Once upon a time poker was a friendly way for men to bond. Not so in this brave new world. People need extra dollars, games have become intense. Thousands of dollars gets passed around my small community. People spend money to take classes on poker. I know one guy who is a statistics professor and uses quite a complex algorithm to place his bets. Another friend of mine would watch horses from the time they were born to help her place bets on them as they entered the races. Yet another couple I know spent their vacation on a cruise ship devoted to teaching everyone on board to be a professional poker player.

Lottery is run by the state. It is a voluntary tax, so rich and educated people who don't need additional money tend to vote it in as harmless. Poor and hopeful people are the bulk of the participants. Of course someone DOES win. It is very heartwarming to see them holding the huge check, teary eyed and thankful. One recent power ball winner had lost his mobile home just the week before. The problem is, the percentage of people who win to people who play is abysmally small. The percentage of income to percentage spent on lottery tickets is ridiculously large. One would do better to put away $5 a week in an interest bearing account for twenty years.

Seminars on poker playing are an interesting concept to me. I was under the impression that it is a game of chance. There are however percentages one can play. Having a "poker" face is helpful, as well as beginner's luck. A sly talent for deceit or creating a diversion is also helpful. There is no such thing as a "friendly game" if you are losing more than you can afford. Betting on pool is a more controlled bet. You would know your own skill level and you might observe the skill of the possible players. You can buy them drinks and get them drunk first to tip odds.

Publisher's clearing house states on every entry that no purchase is necessary to win. People buy things anyway, thinking it will increase their chances. As with state lottery, some one DOES win. That person is sometimes shown on TV. I used to enter without purchasing as a cheap hobby. I had to quit. The junk mail it generated was unacceptable. Each letter claiming to be the VERY last step in my journey to winning was too trying. I came to dislike the let down more than I enjoyed the play.

My customer at the post office likes to recount his glory day of being a high roller in Vegas. One time once he won a substantial pot which he took home. It was good that he didn't blow the whole wad immediately, but shame his lifelong gambling habit essentially was a net loss. I wonder if he won big again what he would spend it on at the age of 70. Seems to me, with his personality, it would be nothing but more gambling. He enjoys the moment of unknown possibility more than he dislikes the loss of money. So he's hooked. I hand him his parcels from Publisher's Clearing house wondering what else he could possibly need.

One of the most insidious things about gambling is that it breeds and feeds on discontent. The ads show a lottery winner gamely telling their jerk-off boss to stuff it, as if no job is worth having, and as if no employer was every nice. Could it be true that work has no intrinsic value? I could see how a fresh young person with a strong work ethic could get battered in this economy. Dopey and Lucky got jobs while skilled people, intelligent people, people willing to work go idle.