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Practice Room 107

Think You’ve Got Some Game? Wanna Bet?

opinion by John Woods


An inquiry at a Midwest state’s AG office confirmed when participants in sporting events contribute to a purse it is not gambling. It does not matter whether it is two participants quietly playing for $5 a game or an organized event.

Also, participants in a Calcutta are participants in the sporting event, (like sponsors), and are not gambling even though they may not be players. Gambling is when non-participants bet, apart from and outside of an event, and/or when someone is “making book.”

It’s not all about legal terminology. Some of it is about ignorance. Many people think someone is gambling when they are not. Also, leaders in culture and society, perhaps with personal motives, have sought to influence beliefs about the sin of gambling. Some will not “gamble” even though doing what is incorrectly called gambling is exactly what they are doing when playing in leagues or tournaments. Some feel it is morally inferior to gamble. They should ask, “Who took the biggest gamble in history?”

Surely the vast majority of players, (i.e., culture and society), enjoy pool for fun and glory. League players and tournament competitors, a more select group, are among the most dedicated and enthusiastic in the sport. For many, the rewards of playing pool are enhanced and expanded by organized, formal competition.

League and tournament players rarely consider they are gambling or only competing for money. (After all, there is only one winner). But some may also be classed among an even more select group of enthusiasts: those who will put something up.

There are at least two reasons someone would contribute to a purse when the odds are one out of two they may themselves win, (compared to one out of a full field). First, to raise the level of play by adding the pressure of then having something to lose besides fun and glory, and second, to win the cash.

Everything changes when cash is on the line. While playing for money is the most convenient way to establish a purse on which competitors can agree, for many players it is the pressure of having something to lose that changes the dynamics of a match.

That’s the point. There is a difference. It separates players between those who can play when something is on the line and those who won’t, probably, because they can’t.

Just as many novice players mistakenly think all there is to winning is making balls, many players, due to experience, think themselves incapable of winning when playing for money.

They just haven’t learned how. There are two essential elements of playing for money. First is negotiating the purse and the terms of play, usually referred to as the bet and the spot. Second is how the first puts mental pressure of having something to lose on the participants.

The size of the purse, (the bigger the better), and the spot, (give them all they want), should and will yield an outcome by effecting play. It will scare the game out of a player less capable of playing under pressure.

Fats said, “Pressure’s for suckers.” The key to winning the cash, therefore, is never making a bet, or giving a spot, that feels like a too uncomfortable level of pressure.

Effective negotiating means getting an opponent to agree to a bet that makes them nervous, not you. Then bet they are going to lose. Never bet you are going to win. Why put the pressure on yourself?

For some players, a modest gamble shatters their game. Get them nearer the edge of their comfort level and they can’t make a ball. So the question is then, do they even have a game?

Once upon a time, the significance of playing for something, like money, was recognized as an integral and vital part of the sport. So much so it was possible for some to earn a living. Many were pioneers and legends of the sport. 

Readers are advised to consider the advantages to their game and put something up. It is an easy way to learn what kind of player you really are and with practice, what kind you can be.

Copyright all by John Woods 2009/10

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