and more disreputable rather than more so. By your definition of taking advantage of people, the most honest people in the world are muggers, followed by conmen, followed by gamblers, followed by everyone else. I assume that is not the intent of your remark?

I intend to be as courteous as I can be as we proceed, but as of yet, few of these responses, though they decry the lack of manliness in this article, have displayed any real gentlemanliness, which i find regrettable. I hope this will change.

27 Gerard June 21, 2009 at 5:59 pm

As a person who does not gamble (and has no intention of ever doing it), I actually found the article interesting and have not found it in any way to be “glamorizing” or even encouraging gambling.

28 NT4thBook June 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Hey, Chris, I apologize for calling you out at the end of my post. I guess I was kind of reading it as a randomly selected article, and not as a contribution by a guest writer. My intentions would have been equally, if not better, served by leaving your name out at the end. My bad.
But, in the light banter that crosses the tables (AKA trash talk), I would point out that “Strictly speaking, based on the traditional rules of gambling,”… the bet should play out within the defining parameters, thus I have till the end of summer! Nice Bluff, but I’m gonna play it out! LOL
In honesty, I hope you make it. It is incredibly hard to do. You must have a strong support group or you are freak-in’ Kenny Rodgers!
I want to add, I agree with your second point, after rereading your article, I took a lot of liberty in establishing your position, as to be glamorizing gambling. Most of that comes from the title bestowed on you as “professional gambler.” It suggest it can be done, that combined with my family situation and all.
Wish you the best, man.

29 O June 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Please take a moment to collect yourself. I’ll address your points individually.

You fail to, one, bother to even copy and paste one of the articles you provide,

The articles were simply to illustrated that gambling can be the means to ruin lives, just like sex, alcohol, drugs or any other vice. I don’t know if Brett was being tongue in cheek or if he had really never heard of lives falling apart from gambling. To deny that it happens is disingenuous at best. If you did indeed read past the link, you may have noticed that I did not use this point as a condemnation of gambling in and of itself, but rather a condemnation of those that, metaphorically speaking, ride it to hell. For the life of me, I can’t understand your taking issue with this point.

and two, respond to the points that Brett and I have made thus far…

That’s because I am not arguing in favor of the points that you both addressed. In fact, the point I argued was not addressed until your last reply. Now that any misconceptions have been cleared up, let’s get to it.

There seems to be a misconception here that gambling is taking advantage of people.

For a professional gambler, I don’t think it is a misconception. You choose a mark, and you try to win their money. It’s a zero-sum game. If you were any good at picking your mark, it’s an easy game at that. Your counter example regarding sales is a negotiation. If he is an honest salesmen and conducts his business with integrity, then no, he isn’t out to take advantage. Unfortunately, he is also most likely not a very wealthy salesman. Sporting is an ever poorer example. In sports, where is the fun in dominating your opponent?

In short, seeking out a competitor of equal skill is manly, seeking out your better even more so. Seeking out an inferior to dominate, is not. It is however prudent if one wants to gamble professionally.

Let me end by reiterating that I thought it to be one of the more interesting and enjoyable articles on the site.

30 Brett June 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm


I was not being tongue-in-cheek about not knowing of anyone whose life has been ruined by gambling. I was not saying that I don’t believe that it happens, simply that I have never known anyone personally in my life which it has happened to. Which leads me to believe that this boogeyman that gets trotted out in every gambling debate is rather overstated.

I do not see the validity of your argument that gambling consists of taking advantage of someone else. I don’t wish to speak for Christatos, and I hope he corrects me if I am wrong, but as a professional gambler he was asked to compete in certain games. He did not seek out “inferior” players to dominate. He sat down at the table with other people who were completely cognizant of why they were there and the risks involved, and he tried to beat them. I do not understand how this is different from sports. In sports, as in gambling, you are matched up with players of varying capabilities. And no matter how good or bad they are, you try to beat them. How patronizing would it be to refuse to play someone because you would beat them too badly! Would the track superstar say to his much slower opponent, “Drop out now. You can’t beat me, and it won’t be any fun to dominate you.” The people Christatos played were likely just as confident as Chris was that they could beat him. Every person who plays a game believes that and deserves a shot at proving it. There is absolutely no “taking advantage” in a game where everyone knows exactly what they have signed up for.

31 O June 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm


How many heroin addicts do you know personally? I say that not to relate gambling to drug use (though they do have their similarities), but to point out the fallacy of relying solely on personal experience.

Regarding your second paragraph, I concede the point for the casual gambler. For the professional gambler (which all of my comments have been and will be about) to make a living, in the long run they have to prey on players of lesser skill.

Your example gets it backwards. The gambler is like the pro athlete that refuses matches with anyone better than themselves.

I think the bigger issue is how does one define “Manliness?” My personal definition is quite simple; manliness is the set of characteristics possessed by the person I would want to marry my daughter.

I’ve only recently read the “so you want my job” post by Mr. Aristad. In it, he flatly says that his profession is not honorable. Nothing against Mr. Aristad personally but, all things being equal, would you want someone that didn’t think their profession was honorable marrying your daughter?

32 Brett June 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm


I’ve actually met quite a few heroin addicts. But I’ve never crossed paths with a gambling addict. I’m not trying to be cheeky here; that’s the truth.

I do not feel you have addressed the heart of my argument. You have said that professional gamblers “prey” on other people and “take advantage of them.” But you have yet to make the case for why this is so. Because professional gamblers like Christatos play against other professional gamblers. Their whole job is to gamble and they know exactly what they’re doing and the risks that they take. If two professional gamblers agree to play each other, how does it hold that the one with greater playing ability, simply by nature of his greater talent, is taking advantage of the other? Whoever Christatos played knew they could lose and hoped they could win. You must explain how this is “preying” on someone.

“Your example gets it backwards. The gambler is like the pro athlete that refuses matches with anyone better than themselves.”

Where are you getting your information for your assumptions about professional gamblers? As I explained above, Christatos would be invited to a game with other professional players, and he would try to beat them. He neither turned down games with superior players nor went intentionally seeking games with inferior players. Your entire argument rests on an assumption that isn’t true.

Finally, you say above that all your comments have been addressed to the issue of professional gambling. Which has left me confused because there’s nothing in this post that encourages men to become professional gamblers. That’s absolutely not the purpose of this series of posts. This series will be designed to help the casual gambler gamble properly. Thus, I feel there is no contradiction between this series and your definition of manliness. Because I certainly wouldn’t object to my daughter marrying a man who gambled occasionally. Although perhaps some men would.

33 Christatos Aristad June 22, 2009 at 4:44 pm


I am not going to bother forming complete arguments as you have displayed a complete and tedious disregard for any argument extending past two lines.

Prove or concede the following points or fail.

1. Gambling is wrong.

2. Professional Gambling as I describe it is the same as you describe it.

3. Addiction is a valid metric of moral measurement.

4. Alcohol is exempt from point 3.

5. Your description of professional gambling does not apply to the art of negotiatiating.

6. I advocate proffessional gambling as a worthy and attractive life choice.

7. The addictive nature of a thing invalidates it as an manly activity.

8. Everything isn’t addictive.

Prove or concede the fallacy of all 8 points or make no further responses involving me or anything I have written in anyway. If you fail to meet my requirements, I will cease to be a gentleman in the course of this conversation.

34 Seth Q. June 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I can’t believe this debate is still going on. Wow.

After reading O’s comments, it seems he’s describing a hustler, not a professional gambler. A hustler marks some poor guy and takes him to the cleaners. Hustler’s prey on the weak and use deception about their skill level. If O is describing a hustler, then I’d agree with him. Hustlers are scoundrels.

Professional gamblers, on the other hand, play against people with equal skill and acumen. By professional gambler’s I’m thinking of people we see in the World Series of Poker or what Mr. Aristad once did. I’m sure most of the fun for professionals isn’t the money making part, but rather the thrill of engaging in mental and psychological battle with other players. I like the analogy of negotiation that Mr. Aristad gives. In poker, just as in negotiation, you bluff, use puffery, and try to figure out what the other person’s thinking.

A hustler probably isn’t interested in the mental battle, but only in the money. So they’ll do whatever is necessary to get it.

Perhaps to Mr. O a hustler and a professional gambler are the same thing. If so, I hope my description of a professional gambler and a hustler will convince him that they’re not. If not, no big deal. I won’t lose any sleep over it.

35 O June 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm


I took a gamble* using heroin addicts as an example. I’m sure you can pick another substance, perhaps meth or PCP? A second point in the same vein* would be that people that loose their lives (figuratively) won’t have the outward signs that someone addicted to a drug might. Not to presume but you may know several people with gambling problems and not realize it.

On to your (and my) major point. (1) I see a professional gambler as someone that earns their living through gambling. If you disagree with this please state as much as it is a very important assumption. A second assumption (2) is that professionals gamble with other people. They don’t play the ponies and they don’t play the house. This assumption was explicitly stated by the author himself.

If (2) holds, what’s left are, as I previously stated, a set of zero-sum games. No wealth is created (as a broker might do), it is only transferred from the looser to the winner.

Your claim is that professional players only play each other. If this is true then (1) cannot hold as wealth would only be transferred between players. It’s hard to pay the mortgage if your net worth is constant.

I posit that instead, the professional player, or a network of pros, increase the wealth within the network by playing non professionals. In the spirit of last weeks car talk, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that is the only way it can work.

As for your final paragraph. As I’ve stated at least twice, I’ve no problem with casual gambling. In fact, I’ve no problem with pros. I just don’t see a profession that considers itself dishonorable manly. You ask why I bring up the issue of pros at all. Do you really need to ask?

As an aside, have you had a post dealing with the question “What is manliness?” I realize that is what the site is all about but I mean small aphorisms that might answer that question. Another might be, “If Teddy did it, it’s manly.”

*wakka, wakka, wakka

I never made claims for six of your points. The other two are addressed above. Frankly, what little dialogue we have had has devolved.

@Seth Q.
Yea… it is exhausting, isn’t it?

In my reply to Brett, I’ve tried to explain why all pro gamblers are, to some extent, hustlers. The picture painted by the author of pros only playing one another in unsustainable because no wealth is created.

36 Christatos Aristad June 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm


I offered you what amounted to rhetorical yes or no questions. You answered maybe. You fail at conversation.

You also fail at math. Professional gamblers play with financial backing from wealthier individuals, as i explained in my previous article. That does not fall within the definition of zero-sum, as a positive quantity is being put into the system by an external agent. Your argument is akin to saying the earth violates the second law of thermodynamics because you forgot the sun exists. Your problems are not our problems.

Do you actually intend to make a good faith argument at any point?

37 Aaron June 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm


Thanks for your response. I was not aware of the European games you listed. I’d be interested in reading in a subsequent post your thoughts on how a gentlemen approaches gambling against other players. I always find the ethical tacks poker players. proposition bettors and others take interesting. Some say that if the wager is fair, all manner of psychological warfare can ensue.


38 O June 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm


The concept of asking a “rhetorical yes or no question” makes as little sense as your claims.

You exhaust my credulity by claiming that you only play with others monies and, more fantastically, you only play others that are externally financed.

All of this is besides the point. The point is that you’ve said yourself that gambling is not an “honorable” profession. That single point is what flies in the face of manliness.

39 Brett June 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm


I am not sure which is less honorable, being a professional gambler, or accusing another man of being a liar. Actually, I would side with the latter as being more dishonorable. Christatos played with other people’s money. That’s the truth. Your argument that professional gamblers prey on inferior players, which was based wholly and completely on how you imagined professional gamblers in your head, has failed, and it would be most manly to admit this.

“All of this is besides the point. The point is that you’ve said yourself that gambling is not an “honorable” profession. That single point is what flies in the face of manliness.”

Actually, the point is that this post had nothing to do with being a professional gambler and yet you persist in making comments on this subject. If you wanted to debate the merits of professional gambling, you could have done so on the actual post that dealt with being a professional gambler. Here they are wholly inappropriate and off-subject. If you persist in continuing in either accusing Christatos of dishonesty and making off-topic arguments, be forewarned that I will henceforth delete your comments.

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