I don’t gamble. At least that is what I would have liked to believe. “Nice people don’t gamble” is what I was told in school and at home. But when I look back on various decisions I took – like my investment in Satyam stock or leaving the job to become self-employed – each looked no different from a gamble. What differed were the odds and the stakes. Now I no longer look at gambling as – stuff that only other people do. It is something we do all the time whether we know it or not. What do people learn from real gambling? Here is an interesting tale from the chapter titled “The rules of the racetrack” in Warren Buffett’s biography “Snowball” written by Alice Shroeder.
“Pop, there is just one thing I want. I want you to ask the Library of Congress for every book they have on horse handicapping.” This is what
- Nobody ever goes home after the first race.
- You don’t have to make it back the way you lost it.
The racetrack counts on people to keep betting until they lose. Couldn’t a good handicapper turn these rules around and win?
Then one time,
“I came back. I went to the Hot Shoppe, and I treated myself to the biggest thing they offered – a giant fudge sundae or something – and there went all the rest of my money. While I ate, I figured out how many newspapers I had to deliver to make up what I had lost (Note:
You are not supposed to bet every race. I’d committed the worst sin, which is that you get behind and you think you’ve got to break even that day. [That is when I really learned] The first rule is that nobody goes home after the first race, and the second rule is that you don’t have to make it back the same way you lost it. That is so fundamental, you know. It was the last time I ever did anything like that.”
It is time we give some respect to bookies. By the way, which school do they go to?