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November 22nd, 2015 at 7:35:07 PM permalink
I previously reviewed Josh Axelrad's "Repeat Until Rich" which you can read here. http://wizardofvegas.com/forum/off-topic/general/24027-by-the-playbook-1/

In that book, I mentioned Josh was helped immensely to seek help from Gamblers Anonymous by Bill Lee's gambling memoir, Born to Lose so today I am doing a double review of both this memoir and its companion piece, Chinese Playground.

Many people expressed disbelief by Mark Wahlbergs recent portrayal of a gambling addict in the film "The Gambler". Mostly the complaints were his bets were unrealistically designed so that he would lose no matter what, such as riding his wins until the eventual loss or taking the situations where he was afforded the chance to extricate himself from his debts and only made things worse.

Those people who were confused by this characters actions should read Born To Lose. Bill Lee gives an honest glimpse into his thought processes as he makes many of the same destructive choices. Most gamblers are trying to win, but the destructive gambler like Bill Lee is not. He is using the game to deaden his emotions and the demons that haunt his spirit. He outwardly claims he is trying to win but deep down he wishes to be punished for past actions and doesn't believe he deserves to be successful. As he states at one point, losing validated his feelings of worthlessness.

Born to Lose details Mr. Lee's forty year battle with compulsive gambling and his eventual coming to grips with GA(Gambling Anonymous) which is typically rejected by those addicted. Attending is not enough. You must embrace GA principles or as Bill Lee discovered, you will repeatedly fall back into destructive patterns.

In Mr. Lee's case, he was abused as a child, feeding his feelings of worthlessness. His parents attempted to self-abort him, his father sexually molested him and his mother saw psychotic episodes where she alternately tried to kill herself or her husband. To escape his troubled home, Bill spent more time on the streets, eventually joining a Chinese gang.

Chinese Playground is named after the location built by San Francisco to help youths in Chinatown (that is the name of the actual location and is readily recognized in much the same way Central Park is in NY). Instead, teen gangs used the playground to recruit and hold their meetings. Many of Bills contemporaries also came from similar broken homes.

Eventually, the older established Chinese mafia (Tongs and Triads) became upset these teen gangs were making dough in their territory and demanded tribute. As most teens, they felt pig-headed and invincible refusing to play ball. The result was one of Chinatowns worst gang/mafia wars which lasted for several years in the seventies.

It culminated with the Golden Dragon massacre where Bill Lee's associates discovered Tong bosses were eating dinner. They ended up shooting up the restaurant - and missing the Tong leaders while killing several innocent patrons. It's considered one of the worst massacres in mafia history equivalent to the Saint Valentines Day massacre (While reading the book in an eatery, an Asian asked me about the book and when I mentioned the Golden Dragon Massacre he clearly knew what I was talking about.)

Not having taken part in the massacre, Lee was assumed to be cooperating with the police and he ended up running from his own gang members. The guilt of his role in the massacre and other torments formed his attempt to "self-medicate" through gambling.

Eventually, Mr. Lee escaped his childhood turmoil becoming a successful employee of tech companies in Silicon Valley but remained tortured by his past. So when a disgruntled employee decides to shoot up his office building, with everyone running for their lives and screaming, guess who has the fortitude and training to face the violence? Yep, Bill Lee.

Mr. Lee ends up saving many lives and helping to coordinate the hostage crisis with the police. And this formed the redemption of sorts for Mr. Lee. However, it did not keep him from returning to gambling when faced with later crises in his life.

These two books cover much of the same ground however Mr. Lee keeps both books interesting by focusing on different aspects of the events recounted. I personally read Born to Lose first (its the follow-up book) as I was interested in the gambling aspects but when I had to read and learn more of Mr. Lee's life I then read Chinese Playground. I recommend this order for this reason although you can pick them up in any order.

If you are curious about how a destructive gambler like the Mark Wahlberg character in the recent movie thinks and is made possible by life's journey, you should definitely pick up "Born to Lose" and it's companion piece, "Chinese Playground."
For Whom the bus tolls; The bus tolls for thee

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