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Big John Flirting with Tragedy

John Daly is sick. Theres no other word to describe someone who can lose $50-60 million and still have an overwhelming urge to go right back in the casino and lose more. He estimates hes won $25-30 million, but thats still $30 mil net losses. That is several lifetimes of earnings for most folks.
First of all, John should be roundly commended for going public with the gambling sickness. He discusses his illness in the final chapter of his book, John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough. Not many gambling addicts would do what he has done, obviously. Daly is crying out for help with his description of the millions hes wasted. Unfortunately, theres nothing you, I or anyone else can do until he hits rock bottom and winds up penniless.
This is difficult for me to comprehend. I had a brief flirtation with casinos about 30 years ago, on a penny-ante scale. My first visit, I won a little by playing blackjack ' maybe $20 after three or four hours of wagering. That got the blood pumping furiously and led me to believe that I could really play ' all I would have to do is play long enough and I could win $200, maybe $300 in a days worth of action. (OK, small potatoes, but this was a journalist playing in the 1970s at the $2 tables.)
Well, I quickly learned that I couldnt win a whole lot that way. So I occasionally ' very occasionally ' would play a $100 bill. And more often than not, I would win the big bet out of nothing but dumb luck. That is, until the time that I lost $600 in about 15 minutes. I had about $5 left in my wallet.
I sat there stunned, not believing how cold this game could be. Six hundred dollars in 15 minutes time! Suddenly, this wasnt fun anymore ' this was deadly serious. The blood drained from my face and I was thoroughly embarrassed by my stupidity. Now, I occasionally still play, but I am back to small potatoes, and I have no trouble keeping myself on a strict budget when I do venture into a casino.
Well, enough of the personal sob story. This is about Daly, and it is about a man who will eventually have to accept the fact that he will lose far more often than he will win ' thats how casinos were built, after all. We all have heard the story about so-and-sos friend who won $20,000 playing baccarat at a casino. We never hear about how many times so-and-so lost before he finally made the biggie.
This, though, keeps the John Dalys of the world coming back. They hit the big one a couple of times, and theyre hooked ' or, more accurately, develop the sickness. And believe me, its a sickness, as much as any illness can be called a sickness.
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had a chat with Daly about the problem when the details of Dalys book were made public this week. And I can just guess what the gist of the conversation was about.
It was probably about the fact that such huge gambling losses put a person in a real hole morally and make it possible for all sorts of shady characters to get to him. A person who has lost $30 million is susceptible to all kinds of scenarios, none of them good. Gambling on golf is difficult, but it certainly can be done ' witness the numerous bet shops in Britain.
Its very difficult, true, for any one player - especially a person who is an also-ran like Daly has become - to have an effect on the final outcome. But no doubt it can be done, and if it can be done, the person would be one ' like Daly ' who already owes huge gambling debts. And if there is enough money potentially involved, then the vermin types will surely be lurking in the shadows, waiting for that one vulnerable person to finally cave in.
Finchem probably also reminded Daly of the killer schedule he has to keep to support his sickness. Daly says he has to play golf almost every day to keep bringing in money to pay his debts ' either money obtained from tournaments, corporate outings or personal appearances. Daly is running around exhausted, frankly. And his play this year proves it.
Daly says he has licked his fondness for the Jack Daniels bottle. Hes licked his penchant for doing stupid things when he gets drunk. Hes licked his suicidal urges. But the thing he hasnt licked ' and it is without question the biggest problem of all for a person with access to big sums of income ' is the gambling urge.
He said he has learned a lesson after the $30 million of losses and now will start at the $25 slots when he enters a casino. A walkout loss number, he says, should tell him when its time to get up and leave. If he makes a little, he will graduate to $100 or $500 slots.
That, of course, is horse hockey. If he wins a little, there is no way he will stop until he has lost another $500,000. If he doesnt win, in fact, there is no way he will stop when the walkout number is surpassed. Just like any addict in any walk of life, he is hoping for the one big score that will put him over the top, clear of his obligations.
But, of course, he cant. The only antidote for a gambling addict is to stay totally away from gambling. And Daly is a long way from getting to that point.
John, subconsciously, is crying out for help. His story will resonate with so many people who would love to throw him a lifeline. But its as if someone is being swept out to sea on a dark stormy night, and we are helpless to prevent the tragedy from happening. Daly and his addiction - his sickness ' are linked arm in arm. Only the Creator Himself can make him turn back.
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