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Peer Pressure at Any Age

Even casinos come with tough decisions

By Frank Scoblete


My neighbor’s son is now 17. When he was really young, in the single digits, he was a delightful kid. He had a great sense of humor and he really seemed to enjoy life.

Now his face always looks bored. When he is with adults, no matter how smart those adults are, this kid has that “you people are really dopes” look as if these really smart adults are just jerks while he is, I’m guessing now, above it all?

His friends, both boys and girls, have that bored look too. In their 17 or so years, what amazing accomplishments have any of these kids in this group had? How much could they possibly know that easily puts their parents and their parents’ friends to shame?

The answer to my question is really simple—the kids aren’t actually bored. It’s a group thing. It’s peer pressure. “You’re 17 Jimmy, time to look bored. Hey, kids, all of you are to look bored. You’ll get rid of that in your early 20s but until then, you must look bored.” And so, they look bored.

Peer pressure comes in many guises and degrees. The bored look is just one of hundreds of guises and degrees for people of all ages.

In the casino we have peer pressure too.

I was playing blackjack at an Atlantic City casino three decades ago. The game was four decks and offered the option of surrender, where you could give up half your bet instead of playing out the hand.


This was an excellent option when you have a 16 versus a dealer’s face-up card of 10. Give up half your bet. That will save you money in the long run. There were a few other bets it was best to surrender.

So, when I first started to surrender, the first one came maybe five or six hands into the game. The dealer, a pinch-faced ratty-looking man, started to annoy me by constantly telling me not to ever surrender a hand.

“You don’t know what you are doing, do you? You surrender, that is cowardice. You are a coward if you surrender,” he’d say every time I surrendered.

I’ve told this story before but I never took it that one step further. Here is the one-step further: Some of the other players (it was a full table) started to voice their opinion about my cowardice.

“You gotta fully play out your hand,” said one guy. “Otherwise, you are just giving up your money with no chance of winning.”

“It is a silly way to play,” said one woman. “Why not just give up half your bet in advance and don’t even bother to play?”

One other guy guffawed: “Why come to the casino to play that way? Send your check through the mail and be done with it.”

Usually very few players will gang up on another player at blackjack, or any other game for that matter, but this was one of those times. Did they actually expect me to play an inferior method of play just because the dealer called me a coward and some of the other players agreed?

I didn’t react. I just nodded when the criticisms came my way and I’d surrender anyway. I made the right plays. These folks were like the teenagers with bored looks. They had no idea of how to play the game at the best level of basic strategy. No sense arguing with them.

I have a way of reacting to what people say if I really don’t want to react. I say “ah.” Depending on how you modulate your “ah” the person to whom you are responding takes your “ah” as he or she wants to.

“You are a coward for surrendering,” says the dealer.

“Ah,” I nod.

“My daughter is living in sin with a man 27 years her senior,” says another person.

“Ah,” I say.

“I fart a lot,” says one bedraggled old man before letting one big one loose.

“Ah,” I say.

“I don’t like my daughter-in-law. She’s bringing up her children wrong,” says one woman.

“Ah,” I say.

“I think sex is overrated,” says one man. “I’ve had so many women and they are all alike.”

“Ah,” I say.

Okay, first, I do not give advice at the games. Certainly, I see horrible play by some players. When I write, yes, I warn. That’s my job. I am the male Cassandra.

My warning to all casino players is usually the same no matter what games they play.

  • All card games have optimum strategies. Learn them and use them. Playing correctly is the only way to play.
  • Know the house edges on all the games you play and how the casinos arrive at those edges.
  • Practice intelligent money-management strategies. Saving money in the casino is a good thing.
  • All increases in bets merely gives the casino more money on which to grind the player with its edge.
  • Play the best-return machines in slots and video poker. I write about these in our sister magazine Strictly Slots.

Ah, one more thing: You are not a coward by playing correctly.

All the best in and out of the casinos!


Frank Scoblete’s website is His books are available at, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.






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