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Never Risk What You Can't Afford to Lose

Updated on March 25, 2011

Never Risk What You Can't Afford To Lose

My mom married again when I was about 10 or 11. I called him the Major, not because he was a in the service - he was a MAJOR pain in the ass. Seriously, we got a long well. He knew I had a wild side and he tried to curb it but quickly realized it would always be a part of me. He learned to accept many of my transgressions.

Skipping school, underage drinking, sneaking out of the house. That kind of crap. He used to scold me and tell me, “You are just as bad as you are pretty.” Well, during that time of my life I didn’t feel very pretty so I guessed it balanced out.

The Major was a good man. He was a devout Irish Catholic. This is where I got my Catholic Education. I had to attend CCD (acronym for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) every Sunday followed by mass. I must admit, I loved the hum of all the voices silently chanting their prayers and expected responses. I think the sitting and standing was just thrown in there to keep the kids moving because, for any kid, Mass was a boring thing to sit through. I did get my dose of Catholic guilt, I guess.

Even though The Major was a good man, he too was flawed. He had a passion for playing cards. Gambling! I think it was the only law I ever saw him break. It was illegal and we would host very professional poker games in our home three to four nights each week.

I could justify this transgression because even Abe Lincoln said, “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

We all are flawed. We all are human.

If the Major had no one else to play cards with, I would do just fine. He taught me how to play Rummy, Gin Rummy, 5-card draw, 5-card stud, 7-card stud. Straight poker - wild cards were for sissy’s. I listened and learned. All the while, he taught me to get better at it, pointed out where I made my mistake, he would constantly remind me never to bet anything I could not afford to lose. My favorite was five card draw, jacks or better, trips to win. More of a challenge!

He also said Casinos were a rip off the house always wins.

Hosting a card game is an event that was serious. I would be paid to get the food catered in, or make subway type sandwiches and snacks. They never drank alcohol. A serious gambler will never mix alcohol and money.

Our house was kind of shot gun style on the main floor, you would enter through the living room, a staircase leading to the downstairs with a half wall separated the dining room and the kitchen was at the end. They played at the table set up in the middle dining room area.

I would move all the pictures or mirrors from the walls, place an unopened deck of cards in the center of the table, set up ash trays and their choice of cola, coffee, tea or water.

When all the players arrived and sat, I would get their drinks and the games would begin. “Ante up!” From that point on I would be in the living area, waiting quietly for any given player to raise his hand and I wouldn’t usually have to ask what they needed. I could see if the ashtray was full or the glass was empty.

These players were suspicious of everyone. Including me. Making any eye contact, facial gestures or conversation was strictly prohibited. This could be construed as a “tell” or someone cheating. They also changed chairs every hour to prevent any players from teaming up. If two players faced each other, they could work out a series of “signs” to aid the other player and so forth.

At the end of the night, I would often receive cash tips for keeping up with my responsibilities. The winners always gave me great tips! They trusted me and liked me for keeping my mouth shut and my eyes closed.

The Major was excellent at his vice. Often a player would lose all the money he brought and the belief that he could win it back would always occur. Money would be borrowed, paid back or often my step dad would accept a trade of equal value. This is how we acquired our first VCR Player, which was very expensive in the 80’s, guns, microwaves, lots of stuff. Usually it was still in the box and I am not certain if it would have burned my hand if I touched it. No matter, that was none of my business.

The Major would often tell the loser it could be a loan. I noticed a strange thing about that though; men do not like to be indebted to another man. An honest man will pay his debt however and as quickly as he can.

I always wanted to play the Saxophone, I begged The Major to buy one for me but they were very expensive. I just knew I needed to know how to read music, how to learn to make those beautiful sounds on my own. Translating symbols into music that worked its way through your eyes then your cognitive thought process, if your neurotransmitters were working well, the impulse would jump from synapse to synapse until it reached the very place your brain commanded it to - voice or fingers until it transformed itself into a sound. If done well and with practice a beautiful sound. It was even greater when the whole band could get it all together. It was amazing to me.

One lucky night, we were hosting a game. I listened to the hush as the cards were shuffled and slid across the table one by one. I listened to the groans or the sounds of excitement. (All tells, unless you’re bluffing). I listened for the sound of the teaspoon tapped against the unfilled glass.

On this particular night, we had a big loser. The itch got him; he lost all of his money and was sure he could win it back. It was just a streak! Of course, he did not win it back and owed The Major an even larger debt.

The Major offered to let him pay him back but the man’s ego could not bear the burden of the debt. 'I got a clarinet I could give you. It was worth a little more than the equivalent of the debt. The loser said his daughter hated playing the instrument and would never practice. It was practically new.

The Major called me into the room, “how do you feel about playing the clarinet,” he asked me. “You could be the next Benny Goodman!”

It was better than nothing was, I thought, and I hoped the man had not truly bet anything he could not afford to lose. I hoped I wasn’t stealing the music from his child.

The Major was right, good lesson learned. Never bet anything you cannot afford to lose. I was grateful for this win. I loved band, and sometimes when I am listening to a piece of music I can still hear the whisper of Mr. Johnson’s voice in my head saying, “close your eyes, what do you hear?”

It calms me, I strain to pick out the pluck of a banjo, strum of the guitar, the soft beat of a snare drum, a triangle, harmonica, a flute or hopefully the husky call of a the Saxophone.

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  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    You are correct Josh - I am Kelly and then there is my partner in crime Kelley Ward Hamlin:) lol I know that confuses some people since we are in the same groups and things. It's all good - I have been called MUCH MUCH worse than KELLEY:) lol

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    Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

    You are very welcome Kelly(sorry can't remember if there is another e in your name or not dang it!) Anytime! :)

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hey thank you so much Vicki! I can't write recipes so stories will have ta do! Lol lol

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hey Josh - thank you SO much! I really appreciate that comment:)

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    You can really tell a story, girl! I love this. Kept my attention til the end! Way to go! Many votes.

  • josh3418 profile image

    Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

    Kelly, thanks to Bill's recent share, I found this hub! Excellent job, I loved every bit of it! You are an amazing writer, and had my full attention the entire way! Great, enjoyable read! VG&S(votes galore and sharing! )

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi KT - thank you so much! That is so nice but I have lots of comments because this is an older one:) lol I wrote this when I first started writing here and wasn't quite sure what I wanted to write about.

    I love playing cards and yeah - never admit you can play if you are a girl! lol It is unexpected and easy to play dumb so you can win while the guys are busy trying to pretend to look at your cards:) lol Keep them close to your chest and the other players won't be able to concentrate on the game! hahaha!

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thank you so much Kelley! As an admirer of yours that is a super compliment! You have a terrific weekend and happy writing!

  • KT Banks profile image

    KT Banks 5 years ago from Texas

    oH NO! You're one of THOSE. One of those writer's who are so good, and have such a following, that a person needs to wade through a ton of comments to get to add their own two cents - lol!

    Although I would Love to play an instrument, it was cards and poker that I was taught to play as a kid. My big sister married a Marine and he taught me to play poker at the age of 7, 8 and 9. But, shhh, I usually act like I can't play. Especially to my sons friends. They think I have beginners luck - lmao! It's so much fun. :)

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    kelleyward 5 years ago

    You really know how to grab the reader's attention. I can't imagine you with a wild side ha ha. This was so well-written I couldn't stop reading! Thanks for sharing this! Take care, Kelley

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi Stevew13 - I was very lucky! I agree - my step dad was really a push over. I could talk him into anything and get out of just about any kind of trouble:) lol Thank you so much for the nice compliment!

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    Steve Wright 5 years ago from Norwich, England

    That was a really good read and a nice story, it is great that you were able to have such a good relationship with a step-parent, many people are not so fortunate, I know that from experience :) Will definitely be reading more of your work as you have a very captivating style of writing :)

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi Rolly! thank you so very much! I certainly appreciate the read, vote and comments:)

  • Rolly A Chabot profile image

    Rolly A Chabot 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

    Awesome as always and a good read... Voted up for certain.

    Hugs

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi Audra - thank you very much!

    I bet the dog howling was hilarious! I think I made my whole family howl at first...those reeds can make such annoying noises:) lol. And I agree - I've always been a letter writer:)

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    iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

    I really liked your story Kelly. It brought back memories of my love of music!

    I to played the clarinet and made my dog howel with it...lol! It was not my fodest moment...giggle.

    It is cool to read the intimate details of people I talk to from hub pages. I just get to communicate in words...more fun than talking on the phone.

    Great hub...voted up and shared!

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi Maggs224 - thank you so much! Yeah - the Major was a card:) haha! Always had a joke to tell, a smile on his face or a lecture that I needed to listen to! The funniest Irish guy I've ever known. He taught me so many valuable lessons - like how to laugh at myself. That might be the most important one...he really helped me learn to laugh and mean it:).

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    TS - I want to thank you so much! This is one of the things I wrote when I didn't know how to embed photos or video:) lol. I had forgotten I had even written it! This one may need some over hauling:) haha maybe a visual or two:). I so appreciate the nice comments, I do love some jazz music too!

  • maggs224 profile image

    maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

    What a lovely Hub I really enjoyed reading this and the major sounds like a lovely man. I like that saying of his 'Never Risk What You Can't Afford To Lose' that is sound advice that works in all sorts of situations not just gambling at cards.

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    Tim Mitchell 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

    Nice! Style. Pizzaz. Forget Benny, move over Woody Allen and Artie Shaw. There is a new Jazz artist on the block pecking at the keyboards. . .

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Wow! I wrote this so long ago it seems, I'd forgotten all about it!

    The Major was a heck of a good guy - I still dream about him sometimes. He taught me so many good lessons and really I'd didn't know how lucky I was but he and I always got along well. Mutual understanding:) hahha!

    Thank you so much!

  • prairieprincess profile image

    Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

    RHW, this is awesome! I love how he taught you about life by teaching you about cards. And he sounds like a heck of guy. I loved this story. Voted all the ups, and SHARED.

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    SW - you are very funny! Yes - the major was quite the character! He had dozens of crazy sayings and he was almost always laughing. The kind of guy that would wake up singing - it was annoying! Or not:). We teased him about it and my sisters and I played tricks on him all the time. We liked to set his alarm to make it look like it was time to get up (he rose in the dark for work) but really it was just the middle of the night. One time he actually drove all the way to work before he figured it out! He laughed about it! I wish you did have someone like him in your life I have a feeling you would have liked him:)

  • Spirit Whisperer profile image

    Xavier Nathan 6 years ago from Isle of Man

    This is a great hub. I love the major and the wonderful relationship you had with him.You are very fortunate to have had such a good father figure and though he gambled it seems that he was always in control. The hub is really well written and I wanted it to go on. I think Wayne is right when he say "stuff that movies are made of for sure". I can empathise with the Catholic upbringing and my Grandad who was my male role model was ex military and a devout Catholic. I respected him but did not have the same kind of relationship you had. Thank you Pocahontas.

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Well WB sometime when I get back to Texas we will have a poker game:-)! Don't fall for my poker face though. I know how to bluff!!

  • Wayne Brown profile image

    Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

    What an interesting young lady you are...the stuff that movies are

    made of for sure! Enjoy this very much! WB

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Vocalcoach - thank you so much! Your words of support mean so much to me! And I loved playing that clarinet:-). I'm not sure if I ever would have learned to read a note without the unlucky player that night. Funny how things work out!

    I appreciate you too:-)

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

    Very well written story with a great message. You are such a wonderful addition to our Hubpage family. Keep these hubs coming...you are filled with talent. Love your detail! Blessings, my friend. Rated up!

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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thank you global girl!!

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    Yourglobalgirl 6 years ago from UK

    A fun hub to read and a good message

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thank you for reading and spending your time commenting:-)

  • Dovay Lee profile image

    Dovay Lee 6 years ago from China

    Good hub. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thanks for taking the time to read it! You are a GOOD MAN :-) haha! Have a great day:)

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    Paul Goodman 6 years ago from Florida USA

    Great story, thanks for posting! :-)

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Oh that is funny! And my 11 year old just decided to play the flute next year! I am going to try to learn with her:-). I am so happy I found all of you hub folks to learn and grow from. It has been very rewarding and educational for me! I am excited to wake up in the morning knowing I will be sipping my coffee and reading all you hubbers have to share with me! You are so kind and gracious! Thank you!!!

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

    Oh My what a big truth here. I'm the second youngest of six, need I say more. I'm a band Geek, my daughter is a band geek and my youngest daughter is following in her foot steps. Marching Band Rocks! I love music, instruments as it is magical for we mere mortals.

    I Presbyterian, a reformed catholic branch if you will. Many of my friends went to catholic school. I've heard stories. Thanks for sharing yours never risk what you can't afford to lose and if not at complete and total peace and ease about doing something, ehhh don't do it!

    It's so exciting to watch your work grow and branch out. Your an amazing asset to our Hub family and I'm thrilled to enjoy your work. Enjoy and create! Peace, Love and Joy, Katie

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    You are too kind FatherFitz! I am just beginning like you, feeling my way around - figuring out this hub world! I do appreciate the feedback and am honored by your words! You will succeed I am sure! I sent Laurel to Catholic school through 8th grade - then the Catholic High closed - she went to public school until she graduated. :-)

  • FatherFitz profile image

    FatherFitz 6 years ago from Stoughton, WI

    Amazing detail! i too am catholic and went to catholic school. Just the talk of sitting in on mass and the standing and sitting and how boring it was brought back many memmories, although usually the things that are boring at the time, can bring back the best memmories, with the great detail you put into your writting , you should consider writting a book! let me know when its published! i would buy it:)

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thanks again Crystolite! I do so appreciate your time and comments - it helps!

  • crystolite profile image

    Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

    Wonderful story my RealHouseWife.I enjoy reading your article because every new article of yous has a new meaning.nice hub,its very cool.

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Thank you! It was an interesting way to make money as a kid:-) and I should add that the people that came over for the card games were interesting - one was a Judge - another was the Mayor of our town's son:-) the conversation was always interesting to hear!

  • JLClose profile image

    JLClose 6 years ago from OreGONE

    A fun hub to read!

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hey thank you so much Vicki! I bet your birds love it when you play! I put cartoons or music on for the boys (you know the parrots!) they seem to reLly like it and dance too:). Thais for your time - I really enjoy your hubs!

  • Vicki.Pierce profile image

    Susan Ungrey 6 years ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan

    Wonderful story! I grew up in a large family and playing band instruments was not an option for our family. Except for me - I was diagnosed (wrongly) with rheumatoid arthritis and was not allowed to play sports etc., so my parents bent the rules and I got to play the flute. I loved it and still have my flute and pull it out every now and then.

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Yeah you know what I mean don'tcha barbergirl:) what you said!

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    I kind of wish this was like facebook were you can just like something somebody says... lol!

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Nordy you just made this tired housewife so proud! Thank you for taking your time to read while I keep trying to learn to get better by stalking the likes of you:)

  • Nordy profile image

    Nordy 6 years ago from Canada

    Awesome hub, I love your stories! I must admit that I too am a band geek (said with total love for it) - started playing the trumpet at age 10 by accident - I meant to pick the trombone. My mom is still glad that I didn`t know the difference. I can`t play anything else unfortunately. Except for the opening few bars of the Godfather theme on my daughters toy keyboard, if that counts?

    Voted up and awesome, I am stalking you too!

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Well there's your next hub! A video of you strumming happy birthday:), I'm out shopping! I scored:)

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    Oh yeah... and I forgot to mention... my 5th grade band teachers name way....you guessed it... Mr Johnson! LOL

    I also tried the alto clarinet. That was alot of fun, but because I played it I had to do a solo and big crowds of people scare the crap out of me. By the way... I can almost play Happy Birthday on the guitar. HE HE

  • RealHousewife profile image
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    Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Soul sista! That is so cool! I was pretty good so my teacher had me fill in with the bass clarinet too - closest I've ever gotten to a sax - maybe I should......hahaha. Thanks for reading!

  • barbergirl28 profile image

    Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

    Very cool story. Ironically, I played the clarinet in the band as well - I had no other choice. My parents would only let me play either the clarinet or the flute (cause that was what they could afford - at least that was their excuse!) Well, my mouth isn't shaped right for the flute, so I ended up with the clarinet. Played it from 5th grade until I graduated. Still have it too. Now, I am trying to teach myself how to play guitar. Exciting!