Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When to fold

I recently veiwed a public service announcement about ‘gambling wisely’ featuring Kenny Rodgers’ The Gambler. The apparent purpose of these advertisements is to cheerfully remind people that it's 'okay' to gamble, as long as one knows when to stop.
Now I can see why the government would want people to avoid driving themselves into poverty via bingo and blackjack; those people who's gambling difficulties had caused monetary difficulties (as well as their families), might then become dependent on government support... and there are probably some people in government circles who actually care. Intentions aside, my view is that this ad is a waste of money, and of no help to anyone.
Problem gamblers, (the people whom this ad is aimed) have what the American Psychiatry Association likes to call an ‘impulse control disorder’. What this means is that for people who have extreme gambling problems, even if they do realize that they need to stop to do so is difficult as to be nearly impossible; thus this handy reminder to quit while you're ahead can only help people who already know how to quit and is absolutely no help at all to the those who need assistance.
Setting aside the issue as to whether one can truly gamble wisely or if that is an oxymoron, what I am truly bemused by is the choice of song.
Some rather interesting subtext of The Gambler is that the old gambler who gives the advice of the chorus had most likely learned those words of wisdom through experience of what happens when you don’t know when to fold. As one can infer from the lyrics; the gambler was freight hopping as a means of transportation, had to ask his fellow traveler to supply him with whiskey, a cigarette and the means of lighting it, and was dead by the end of the song. Clearly not a man who's life had gone well. If anyone had bothered to listen to the entire song instead of just the chorus they would have noticed this.
‘Stay away from risky situations’ is a far more intelligent message to receive from the gambler’s story than ‘gamble wisely’.

The Gambler Lyrics
American Psychiatry Association
Gamblers Anonymous

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