Evidently those who compile dictionaries have as much of a problem as we have getting to grips with the meaning of something so elusive. These descriptions simply leave us with further questions about chance,and supposed tendency suggests an uncertainty on the part of the author. Casino customers if asked, would probably say there is an all too frequent tendency of chance to bring them a succession of unfavourable events.
Among those on our side of the table, there would seem to be three distinct attitudes – those who eschew any reference to luck and will talk only of percentages, – those who pay lip service to probability theories but in moments of crisis will resort to crossing their fingers, and lastly, – those who long ago suspended all logic to replace it with a rabbit’s foot.
You will not be surprised to find your financial director and chief accountants in the first group because they are a group for whom an immutable law has most appeal. The vagaries of chance are a tiresome inconvenience to those who administer company accounts.
The second category will no doubt include a disproportionate share of front line managers under pressure to achieve agreed budgets. Pascal and other mathematicians did them a great disservice when they, (as my local bookmaker would have it) ‘made up this stuff about the law of probability’.
Because of this theory they tell the G.M. that a bad day is a temporary blip and at the end of a poor week, to expect a compensating swing. After a disastrous month, they assure superiors that there will be a prompt return to equilibrium. In the wake of a cataclysmic quarter, while scanning the sits.vac.columns, they pray for the Board’s patience while they see out a highly unusual negative trend and as they draft the resignation letter to accompany their half-year report, they are still obliged to assert that the law of probability will bring results to a more expected conclusion by the year’s end.
How much easier it would be if in the reports you could just say that you’ve ‘done your brains’ because some lucky bastards have had it off ! Your fate would probably be the same but at least you wouldn’t have to pore over your dictionary to write the report.
On the other hand, bad as it may be to work for a financial director with the sensitivity of a Dalek and whose art collection consists of framed spreadsheets, so much worse it can be when you answer to a boss whose policies are governed by the position of the stars. Who tells you it’s prudent to start the day by putting your right sock on first, has a specific tie for each day of the week, walks round the pit twice in an anti-clockwise direction before the start of each shift and is never without a lucky horseshoe in his pocket.
I can remember working for a company, (miraculously a Plc today), whose first casinos were managed by Exorcists.
A good punter only had to win a few hands on B.J. or a few numbers on roulette to launch us into a programme of ritualistic changing ; changing balls, changing cards, changing croupiers. Even the barmen and waiters might be called to change into temporary dealers, when all regular table staff had been cursed with bad luck.
There were occasions, when a player staking the maximum on a number would have everyone in a state of high anxiety. The ball only needed to bounce in the same section of the wheel as his chosen number, to bring about another urgent change: underwear.
After one particularly bad night a post mortem uncovered the true cause of our loss – some dumb shmuck had left open a black umbrella in the staff rest room. The culprit failed to come forward to claim the offending item, thereby escaping the maximum penalty.
I remember the rain was pouring down on the way home and I had a bad cold for a week but I needed the job at the time. Anyway how was I, a mere trainee, to know the correlation between umbrellas and winning hands on blackjack. These are the things which are invariably left out of the training manuals.
I assume that this particular company has moved on a little since those days but throughout the world there are gaming businesses which are still being operated in this way, particularly small ones where fluctuations are so evident.
What brings about this attitude? This can be answered in two words: ignorance and fear.
Many owners are fearful of a business that they do not fully understand and when short term losses occur they demand explanations. There is often an accusation, implied if not stated, that a loss has taken place because of dishonesty or dereliction of duty. Because of this, managers in turn fearful of their position, seek to absolve themselves from blame by showing that every action, no matter how pointless or ludicrous, has been taken to avoid losses. Thus ignorance is reinforced and transported to all levels within the organization.
Of course shareholders and managers would be foolish to disregard the dangers of dishonesty and incompetence, but they are constant threats. One bad result should not trigger off the policies to combat them, they should already be in place and should be constantly reviewed irrespective of results.
Owners and shareholders have many powers. They can demand recruitment and training policies which go a long way towards ensuring competence. They can oversee the implementation of security measures and finance the installation of systems which greatly reduce the risk of dishonesty. Their powers however are all earthly, they have no divine right to expect all tables to win every night.
Managers should endeavour to inform and if necessary educate shareholders who are new to the business or have misconceptions about the management of a casino. If shareholders are aware of the probabilities on casino games and fully conversant with security procedures and controls, this might prevent farcical situations such as those described earlier.
Of course there are owners, and unfortunately managers too, who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder and are beyond help. So even if you are desperate for work, your previous employment was as a sorcerer’s apprentice and your hobbies include astral travelling and alchemy, you would do well to avoid this type of employer.
When the inevitable unfavourable events arrive, and you do not manage to reverse them immediately, an equally unfavourable event will befall you.
To return to the term “luck” I believe it could be defined as – a figure of speech that is commonly used to describe a fortunate or unfortunate event and its timing, in the absence of any scientific explanation.
However there are times when I hear the term luck applied when I would prefer to explain the event away as a consequence.
In a discussion I had with a friend recently he cited an example of the intervention of luck. A certain island casino was doing very well on it’s yearly figures and then had a visit, for one night only, from a high roller who proceeded to win more than the entire monthly budget. Bad luck? Perhaps. But if your casino is on an island or some other remote place your profits are dependent on you churning out a result from the indigenous population and/or regular tourist/visitors. Your minimum and maximums should be tailored to this business and should in fact discourage a heavy gambler who would only create an imbalance. Even then he may still play and may well have the resources to inflict more damage than your normal customer. But is this your bad luck or is it simply the consequence of you not being able to attract more of this type of player or indeed the regular return of this player?
Using the term ‘bad luck’ is acceptable in casual conversation, even between fellow professionals, as long as it doesn’t disguise reality or deflect attention from actual policy defects.
There is no substitute for professionalism.
As a famous golfer once said when a reporter inferred after yet another championship triumph, that his win owed a little to lady luck, ” It’s a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get”
The more we work at it, the luckier we will get.