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Gambling is the New Rock 'n' Roll

18 July 1999

Every time you see a new feature on some activity that is new and youth-oriented, be it snowboarding, alternative comedy, jetskiing, mollusk-hurling or whatever, someone will introduce it as the new rock'n'roll. In truth, anyone of my twenty-something generation sees rock'n'roll as a bourgeois activity of the middle classes, like classical music, but that's beside the point. The first generation of rock'n'roll bands created an environment of hysteria and intensity that no other form of entertainment came close to.

That was a long time ago. Now, as the Rolling Stones do their "Lock up your granddaughters tour" and Roger Daltrey feebly croons "Hope I get another lucrative North American tour before I get old", the search is on for a replacement. The phrase "New rock'n'roll" started with "Saturday Night Live" and the new generation of unorthodox comics such as Steve Martin. But that was a long time ago, and as with rock'n'roll, the alternative became the mainstream.

So, what's left? Well, I have the answer for the marketing people in the entertainment industry. Gambling is the new rock'n'roll. Yes, gambling. I know when you think of gamblers--real professional gamblers, that is, not the ones in the movies--you think of whimsical bespectacled septuagenarians dryly going on about standard deviation. Not exactly sexy, is it?

Think again. I got into this business because I identified with the image of the professional gambler as outsider, the renegade, the unknown man who operates by stealth, beholden to no one. Many of the elements of this fantasy were borne out by my experience. Life as a high-stakes drifter is weird and fantastic. The plush and ornate trappings that surround the lifestyle, the constant James Bond-style battle to avoid detection, the beautiful women (most of them shills, admittedly), and especially the spectacular returns are all there, if you want it badly enough.

There is a downside, of course.

There are the frequent losing sessions. The total alienation from the rest of society. No one really understands what you do. Tell them and you will conjure up one of three or four completely misleading stereotypes. Then there are the antisocial hours. The harassment by casino personnel. The lose of identity. The paranoia.

Ken Uston, the man who best epitomizes the glamour of gambling, was eventually killed by his own excesses. This kind of temptation is difficult to resist in an environment designed to indulge your desires totally. Just as with great rock musicians.

The lifestyle is not for everyone. But it is a great illusion, one I was (and am) totally sold on.

And pro gamblers do get to live some of the dream for real. I never got into music when I was younger. Even before I was a teenager, I was aware that donating all my money to EMI and Polydor was not really a rebellious activity. But, as professional gambler, I work my own hours, live life by my own rules. I am a master of my own destiny.

Now, gambling has always been a cult activity. The ordinary public probably couldn't come up with the name of a single (non-fictional) gambler. We have a serious image problem.

The casino's PR people could have a field day. Be a cultural icon, a statistical rebel, take us on and fleece a multi-million dollar industry! Gambling has always had a kind of sleazy image. It could be fashionable. Cool even. Instead of shooting hoops, young kids could end up practicing Hi-opt I. Aspiring to be Michael Dalton or Mike Caro instead of Michael Jordan or Kurt Cobain could be a lot more rewarding and certainly more realistic for America's youth. And think of the merchandising! T-shirts, bandanas, spin-off singles, etc. We need to make those basic strategy t-shirts this years number one fashion accessory.

Face it, America! Gambling is smooth, sexy and here to stay.

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May

John May
John May is one of the most feared gamblers in the world. He has developed "advantage play" techniques for many games that are considered unbeatable.

Books by John May:

> More Books By John May