Winners & Losers: Gambling on Games for Fun

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I’ve gambled on my share of screwy things.

For a while, a game known as Credit Card Roulette ended most meals with a crowd that I occasionally ran with.

It involved everybody handing a credit card to the waiter.

Then he shuffled them behind his back and pulled one card at a time out of the stack.

Whoever’s plastic remained in his hand at the end got stuck with the bill.

I can tell you that the bad feeling of losing the game out-paced the good feeling of winning.

And even when you did win, it didn’t compare to the feeling of playing at real money online casinos and winning big on roulette.

But we all played anyway.

What I have never gambled on are games like Space Invaders. That might change, whether I want it to or not, if I ever happen to visit Dave & Buster’s.

The chain of bar-food restaurants implanted with arcades (or vice versa, depending on how you view menus featuring fried pickles and chicken strips) announced last week that it will be setting up a program in which people can gamble against one another with the cash exchange handled on an app.

Dave & Buster's card
Image: Dave & Buster’s

It will be for skill-based games only – presumably, things like Skee-Ball and basketball shootouts. Limits are likely to be small.

The company behind Dave & Buster’s digital betting service is called Lucra. Its COO has stated that matches played on the software usually cap at $5 to $10.

But I figure that sums won or lost can build quickly.

Beyond that, I have little doubt that some people will be unhappy betting for such small stakes.

Why play with a cap when you could gamble at some of the best gambling sites with much higher limits instead?

Hence, I anticipate the offline and rule-bending additions of, say, 10X sweeteners.

If those are implemented, people will be rolling balls and shooting hoops for $100 a go. That’s more like it!

Officially, you will have to be 18 or older to partake of the gambling component and be enrolled in the Dave & Buster’s loyalty program.

But I can see fathers and slightly underage sons going rogue by carving out workarounds with the former loaning their membership details to the latter and letting the kids have something to play for.

Dave & Buster's
Image: TripAdvisor

If I had teenagers with those desires, I’d do it.

But then, I’m a dad who wanted to teach his daughters how to play poker and opened online accounts for them.

One had a great handle: 321poof. But they never took to the game and had more fun watching me if I final-tabled a tournament.

They’d tell me what to do – sometimes, weirdly, their wacky moves worked – and then demand a cut of the winnings. That felt fair enough.

I don’t know if any good came of it.

Since kids are allowed into Dave & Buster’s with adult guardians, I imagine that they will enjoy watching their parents going at it in cash showdowns.

And even though the limits for betting are clearly reasonable, just a little bit of money on the line changes everything.

Nobody likes to leave a loser and it seems unsportsmanlike to quit while ahead.

So, the dining/playing operations will benefit from people staying longer, playing harder and, most likely, drinking more.

Okay. I’ve just convinced myself that this will be fun. And I don’t even need the 10X sweetener.

It’s time to start brushing up on Skee-Ball and sharpening my hustling skills.

Speaking of which, what’s the Over/Under on fried-pickle eating competitions?

Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist
Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.