The Most Important Word in Gambler’s Vocabulary

August 14th, 2020
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If there is one word that sums up the delicate balance between ruling powers of luck and skills in gambling, it’s ‘if.’ If the relativity of this two-letter conjunction governs our behavior and outcomes of the games we play, then ‘if’ has to garner players’ attention.

Words have their own life. Some have an inspiring and meaningful span that reverberates through centuries, rejuvenated and cherished by generations. Others live like a phosphorous torch; they blind everyone in the room, suck all the air out, leaving darkness and suffocation in their wake. And then, some words hover in no man’s land between motivational reveries, steep precipices, and noteworthy deeds; these are the most seductive words we know of, and they await us patiently.

We thrive in pursuing and exploring the later.

Two of such words, forbidden fruits, are as old as Adam and Eve. Other equally irresistible expressions only underline our insatiable desire to flirt with chances and choices; we wheedle should-haves with could haves and seek pent-up visions of apple juice inundations, often neglecting sting in the tail.

We simply need to know, and we intimately crave empowerment beyond the edge of certainty — no matter the risks.

Without such words to prompt us into extraordinary achievements, and major failures, we would have never progressed as a species or as individuals.

Gamblers are no exception

They are a representative sample of a group — think explorers, musicians, supreme athletes, salespeople, politicians, flirtatious couples in a nightclub — that revels in exploiting the seductive nature of words and their hidden promises. (You won’t find judges, scientists, doctors, or engineers in this group.)

Close to forty percent of world population use twenty-six letters of the Latin alphabet — capable of generating 67 million combinations — to select the most important word in their vocabulary, or maybe even a few.

To choose the one that personally fits them all is no small feat; people use various methods and criteria to do so. Sometimes word changes with age. Other times, it depends on experience and beliefs.


It cannot be just any word.

By default, such expression resides in no men’s land. Thus, firstly, you have to go beyond the line of the comfort zone. Then, you have to recognize your word, you must earn it, and you need to tame it. And then, you have to take it back with you and integrate into your life.

What does it take for guys like us, right?

Luckily, the English language — an official lingo of online gambling — consists of more than a million words, according to Harvard University. People currently use approximately 170,000 of those, and an average person consumes between 20,000 and 35,000 in a lifetime.

So, there’s enough to choose from. The challenge is to meet your match.


Patrons at land-based casinos and interactive punters have an infinitely more straightforward, even effortless choice to make. When it comes to players around the world, no matter the era or venue, the selection boils down to a single word:


Master Unlimited Yet Conditional Power

Regardless of the games, stakes, streaks, bankrolls, or gambling mileage, ‘if’ is the crucial word in gamblers’ vocabulary.

The power of ‘if’ is absolute.

If the result of the blackjack session is excellent, everything after such ‘if’ is guaranteed certainty. No force — other than one beyond ourselves — can change the new, prosperous reality. Abundance, at least for some time, is written in the stone.

Gamblers’ bias toward ‘if’ is equally supreme.

Players can have highly subjective views on all ifs that govern spinning reels outcome. We think so positively of the endgame that all the fears and anxieties — otherwise regular and robust consigliere whenever we ponder on unknown — often remain silent, in awe of concealed covenant one ‘if’ may deliver.

But, gamblers also know that ‘if’ can make the turn on a dime: It’s a very seductive, iridescent word.

In a way…

One might argue that ‘if’ is an ambassador of Princess Luck captured in a beautiful castle. ‘If’ is there to entice all interested saviors to man up and release the princess. If you want to save her, all you have to do is to swim the moat (to paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert).

Unfortunately, many creatures live below the muddy waters; of course, ‘if’ didn’t warn you, you have no clue. If you, by any chance, make the wrong choice, well, them crocodiles are having a feast.

(Editor’s note: Why do we always have to have a prince saving the princess? It can be the other way around! I’m positive that some princesses can swim across the moat better than princes, and you know it! Author: Now, how can you argue with this? As said, all princes and princesses are equally prone to be saved, that is, tempted by powers of ‘if.’)

Of course…

Recognizing and choosing ‘if’ as the keyword in the gambling dictionary is the trouble-free part.

At that point in time, you’re already at no man’s land, staring in the moat. You’ve gained your courage and shown you’re no slouch. You have all the necessary prerequisites to proceed with the hardest part: To earn and tame this word, to take it back safely, and integrate into your life.

The real challenge here is self-confidence.

How often have we corrected ourselves and others that something is ‘not a matter of if but when’? In terms of poise, that’s a way to go, by all means. We would have never reached pinnacles of our progress without such an approach, visions, and expectations.


This attitude means nothing in the gambling realm. Moreover, such a chip may cost you a lot of money, create considerable problems, and end up on your shoulder.

In any table game, ‘if’ is not a matter of ‘when’ but a question of the delicate balance between knowledge, prudence, and responsibility in conjunction with plain luck.

Thus, to earn ‘if,’ we need to embrace its relativity.

Therein, in deepest levels of individual proskynesis, we realize the conditional relationship we have with this word.

And we accept it rather well: All of the computer programming behind everything we do today, each online gambling software we use, revolves around conditional statements and constructs if-then-else.

Taming: Tigers Purr Too

To accept such relative position as given is the easiest way to earn ‘if,’ and wise people do it on the spot, no questions asked.

Others, myself included, thought at the beginning of the earning process that relativity, just as destiny, is something we make. Surely, no ‘if’ is going to tell me what I can or cannot do!


If there is one word that will tell you precisely that, it’s ‘if.’

Eons of intransigent efforts later, we learn that the wall is infinitely more persistent than the head. Post festum creative initiatives to explain initial stupidity, including extenuating circumstances, are entertaining. Still, eventually, life administers the lesson: Everything we do is, at least to a certain extent, conditioned by a simple ‘if.’


That’s how we earn this word — by the commitment to its inevitability.

Responsible gamblers usually learn this rather fast, while people from other walks of life and stubborn players may need extra time.

The concept is entirely interchangeable between life and gambling. Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius were fully aware of this while writing Apocalypse Now screenplay in the 1970s.

In the movie, Dennis Hopper explains to Martin Sheen why he considers Colonel Kurtz’s character, played by Marlon Brando, so progressive, by quoting Kurtz: “Do you know that ‘if’ is a middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you.”

Back to the original narrative…

So, there you are, with your ‘if’ recognized and earned. Now you need to tame this tiger if you will.

You know you don’t stand a chance against gambling ‘if’ tiger, right? Not even the Hollywood Johns can take down such beast. And, these guys are some piece of work; if you’re going to be a badass in movies, you have to be named John: Rambo, McClane, Wick, Shaft, Clayton (Tarzan).

How do you make such a tiger purr?

By presenting him with gambling knowledge, playing skills, and situational awareness you’ve acquired to become a better player.

By leveraging your learnings on the mindset of gaming, by employing proven tactics from books or online resources you’ve read, and by putting yourself in a position to increase chances by prudent choices.

By showing levels of responsibility and wisdom to overcome any type of streaks — winning ones can be as deceptive as losing ones — and knowing when to double down and when to fold, when to stay and when to walk away.

In other words…

You outwait and outwit the tiger's challenge through multiple ifs you've already met and own.

The animal stares directly at you, observing your intentions, measuring your prowess. So does the princess, from the castle’s window; she's slightly terrified, though: Many have tried before you, and I’m still here.

(Editor’s note: All right, I’ll allow for the princess this time; no prince would let the girl face the apex predator instead of him. Also, I’m not going to ask you how on Earth you put a tiger in a moat; I’ll assume that tigers love water and are excellent swimmers. Author: Exactly that! Plus, it sounds more heroic to tame the tiger than a crocodile.)

Sometimes, the ‘if’ tiger concludes that “chance favors the prepared mind,” and gives the nod.

As the hero in our story enjoys in predator’s purring, a gambler hears a winning symphony. Other people feel full-blown satisfaction of intentions achieved. The princess and prince finally go home where lovers roam.

Other times…

The ‘if’ tiger simply eat our desires and intentions — nom nom nom, what a fantastic meal! — and purrs all the same afterward. Indeed, some hidden promises of ‘if’ should stay denied forever.

No rule to this thing

Although, the testimonials indicate that the more we prepare for any conceivable ‘if’ contingency, the fewer aspirations we will have to give in to tiger.

The proper ‘if,’ at the right time and place, suppresses the wrong chances with the right choices.

And, that’s how we tame the word ‘if’ — by expertise.

Integration: Becoming If

All that’s left is to get back from no man’s land and continue living with ‘if.’ How you do that? It’s not like you can take your tiger for a walk in Central Park.


That is exactly what you do.

If Salvador Dali could have taken his anteater for a stroll in Paris in 1969, why can’t we do the same with a tiger?

(Nothing to worry ma’am, you and your child are completely safe, my tiger is entirely harmless. Do you want to snuggle it? Sixty seconds later: Glock in your hand tells me you question my judgment, officer.)

Unfortunately, or luckily, this is undoable. What is, though, is this: You become that tiger and walk together forever.

You become your ‘if.’

If you do so, ‘if’ serves as your mirror, sword, and shield (mhm, Coldplay).

If baccarat graces you with huge winnings, especially if you’re a player on a quest, any other ‘if’ becomes less important; if it doesn’t, all other ifs are there for you to explore.

If you accept that good enough is great gambling, you might do okay. If you don’t, if you pursue playing the odds stacked against you, it’s nom nom nom all over again.

If you go in the right direction — as a princess, prince, and just about anybody — you might not get what you want, but you might get what you need. If you don’t, there are so many other ifs within yourself.

And even if we get it all wrong, if we make myriad mistakes by pursuing and exploring forbidden fruits, deceptive reveries, and steep precipices, there is always another ‘if’ waiting for us to turn it into significant accomplishment.

That is, of course, if we chose to believe so.

And, as Jocelyn Brown sings with the ultimate vocal power: “If you believe, you’ll find a way.”

PS. What is your word? Tell us in the comments section.

“there is always another ‘if’ waiting for us to turn it into significant accomplishment”

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