On the way home from dropping my friend off at the airport, I took a 10 minute detour to Lucky Chances Casino. Lucky Chances Casino is located in the foggy city of Colma in South San Francisco. If you love to play poker, blackjack, and paigow, this place is for you.
I go about once a quarter on average to play $1-2 no-limit poker. I used to be hooked on the game three years ago, but after one too many bad beats on the river, and the launch of Financial Samurai, I no longer crave playing. In fact, before this visit, I hadn’t been in over 18 months.
The one thing that always piqued my curiosity was how every time I went, no matter what time during the day, I would always see the same 10-15 people there! At first, I thought that perhaps they were all gambling addicts who just couldn’t stay away. Sometimes I’d go in the morning. Other times I’d go at 1:30pm like this time, and other times I’d head over at midnight and they’d always be there! What gives?!
MONEY FLOWS FREELY
After writing over 1000+ articles here on Financial Samurai as of 2/3/2015, I’ve realized that I was being overly concerned about my fellow poker players. Everything is rational, and my conclusion changed from “they are addicts“, to “the reason why they are always there is because they have lots of money and don’t need to work!”
If you don’t have money, you can’t gamble. If you needed to work, you wouldn’t be gambling at 1:30pm on a weekday with money you can’t afford to lose. I carried this logic into Lucky Chances this afternoon to test out my theory.
Dressed in track pants, a sweater, and a cap, I purposely created an image of an out of work freelance writer looking for some action. Everybody was very friendly at the table, especially after my pocket 9’s got cracked on the river by a Q3 with a runner runner straight on my very first hand! I mentioned to everyone how I was looking to write a story about the economy, and whether anybody knew of anybody who used their $1,800 a month California unemployment benefits to gamble?
Immediately, three people out of the ten person table raised their hands! Of course, they didn’t admit to doing so. Instead, they all said they knew someone who was gambling with their unemployment benefits now. One guy said, “Yeah, my brother-in-law hasn’t worked for 15 months and all he does is play poker with his benefits. In fact, he’s right over there!” as he points to a table out yonder.
He continues, “He’s really afraid of making over $5,000 at the tables, because if he does, the Casino will report his winnings to the IRS!” The implication being, the unemployed bro-in-law would then have to pay taxes and probably get all his unemployment benefits wiped out.
BUSINESS OWNERS AND SERVICE WORKERS RULE THE WORLD
As the discussion started going, I asked other people what they did for a living to allow them to play poker at 1:30pm on a Friday. Remember, I already told everyone I was a freelance writer.
Seat 2: 47 year old Filipino lady. One of the regulars I see all the time, no matter when I go. She mentioned she works in “food services” at the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport three days a week. I ask her what she does the other two days of the week. She scooted back her chair and showed me her badge. It was a Lucky Chances Casino badge! She said she works part-time at night serving food, and figured she might as well play some poker before her shift. Unfortunately, she said she never wins. At that moment, she went all in and doubled up her chip stack to $280, but proceeded to lose half of it in another hand with pocket jacks vs. pocket kings.
Seat 3: 60 year old Filipino guy who is a very passive player. He said he has a small restaurant which opens up for dinner at 5pm. Didn’t say a lick to us.
Seat 4: 26 year old Filipino guy with a wedding ring. He’s the one who runner-runnered me with a Q3 vs. my pocket 9’s with no card higher than a 7 on the board. He apologized and said he was on tilt after losing a big hand earlier. I asked him what he does for a living, and he was a little cagey. He said, “I work as a sales blah, blah, marketing, blah, blah.” Seriously, I didn’t understand what he was mumbling about. But, the bottom line was that he was between shifts.
Seat 5: 24 year old Filipino guy with a University of Hawaii Warriors sweater on and Dr. Dre head phones over a shaved head. Looked like a baller given he was probably around 6 foot 3 inches and was quit fit. I went all in on him on the turn after an Ace of diamonds hit, making my flush, and he didn’t call. Damnit! He didn’t say much, except for the fact that he was looking to finish up school. In other words, he was unemployed.
Seat 6: 54 year old Caucasian American guy who all the dealers knew by name. When I got to the table, he was moving his chips to a different seat at the same table. He too, said he was in between shifts. “Delivery services” he said.
Seat 7: 33 year old Russian guy who is someone I always see as well. Couldn’t get jack shit out of this stone cold man.
Seat 8: 58 year old Filipino guy who is also always there when I go. His K9 of diamonds cracked my KJ of clubs with a flush when I went all-in on the button with my remaining $35 bucks. Crap. Said he owns an auto mechanic store and doesn’t have to work. That’s what his employees are for.
Seat 9: 48 year old Chinese woman. She kept buying in for $20 or $30 dollars after going all-in three times. The average chip-stack was about $150, so she either clearly doesn’t know how to play, or is just a gambler. Couldn’t get any info out of her as she kept on busting out and talking in nervous gibberish.
Seat 10: 50+ year old Vietnamese guy. Occupation and style, unknown.
Note: I was in seat 1.
MAYBE GAMBLING DOESN’T LEAD TO PROSPERITY
I was honestly hoping to sit down next to some 26 year old Facebook millionaire who was taking the day off like myself. Even a supermodel from Ford Modeling agency would have sufficed. Alas, everybody I sat down with were either working relatively craptastic jobs for under $20 an hour, or owned small businesses.
It occurred to me that gambling perhaps doesn’t lead to prosperity. For the 3+ hours these guys end up playing a day, they could be doing so much more with their lives. However, poker is fun, and there’s nothing wrong with playing for fun with money you have.
After 45 minutes I said my good-bye, partly because I had just lost $100 bucks when my opponent hit his flush on the river, but mostly because I had to rush back to the city for an eye exam.
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Updated for 2018 and beyond. I’ve stopped going to Lucky Chances because I’ve lost all interest in poker for some reason. I’m too busy taking care of a little one now who has nystagmus. I pray everything will be alright with his vision so he can stay on track with learning.