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The nature of contradiction
Friday, April 11, 2014 - by Frank Cotolo

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I have managed well over many of my adult years by earning a living in the field of gaming. As a writer, a journalist and a player, I have accomplished creating a work atmosphere that is rare for many in that I enjoy it and it rewards me. All of this was made possible, however, by contradiction.

“All great things that happen,” wrote Henry Miller (another kid from Brooklyn who managed to rebel for the best), “happen in the nature of contradiction.”

It was not easy to pave a road against the grain of popular opinion, the kind that strongly opposed anything to do with the world of gaming. From grade school on, family, clergy and “common sense” professed that all forms of gaming put a person on the road to the proverbial Poor House.

Though it may have been the rebel in me that launched an interest in gaming, I discovered rebellion was not a productive motivation. One had to approach gaming with a severity of poise and intellect, not reckless abandon. To do that, one had to learn a lot of the subjects taught in school for application to careers condoned by institutional decree. Science, math, geometry, English and even art could play roles in successful gaming.

But as a young man I explored these possibilities with stealth because none of the adults were going to approve of anything connected to gaming, which, of course, they called, simply, gambling, which, of course, was the trade of the common hoodlum, bum and social failure. It wasn’t until college that I knew I was on to something.

It was pari-mutuel racing (mostly night harness) in the mid-‘60s that became my first laboratory. It was the only theater of gaming legal, so I followed it, on paper, in private. I learned, first, about odds, which gave me an exceptional understanding of percentages. Next I learned about fractions, then spatial ratios and, keeping a journal, I was learning to write well. I would never have embraced any of this were it not for the cacophony in the stretch drives at Yonkers and Roosevelt and Freehold and, eventually, the Meadowlands.

I did so well in my studies that my school grades improved, though I dared not admit to anyone how I was becoming better at the subject.

In my twenties, while I learned that writing well could be applied to the field of gaming, I met men successful at gaming because they knew what I had learned and they also knew the academics of wagering. They were financial wizards applying the arithmetic of the game to the strength of their dollars. I absorbed all I could from them and became a member of the elite band of bettors that were driven by mind and reason with successful results. My ego was demolished but my bankroll increased, as did my approach to the entire philosophy of risk.

Miller was correct. This great thing that happened to me occurred because I hunted the opposite of popular opinion. I embraced contradiction.

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