Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

Your odds on the biggest wager of all

29th October 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!”

This time-honored saying ex­presses the life, the plight and above all the lot of the countless people who subscribe to it. The very word, our “lot” in life, paints a popular picture that we were born at risk, we are forced to lay down high stakes, and the odds in life are stacked against us. Bad luck even bedevils some winners of the richest lotteries.

First, consider that Lady Luck is very uneven-handed in doling out her favors on lottery winners. While we have no ill feelings against Texan Joan Ginther, why should Lady Luck allow her to win the Texas lottery four times over the last 19 years, raking in more than $20 million? Why don’t some of the poorest people win at least once?

Since that Texan is called the world’s luckiest lottery player, then the three-time winner in Charlotte, North Carolina must be the second-luckiest. However, that can be disputed by the glaring fact that some lottery jackpots are much bigger, so that “luckier” should mean who gets the most when the final proceeds are totaled.

By that reckoning, some winner from among the mega-jackpots of recent decades would be considered the luckiest of lottery pursuers. The 12 biggest jackpots in the U.S., have ranged from $314.3 million to $656 million. Spain had one jackpot of $939 million.

So improbable are such goings-on that they seem to defy the very notion of probabilities. Perhaps only the law of averages helps to explain this, since there are many individuals who never win anything. Consider the improbable incident of May 21, 2012.

Caleb Lloyd, a 20-year-old Cincinnati native, had never caught a ball at a baseball game before. But this day, he caught a home run hit by Mike Leake in the fourth inning of the game in a 4-1 win against Atlanta. In the very next at-bat, Zack Cozart’s blast landed in almost the identical spot where Lloyd was sitting in the left field stands.

“The first one I actually barehanded, “ Lloyd said, “It hit my hand and I didn’t expect to actually catch it. It hurt really bad, so I’m like, ‘I’m not doing it again.’

“But the second one bounced behind me and then it bounced into my lap. My buddy’s like, ‘You caught a second one!’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy.’ Right now, I can’t believe that it’s happening. It’s amazing.”

Intoxicated by his incredible luck, Lloyd, a junior soccer player at Thomas More College – in Kentucky but just 10 minutes from Cincinnati – gave Leake his home-run ball back because it was the Reds’ starting pitcher’s first major league home run. He gave his friend the other because it was his friend’s decision to go to the game.

“You can’t beat the house,” is a popular adage about your odds on winning in any casino. Of course, “the house,” especially Las Vegas, prohibits known card experts from playing any of their games where skill and card-counting can beat the house. Against all casino history and good sense, hapless myriads try doggedly, vainly to beat the house.

Amazingly, the thrill of the risk rather than the thrill of winning is the attraction for and the hallmark of many of the biggest gamblers. To most of us, the very notion is sheer folly verging on madness, that one should risk his very livelihood for a thrill.

However, the worst aspect of gambling is that some 6 to10 million Americans are clinically addicted to it. Gambling houses piously hang an ostentatious sign where all can read it, “If you have a gambling problem, call National Help-line, 888-GA-HELPS (888-424-3577).” Do you think that soothes the conscience of casino owners around the globe?

To hear a gambler talk, there have been many near-misses and the big hit is just around the corner. Of course, as promised, the church, the school and many charities will be the first to benefit from the big strike that is sure to come when one least expects it.

Paschal’s wager, which we have often referenced, involves the biggest of all the bets we can make in life. Would you bet on eternal life? Would you bet on eternal salvation? Would you expose the welfare of your soul for anyone/anything on earth?

If you wager that God exists, Paschal assures us, and at your life’s end you find that God does not exist, you have lost nothing. If you wager that God does not exist, and at your death you find that God does exist, you have lost everything. If you wager that God exists, and at your death you find that God does exist, you have gained everything.

This article originally published in the October 29, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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