27 Feb The Awesome Story of a Professional Gambler
Today we have a special and extremely exciting career, that of professional gambler. Most people in his day have been gambling, whether with real money or candy. Yet Christatos Aristad could parlay his gambling skills into a real profession, a lucrative one at that. While some may see professional gamblers as somewhat sinister, Mr. Aristad is from an older gambler’s age, and is the consummate gentleman. Recently retired, he will be penning a series of articles on the basics and etiquette of a range of games for AoM.
Tell us a little about yourself (from where do you come from? How old are you? Where did you go to school? Describe your work, and how long have you been there, ect).
My name is Aristad Christatos. I am 52 years old and I was born in London. I went to Cambridge solely as a result of family connections and spent mainly drinking and gambling with my fellow students there a totally unspectacular 4 years. I then went to a medical degree to fulfill a childhood dream of being a doctor and found that my perfected mix of drinking and gambling didn’t work at all in the more demanding world of college and dropped out in my first year. At the age of 24, I picked up gaming seriously about half a year ago, and have done so ever since. As you might guess, gamblers don’t really have a formal education. I’m officially leaving, and I’m trying to figure out where I can settle down.
Why were you trying to be a professional gambler? When were you conscious that was what you needed to do?
When I flunked my way out of graduate school altogether. Only one thing I was ever good at, gambling. I wanted to be a doctor but gambling was good for me. I decided to try gambling after I flunked out of the medical school, and knew it was because I was going to make a bad doctor. I’ve had enough to try bigger games after playing in small games and small land-based and online casinos for awhile. Finally, I got rung up by a man with a wallet full of cash and a game he wanted to win that he didn’t think he could do it alone. He charged my share, I was playing the game and we both walked away satisfied. That game invited me to a respectable betting parlor in London, The Portland Club, which brought me onto the scene. After that, I’ve accrued all the connections you needed to play your way to a hot meal, a solid roof and a clean suit in those days.
Most people are playing for fun. Why did you move from being a gambler for fun to make it your profession?
A combination of need and sheer enjoyment. There was no single moment I just slipped into being a professional gambler, but there was one point I realized I had no other source of income. I decided to stick with making money by gaming at that point to keep leaching off the rich men with poker, bridge, backgammon, euchre and craps fantasies and just keep going. It’s like being in a band except with shorter hair, no drums, and daily swimming, I suppose talking about it. The second part relates to entry. To at least get the invitation to the Portland Club was a golden ticket for me. Without that, I think I’d probably settle down and stay nearby. But everything else was possible after meeting the people I did in The Portland Club and making the connections that I did, particularly through the man who invited me.
Sometimes you gambled for money from other men. Can you explain how that worked, and how you find people to support you?
The first tacit problem in that is how the relationship between the sponsor and the booking agent works, and the fact is that it works like any other position where you have a backer; you just have to look harder and in different places. People have money and would like to invest in games and players, booking agents act as intermediaries and talent scouts and players act as talent. The problem is finding itself. To be honest I don’t know how this works today. It was just a case of being a lesser but better player when I was playing, playing with wealthy people who could barely hold their cards and remaining in the business as it grew. Today the market is evolving as tournaments are becoming more popular among emerging talent, despite the fact that they carry less money over the long term and people are committed to blackjack and poker over baccarat and craps.
Probably the second part of that statement would take a book to describe, and more knowledge than I do if you had an understanding of how that works beyond how I do it. My booking agent has been my dear friend, Albert Hull, the guy who introduced me to the Portland Club for most of my life. Albert and much of my own have made his career finding games for me to play with, or money for me to play with. Generally, one of us gets into the system a wind of new money, or a juicy game down the pipe, and we start our engines. If there is fresh money in the system, Albert, being a real blue blood and a guy with a legitimate job and some genuine contacts, charm the financiers before they decide to open their wallets to give us a taste, and I’m just picking the closest chair with a deck of cards or a couple of dice within reach. If there’s a game in the tanks, Albert taps one of our trusted money people and I’m starting to make noise of having a seat at the table. When my name comes out, my check clears, and I don’t find the people running the game as a complete ass, we are stable.
Which part of the job is the best?
The jolt. I’ve done many other things in my life than gambling, but nothing is equal to gambling with true gamblers. The desire to control the game slowly comes. Once you know you are in control, the moment of recognition is the statistical reduction of each player stock of chips. The duel between you and the other winner is steady. Every one of the fine moments that reminds you that you deserve to be at that table. Winning after that fast and constant peak is simply a letdown. If I had my way then the game would never be over. But if you drag it out endlessly and never go to the throat, you lose control and you’re eaten alive by them. The high price is YOU have to stop it. Really a very terrible insight when it comes to you. But then it is the moment of recognition that distinguishes the hustlers from the professionals. A worker loves what he’s doing but at the end of the day he knows he has to make what he’s doing for company. When he loses sight of the bottom line he digs his own grave for all the enjoyment he receives from it. A hustler never knows what it is that they’re doing for. We claim that you can balance the fun and the money and keep riding the thrill. They are wrong. You will grow up in this business, just as you do in life. You can play for fun and money for a while, and live for rush after rush, but after a while, if you don’t grow up, each time you play you live on the edge of a razor. Because there’s the critical moment in every single game when the fun has to stop and business has to continue, and you have to put away the competition.
A hustler never learns to see what it is for that moment, and succeeds on chance or skill. That’s until they meet an old hand who knows the game well enough to live long enough to learn their style and drive them to the ground until tricks have run out. I’ve seen it happen at least half a dozen times, and it’s never nice to watch a hungry young girl get bled dry by someone who doesn’t really need the gas, but sees it as a lesson. I think a comment on the work is that the best part is a double-edged sword.