The Good Life: Bet You A Buck? You Bet!
By Denny Bonavita
All my life, I have been a betting man. For a while in my 20s, I was also a gambling man.
There is a difference.
A betting man will say, “I’ll bet the forecast is wrong; it won’t rain today.” I have said that, and accepted the challenge of putting up some money to back up my prediction.
A gambling man would stop at the Sons of Italy Club in Warren on a Saturday night, sip a bourbon and water while yakking, and then wander into a back room where the “old men” were playing poker.
These guys looked like extra characters from a “Godfather, Part II” movie. Some wore the flat caps with a buckle in the back that connoted immigrants of a certain vintage. One or two would display neckties and suit jackets. These weren’t “dress up” clothes. They had worked in such clothes in the 1920s.
They had plenty of clothes, but not quite as many teeth. The dentures of the day could be ill fitting, and expensive. At the poker table, an extra cup served as a repository for the “store teeth.” Other players learned to lean back out of spitting range when one of these “goombahs” (mangled dialect for “compare,” an Italian version of “pal”) excitedly bragged about a full house or four eights.
These guys looked like dimwitted old men.
They knew how and when to bet, to bluff, to bluster or to sit quietly.
They were past masters at light-heartedly separating us young “college guys” from good chunks of our paychecks.
I was a gambling man for a while. Then my wife suggested that I choose between being a gambling man and being a family man.
So I quit, flat-out. I am not capable of just cutting back. I know it. So I do not play anything more substantial than penny-ante, and don’t often even play at that level.
But I still like to bet.
Betting can be as addicting and financially damaging as gambling.
I still wanted to bet on the World Series, on whether it would rain tomorrow, on some weird trivia question. Pretty soon, along came children four, five and six. Slapping a $20 bill down onto the bar was almost as bad as pulling up a chair to the poker table.
So I continue to bet, but I instituted a limit: One dollar, maximum. That’s it.
Betting is often as much about bragging rights as it is about money.
If I had chosen a betting limit of substance, $50 or even $100, one bet might lead to another bet and … there be danger down that way.
At a dollar or less, nobody makes a bet hoping to win actual money. The amount of money just isn’t significant. At that level, the significant things are the bragging rights and the sheer fun of it.
So my wife and I limit our informal bets to a $1 maximum.
Most often, we settle for 50 cents. Occasionally, I will suggest 90 cents.
If I loudly trumpet my intention to wager the full one dollar, she trembles in fear. (Psst; she doesn’t really do that. But I like to think that I am a champion bluffer as well as a great better). Every so often, my wife or another family member or friend will back down and decline the bet if I thump my chest and act as though I am positive, not just confident, that I am right about the topic.
We have words for that kind of speech. They start with the letter “b.” One of those words is “bluffing.” I do that on occasion, but rarely enough that my betting foes can’t be quite sure.
“Dad is bluffing … isn’t he?”
I love it when I see those words reflected in the person’s facial expression.
And I love winning “bragging rights” bets.
There is, however, a problem.
We forget how much we bet. Alternatively, we forget which one of us said “Yes,” or “No,” or was it the other way around?
Technology to the rescue!
Cell phones! “Smart” cell phones, IPhones to be precise, phones that automatically synchronize their calendar entries with the calendar entries on my desk computer.
With very little effort, we now have printable evidence. The words are typed in via keyboard, so we don’t even need to worry about not being able to read our senior-scrawled handwriting.
With just a bit of tweaking, the betting records are also savable as score sheets. We keep a running tally.
Of course, I am way ahead in the won-lost column of these bets with my wife.
I can print out the score sheet with a few keystrokes.
Oh. You suggest that I could also change what I had written so that it looked as though I had won more often than I really had won?
Would I stoop that low?
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org