Excerpt: 'Man Down' by Dan Abrams


"Someone once asked me why women don't gamble as much as men do, and I gave the common-sensical reply that we don't have as much money. That was a true but incomplete answer. In fact, women's total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage." - Gloria Steinem

"In the poker game of life, women are the rake." We owe this fetching analogy to Worm (a.k.a. Edward Norton), No Limit Hold 'Em expert of the 1998 film Rounders. (Scuzzy and scheming, Worm is also its premier sleazebag.) Intended to console and inspire his friend, who, having just been dumped, is feeling defeated (which men do more than women after a breakup - see Chapter 1). Worm's words of wisdom, of course, suggest that women don't gamble and don't risk their money. They wait on the sidelines while men, dauntless and debonair, dare the odds in quest of a fortune. When that fortune gets doled out and the losers are sifted from the winners—that's when women make their grasping, predictable play.

Alas, in the poker game of life, Worm, it would seem, is the guy who bets his roll on a bad hunch—then gets tossed for bad behavior. (He's also the guy, needless to say, without a girlfriend.) In a comprehensive 2007 study of 40,499 online gamblers conducted by the Cambridge Health Alliance, an organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School, women exhibited "more effective sports gambling behavior than men," according to Richard LaBrie, the study's author.

The study, which culled its results from giant databases, shows that women are more aggressive in their bets, more rapid-fire in placing them, and more likely to turn a profit at the tables. While men wagered an average of eleven euros per bet, women wagered an average of fifteen. Women also placed wagers over 15 percent more frequently than men - earning them nicely proportional 15 percent greater winnings.

Women were therefore both the exemplars and the beneficiaries of a broader truth brought home by the study: that the bigger, bolder bettors are 50 percent less prone to lose money than the smaller, more tentative bettors. So not only do women gamble. Not only do women do well gambling at tables, rather than, as in the stereotype, staying primly to the side at the slots. They are braver gamblers - and they profit by it.

That does not mean that you will see more women at the tables, but it does mean that the house may want to train the internal cameras on them. The old truth survives that you have to have guts to gamble, but maybe the shorthand.

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