My gambling year: $314 in the red

If people are successful at something, they're apt to keep doing it. This explains why I played less poker in 2013 than I did the year before.

It was my first year finishing in the red since I began keeping annual gambling journals five years ago. I lost $582 playing $1-2 no-limit poker, and lost $314 overall.

I played $1-$2 no-limit only 38 times, compared to 42 times in 2012. For two weeks, I didn't walk into a poker room after shoving all-in with ace-king — after a raise and a reraise — and ran into (surprise!) a pair of aces and lost my $100 stack. The times I failed to bet out when I was ahead or called when aggression would have been the answer left me feeling as if I was among the worst players at the table. At those times, I should have walked away.

I keep a gambling log for two main reasons: I may see patterns that can help me. And if I ever hit the big one, I want to have losses documented to offset all that taxable income.


Pictures: Oktoberfest in South Florida

Not only has my big payday not come, I haven’t even seen a medium payday. I haven't hit a high hand since September 2011, and the $1-per-hand house rake is killing me. For example, say I won 500 hands this year, which is possible. That $1 each time — with a $500 bad beat win never coming back to me — is enough to push me from the black into the red.

As the Sun Sentinel’s gambling writer, I try to play all the local card rooms. But if I were to pick where the money is loosest, I'd say it's the Seminole Hard Rock, because blackjack players migrate over to the poker room. At Gulfstream and Calder, the horseracingÖ bettors chase more flushes, so the odds are in my favor if I bet enough. Well, this year, I lost $463 at the Seminole Hard Rock (I really think I just didn't get good cards) but won $227 at Gulfstream. Also, looking back at this year, I see I need to spend more time at other card rooms, especially the one at the Isle Casino and Racing. In the name of journalism, of course...

My other gambling ventures ran hot and cold. I had a couple of final-table tournament finishes, enough to put me up $270 for the year in tournament play. I do better in those that reward patience. While I may not have the poker aggression down, I am pretty good at not losing chips.

Slots, video poker and blackjack all came out reasonably even, and I play those games for entertainment value, anyway. Unlike poker, they can be played while you enjoy a cocktail, and everyone is rooting to beat the house, rather than going against other gamblers.

The lottery chewed me up, but again, that was for entertainment. My best score was winning a free ticket, which I promptly re-invested into a ticket that turned up a loser. As you know, lottery drawing games pay back only 50 percent, so they are not for people who look at gambling as an investment.

But all the above is just math. We choose to spend our money however we see fit, and in my case, I get to encounter interesting people, see perspectives that help fuel my brain for future articles and the company pays my mileage. Taking all that into account, I'd say I got my $314 worth.