The Gambler

He knew when to hold them, when to fold them; when to walk away and when to run.

My Dad.

Gambler lyric

The original face. Kenny Rogers

He was a gambler. The ponies, the numbers (before Lotto made it legal), football pools, church raffles, and the most special of all…poker.

And he was good at it. It took me a long time to figure it out.

It was the 1950’s and 60’s, and we had many things delivered to the house: milk, cheese and dairy products; Charles Chips by the can; bread and pastries from local bakeries; fresh produce in season; beer and soda by the case; Diamond Spring Water by the gallon.

These were cash-only merchants. You paid on delivery. This meant having cash on hand.

Our family used a re-purposed pickle jar to store the household funds. By Friday of every week, it was looking rather empty. On Saturday morning, without fail, it was full again.

My Dad was a steelworker, paid on Friday’s, so I never thought much of it.  But this cash was in small bills…lots of them.

Gambler chorus

The Gambler. Words, music by Don Schlitz.

The local firehouse staged the poker game…every Friday night. This was the source of our working cash fund. He played poker, and he was good at it.

I got to see the venue many years later, as a young adult. The scene was intense… a large, felt- covered gaming table with 8 chairs in a cramped, dimly lit room, obscured by cigar smoke. The room was small…barely enough space to walk around. No one was walking around. There was no conversation. This was serious business.

How do you do it, Fred?  They always asked. How do you support a family of 8 on a steelworker’s paycheck?

He just smiled, “knowing when to walk away.”

We get it, Kenny, we get it.

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4 Responses to The Gambler

  1. lbeth1950 says:

    It’s amazing he could walk away. That must have been his second job.

    • It was indeed. He was blessed with skill and a whole lot of luck. He took us often to the horse races when we were little; he let us look them over and choose…betting the minimum on our selection…wise move. His picks won…ours never did, but it was fun to root for them. ☺

    • Thank you…and I should add, he not only won at poker, but was great at picking race horses, football teams and lottery numbers (both legitimate and illegal ones). (This skill/luck did not pass to the next generation).

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