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Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street by Aaron Brown

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Poker

At the same time, I was supporting myself by playing poker. I had been a serious player since the age of 15. In the 1970s you didn't go online to play and there wasn't much poker at casinos, either, even if you happened to live in a place where gambling was legal. Making a living at poker required finding games, collecting winnings, and avoiding cheating, robbery, and arrest.

It also required some expertise at a variety of games. If you won someone's money at poker and he challenged you to backgammon, gin rummy, golf, or some other game, or wanted to bet on a sporting event or proposition (a bet made up on the spot, such as whether someone would answer the telephone at a random number pulled from the telephone book or whether there were more green or yellow candies in a bag of M&Ms), a refusal showed that you were a hustler who played only when he had an advantage rather than someone willing to bet on himself. Although I did in fact play only when I had an advantage and did it entirely for the money, gambler etiquette forbade admitting that. I did not pretend to be either an amateur or unskilled; in fact, I was invited to big games because I had a reputation as a good player. Nevertheless, the convention had to be honored. Incidentally, it was acceptable to plead lack of skill at any of the games and demand a handicap, but if you were suspected of misrepresenting your skill level it was as bad as refusing to play.

Among the gamblers, the confusion of frequency and degree ...

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