The Bet of Honor

As a gadabout journalist and adventurer, I have traveled quite a bit. Not nearly as much as I have wanted to, but I have spent memorable hours, days, months and even years in such desirable locations as Mexico's Sea of Cortez, Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

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I have always learned more about life and myself than I have ever taught the population of these countries, although a lot of give and take has gone on. In the Caribbean, I learned about diving for pearls. I danced to reggae music and ate conch salads. I even drank too much rum one night and danced on stage with the Biambi African Dancers, a professional group from Jamaica.

In Guadalajara, Mexico, I discovered something called the Bet of Honor, and that is what this column is all about.

Most true gamblers are honorable people. Not all, but most. If they make you a promise or borrow money, they generally pay it back. At least some of them do. I am not going to talk about the ones who don't deliver.

I was at a cockfight in Guadalajara. My driver Alphonso, a near-sighted man who had fallen in love with my wife, had been furnished to me by the Mexican government in exchange for the articles I had promised to write about my Mexican vacation.

A Catholic priest blessed the fighting roosters and their handlers. A well-known Mexican vocalist sang some rousing songs about Mexico, including the incomparable 'Guadalajara.'

The roosters were brought out for the fight -- one in a green box, the other in a red container. The handlers strapped on their razor-sharp spurs to do the damage. Alphonso suggested I pick one of the roosters and bet on the bird.

"Who do I bet with?," I asked.

He waved his hands. "Anybody. Just raise your hand in the air and say 'I bet 500 pesos on the green' or whichever color you desire. If another player wishes sto accept your bet, he will raise his hand and nod. When the fight is over, you either collect your payment or pay him. Nobody ever welches on a bet here. It is a bet of honor.'

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I did as Alphonso instructed me and won three fights in a row. The Mexican gentleman who had lost the equivalent of about $30 to me wanted to make one more bet for the full amount he had lost. But he added, "I have no money. If I lose, I will pay you what I owe the next time I see you."

Alphonso was standing by my side. "Accept his offer," he whispered. "Everyone here is entitled to a bet of honor to save face. He will pay you back when he sees you."

I didn't bother to tell Alphonso I was returning to Phoenix in two days. I accepted the bet. The man won and I returned the money he had lost. So much for small profits.

This story reminds me of why I started writing this column in the first place. While some poker rooms allow a player to make a short buy-in if he is low on cash, many others do not honor such a request. They insist on a full buy-in or the person must leave the game.

I think all gambling casinos should be required to allow a player a final short buy.

While I realize W.C. Fields came up with the saying, 'Never give a sucker an even break,' I think gamblers deserve the final bet of honor. It may or may not pay off for them, but by godfrey, they deserve it. My friend Alphonso was right. A bet of honor is a bet of honor and it should be permitted in gambling circles. Let the games begin.

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