Do Americans gamble for fun?

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I can see part of your point in a past column, Mutual Funds versus Blackjack, but many Americans believe that investing on Wall Street is also a form of gambling. At least in Vegas you have fun even when you lose. Besides, most people gamble for the entertainment value anyway. Brad K.

I would not confuse a Gallop Poll where 52% of respondents said investing in the stock market was a form of gambling, with you having fun and losing in a casino.

In actuality, Brad, far too many players ante-up with nothing more than greed on their minds. If you think Americans gamble for fun, don’t bet on it. Most Americans who gamble say they wager to make money and not simply to be entertained. According to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC), a dramatic and ominous shift has occurred in the reasons why people bet. In 1975, seven in 10 Americans told the NORC that they gambled for the “excitement and challenge of gambling,” and well under half said making money was an important reason. Not so today.

In NORC’s most recent survey, two out of three Americans, or 67%, now say they bet “to win money.”

Those contrary tugs that people feel about gambling often affect most the very people who can least afford to throw away their hard-earned money. No one, repeat, no one should ever view gambling as a source of income.

Getting back to what I previously wrote in my column, “Mutual funds versus Blackjack,” my analysis compared earning a living by playing the stock market to earning a living playing blackjack. I stated that entering the world of blackjack as a profession (investment) takes enormous work and you are playing against, if not for a better term, a “financial institution” that not only has a built-in house edge, but also is there exclusively to beat you out of every dollar you have.

Gambling should never be a poor man’s way of investing. Even for the poorest of investors, a $500 wager in a mutual fund is a much better bet.

In your column in the Detroit News, you alluded to learning about basic blackjack strategy. Where can I learn this strategy? Eugene P.

Blackjack is a unique casino game because it allows players to make playing decisions that will affect the outcome of each blackjack hand. Basic strategy is nothing more than how you play each blackjack hand against the dealers “up-card.” Playing a hand poorly will allow the casino to have up to an 8% edge against the Average Joe. If, however, Joe decides to learn perfect basic strategy, that edge can be reduced to less than 1%.

Now, if the thought of breaking even against the house does not offer you ample monetary incentive to take the time to learn basic strategy, maybe knowing that you will place yourself in the 99th percentile among all players will, since fewer than one out of every 100 players uses perfect basic strategy.

So how do you take advantage of this lucrative and simple way of wagering? Just walk into any casino gift shop and purchase a basic strategy card that the casino sells for $2 – $5. These strategy cards are worth their weight in gold, because once you learn basic strategy to a point of where it becomes automatic, you will lose considerably less money at blackjack.

But wait a minute. Do you really want to give the casinos any more of your hard-earned money than you have to? I thought not. Better yet, allow me to make you this offer. I invite you to send for a laminated basic strategy card today-FREE. For this freebie I only ask that you send me a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to Mark Pilarski, Attn: BJ Strategy Card, P.O. Box 1234, Traverse City, MI 49685.

Once you use this card, Eugene, I promise that you will never lose a king’s ransom due to poor play.

Gambling thought of the week: “A Smith & Wesson beats four aces.” -American Proverb”

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