We examine old gambling wisdom and are amazed


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine.

Rediscovered and added to Poker1 in 2014.


Sometimes I go to the mountains and I hike deep, deep into the woods. Birds often squawk when they hear me breaking through their branches. They seem annoyed, but who cares? Nobody asked them to fly into the forest.

I usually trip over some stupid log or bump into a useless tree. Occasionally a very small animal spoils my mood by scampering in front of me inconsiderately. It’s always too hot or too cold in the mountains, never just right. There are ugly insects everywhere, and damp, dirty leaves brush against my skin and make me feel irritable. Whatever rock I decide to sit on is always too pointy and — talk about boring — there’s absolutely nothing for me to do in the forest! In fact, I might never leave a poker game to hike in the forest if my parents hadn’t taught me to love nature.

Whenever I’m far from the casino, surrounded by trees, I read a good book. This helps me examine the great gambling wisdom of the past. Indeed, hundreds of great thinkers have died and left words behind for gamblers to think about. Here’s a short sample:

Samuel Foote (who died in 1777): “Death and dice level all distinctions.”

Voltaire (who died in 1778): “Chance is a word that does not make sense. Nothing happens without a cause.”

Rebecca West (who died in 1983): “Time spent in a casino is time given to death, a foretaste of the hour when one’s flesh will be diverted to the purposes of the worm and not the will.”

John Milton Hay (who died in 1905): “True luck consists not in holding the best of the cards at the table: Luckiest he who knows just when to rise and go home.”

Peter Finley Dunne (who died in 1936): “A man’s idea in a card game is war – cool, devastating and pitiless. A lady’s idea of it is a combination of larceny, embezzlement and burglary.”

George Washington (who died in 1799): “[Gambling] is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and father of mischief.”

So, when I sit in the woods, alone, paging through books like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and discover timeless wisdom such as the previous, I pause to ponder. I read those words over and over, and I shout them aloud at the trees. Only then do I begin to realize that years before I was born, back before I outlined my first strategy, long before I wrote my first advice about poker, way before I conducted my first poker seminar, other humans had been thinking deeply about gambling, and risk, and strategy.

And they didn’t have a clue.  — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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  1. Most definitely. I agree with all of the above, however, to quantify what I’ve learned from others that came before you, as well as you yourself I’d have to say, It’s going to take me the rest of my life to disprove one or two of the above statements.

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