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Hubris12 July 2007
The ancient Greeks had a term for overweening pride; they called it hubris. The great Greek playwright Aeschylus in his masterful play Agamemnon wrote about how the gods look to destroy men who put themselves above other men. Those great kings who "count their kills by company" and whose heads rise too high must fear the "lightning" of the gods who will bring them down. If you have too much pride, you are going to fall because the gods are gunning for you. Man is not meant to be a god and the gods protect their celestial kingdoms.
The Western religions also know about the dangers of pride. The Pharaoh Ramses was filled with pride and the lowly Moses utilizing God's awesome power brought him and his nation down. Adam and Eve had been tempted by the snake with the concept that if they ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they "would be like gods" and so they ate and brought all manner of horror into the world - including the crusher of all human pride, death itself.
Satan, the great causer of evil, had originally been the most beautiful of God's angels, called Lucifer, the angel of light, but his sense of exalted self, as expressed by the poet Milton in Paradise Lost, was a prideful preference to "reign in hell than serve in heaven." The most beautiful of all creations now became the most despised, feared and ugly of beings - the devil himself.
Even in mundane realms, too much pride can be a bane. It's good, of course, to have confidence, to be strong in one's character and to have a modicum of self worth, certainly. But even in real life, too much pride does come before the fall.
Which brings me to me.
I really screwed myself up because of my own hubris. The past 12 months have been very exciting for me - as a writer and as a gambler. I've written and appeared in a Travel Channel Show (What Would You Do If?), appeared on the History Channel and Travel Channel in two other shows; had New York Times, Monthly Trader, Cigar Aficionado (along with other magazines) publish articles about me and I have done dozens of radio shows around the country. I've got two new books out; a DVD, and my craps and blackjack seminars are almost always sold out.
That's all great for the ego, right?
My craps shooting in the past 12 months has seen me have epic rolls of 50, 52, 55, 57, 60 and 89 before I sevened out. Very few craps players get to have hands in the 50s but the past 12 months has seen me do it six times. Some people wait for a lifetime to have one roll like that - I had a half dozen. What has made these rolls truly significant is that five of them have occurred with plenty of witnesses who know me, which helps because no one likes a braggart who heavily pumps up his own accomplishments. In fact, no one really believes such braggarts. So thankfully I don't have to tell the stories of my great rolls, the witnesses can tell them and they have. I felt confident all year long shooting in front of people; so bring on the witnesses - the more of them the merrier - they don't bother me one bit.
Oh yes, as you can see I was beginning to swell with pride at my run of good fortune in writing and my string of devastatingly good rolls at craps. I was sticking my head into the clouds and asking for it. And I got it but good! I fell like a mountaintop that had been exploded by the lightning of Zeus.
Here's what happened. A well-known journalist wanted to hang out with Dominator, Rock 'n Roller and me on a recent trip to Las Vegas. He wanted to see the "Three Musketeers" (as we have been called) do "their thing." Dominator and Rock 'n Roller were all for it. So was I. This great journalist would be witness to the rolls of the fabulous threesome. And magnificent rolls they would be.
That's how I was thinking - totally, fully emotionally. I had no doubt that when we hit those craps tables in Vegas we would bring down the house and have monumental rolls - as we always do when such witnesses are watching. I was bloated with hubris. I was full of myself. I was actually a helium balloon about to explode and go zizzing around the room to land in a shriveled heap on the dusty floor.
I got into Vegas at 10:30AM. The flights from the East Coast take about 5 hours and 30 minutes. Traveling like that is almost a whole workday. Normally when I get into Vegas I check into my hotel room and take a nice long nap. I go out for a walk; then have a relaxing dinner. I play after dinner when I am relaxed.
Not this day. The hotel did not have my suite ready, so I put my stuff in Dominator's suite. The journalist wanted to meet us at Noon to play. Dominator had the flu but he said he was ready to play. He looked like he was ready to die.
I ignored what I was seeing with my own eyes - Dominator was sick, so what? I should have been resting cozily in a bed. Instead I was heading for Bellagio's casino to meet Rock 'n Roller and the journalist. Now Rock 'n Roller is always ready to play - except that his greatest rolls occur when he is rested. Catch him in the morning or just after a nap and you'll watch the Babe Ruth of dice shooting put on a show. Catch him after he's played five or six straight hours and his rhythm is off. He becomes mortal.
That day, Rock 'n Roller had been playing since 4AM. At Noon he had been playing for seven hours - with just an hour break for breakfast.
Did I see what was about to happen? My hubris had made me blind to my fatigue. I was blind to Dominator being sick. I was blind to Rock 'n Roller needing a nap. And the journalist was waiting to record our dismantling with his mighty pen.
The three of us shot four hands each. Almost each and every time we got the dice, we established our point and either immediately sevened-out or rolled a few numbers and then hit the canvas. I was the Max Schmeling of the second Joe Louis fight. Certainly, the fever-wracked Dominator wasn't good. The somnambulist Rock 'n Roller wasn't good. But I was truly and without question the worst dice shooter on the planet that afternoon.
"Seven out! Line away!" shouted the stickman after my first point/seven-out.
"Seven out! Line away!" shouted the stickman again and again and again.
When I left the casino, I finally woke up. Why had I played on that first afternoon? I never do that! Why hadn't I used the 5-Count on my fellow Musketeers when I saw how awful they were? I would have saved a bundle of money because the 5-Count stops you from betting early on shooters. I was going to be in Vegas a whole week, I needed to rest from a wearying flight, not jump into a game to impress a journalist whose pen would now write in bloody red after seeing the slaughter that had taken place at Bellagio.
I had to relearn the lesson I had learned in the 1980s from the Captain of Craps, the world's greatest craps player and my gambling mentor - impose your rhythm on the games, don't let anyone or anything impose on you. But my hubris had gotten the best of me. I thought I could play when I couldn't. Men are not gods. The Greeks knew this, the Bible knew this, and now I know it.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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