"Room for one at table 23; one-two, limit! Anyone want to be at table 17; no limit? We're going to close the table if someone doesn't go there. We still have time for you to get in on the tournament at table 37."
This past weekend, on a sultry Sunday night filled with the sounds of bells, whistles and loud voices, with colored lights continuously scanning the ceiling, I was accosted by two 20-somethings. Well, accosted is a bit strong, but it makes the point I want to start with. Never, ever play cards with two people at the same table who know each othernever! It is invariably true that they will double-team you into betting more often than you should, bet less with your head and more with your heart and thereby lose more money faster than you would have thought you could when you started to gamble. My friend Carol told me this. She teaches card playing to little old women on Long Island. She's a card shark and knows all of the subtleties. A card shark! "Listen to me," she said.
I was in a casino doing something that I am not very good at. I had wandered the casino floor and then sat down, closely followed to the table by these two highwaymen. After about an hour, I had lost most of my money and remembered Carol's rule. Was what they were doing cheating or was it just the way they learned to double-team? Did they do it for any reason other than to take my money along with that of any other unsuspecting soul sitting at that table? Of course, there were multiple reasons why they did what they did or do what they do, but I have don't have the time, professional expertise or the inclination to pursue this line of questioning at this time. But this I knowthey wanted my money. I wanted to have fun. Math majors, the both of them; they were very proud of themselves.
"Do you guys come here often?" I inquired.
"Almost every day, mister," they replied.
"Every day? Every day?!" I stammered.
"Yeah, almost," was the reply.
"How do you do?" I asked.
"Well, I'm paying the bills," one of them said, being more aggressive than the other. "Ya know, not bad; pretty good. If I don't come here, I go to one of the other places around here. Some are better than othersmore quiet, more action."
"How old are you?" I asked.
"Twenty? Twenty, you said?"
"Yeah, 20. Why?"
"How about you?" I asked looking at the other one.
"My God! Aren't you in school?" I asked, looking in their direction while trying to pay attention to my cards and not caring which would answer. A seemingly mindless conversation in the midst of other cards being dealt, bets being made, cards discarded and hands won or lost.
"Sure, I go to school. I'm a sophomore," he replied.
"How do you find time to play every day and do your work?" "Well, ya know. We just get it done when we can, but this is more important."
A breath came from me. I mumbled. I was incredulous. I should have known. I should have been more aware. I should have done a lot of things, the first of which was to run away, to never have sat down. They laughed and laughed and laughed at every turn of the cards. They bet smart and won much more than I did. I lost.
After I'd lost enough, Carol's rule clicked in and I pushed myself away from the table, half vowing to never return. Just like when you promise God, "If you don't let me get in this accident, I promise to go to church on Sunday." It was a halfhearted promise at best. I wandered away from the table over to the food court, had a piece of pizza, a Coke (diet of course) and eventually decided to leave. But on my way out, I found myself standing behind the railing watching another game at another tablefour people with different chip colors than the ones I had been giving to the 20-somethings. I took notice of the black, orange and purple chips. Up to the rail walks a strikingly handsome young man.
"What are those colored chips?" I asked him.
"Black is $100, purple is $500, orange is $1,000," he replied.
"Cool! What's this?"
"A buy-in tournamentit costs $500 to buy in. This is the last of two tables with eight guys at each table. That guy with all the tattoos is my friend. Never had a job in his life, plays tennis every day, plays cards when he needs money." "Why aren't you there?"
"I didn't have the $500 to buy in."
"I noticed how many kids are here," I said. "It's late, but most of the people at the tables are kids."
"Yeah, mostly college kids," he said. "If you go to the local campus, where I graduated from, you'll find most of them playing cards most of the day."
"Get outta here! You're exaggerating."
"Get this," he explained. "In some of the classes, there are 6,000 students registered and they give the lecture in a hall that holds about 1,500. Where do you think the rest of them are?"
I'd never thought of it. "Where are they?" I asked.
"Playing cards," he answered. "And the math majors are the worst. Or best is what I really mean. You can see them staring at the cards and calculating the odds. They always take my money when I stop over to see my brother."
"How old are you?"
"So you graduated about five or six years ago?"
"Yeah, five. I was a business major."
"What have you been doing since?" I asked as one of the four players at the table went all-in and quickly lost.
"Hanging out with that guy, trying to figure out what I want to do." He nodded at the tattooed dude. "Doing odd jobs, picking up some money now and then. You know, he never has to work a day in his life; his family has big bucks. We've been friends since school. I'd love to do what he does. But I'm in class right now. What do you do?"
"I help salespeople in the mortgage business make money," I answered. "I'm a personal coach to salespeople all over the country."
"No! I'm going to school to get my mortgage broker license!"
"Wow, small world. But tell me more about these kids. How do they spend so much time here and be able to get to class?"
"The school encourages them not to attend class."
"What? What?! Not attend class? You're kidding me now!"
"No, I'm serious. They sell the lectures of the class in the bookstore on DVDs, CDs and tape cassettes. So they make more money than just the tuition. It's a gold mine."
"So going to class is optional?"
"Optional? No, just not necessary, not at all. The only thing they need to do is pass the final. Now get thisthey spend more time trying to figure out how to cheat than they do in any classroom. The math majors help them rearrange the seating for the finals so everyone who has the same test gets to sit together. The professors usually give out four tests. So every fifth seat has the same test. Then they get to rearrange themselves in the class so all of the A tests get to sit together, all of the Bs and Cs and on and on. The teaching assistants don't care; they're just getting paid to give out the test."
"So what I'm hearing you say is that we have a whole generation more concerned about cards and cheating than learning?"
"Look mister, I'm just telling you what goes on in most colleges today."
"And you're going into the mortgage business?"
"Yeah, do you have a card? I might need you soon."
For all of those out there preaching how to make money, maybe you should be looking at the other end of the business/morality spectrum! These kids who permeate our business, encouraged by their parents to succeed at all costs, need to be re-taught what the right thing to do is. I am fully aware of the manyactually, fewprograms that teach the new employee how to do things legally. But I've taken those tests online and been to the lectures given by attorneys who are paid to get it over with. They are cursory at best. We have come to expect that if we hire someone and they went to a class to learn the state and federal laws of the land, then they have some modicum of integrity. Integrity is dead. The society is all about getting it done at any cost. You only pay if you get caught. Then, you plead ignorance or, at best, "My mommy made me do it." Enron is the model. Profit is god. Greed is not dead, it flourishesnow, it just doesn't have any consequence.
Pay attention out there. Don't just hire people based on a personality/intelligence test, or whether or not the new hire has what it takes, but test them on their level of knowing right from wrong. Not everything else can be taught, but when I asked a professional psychiatrist what the most important quality that a new employee should have is, there was no hesitationintegrity!
So, I make a clarion call to the leaders of the society to which I belong! Be mindful of the moral and ethical fiber of your staff in its entirety. Be ever watchful of what they do, what they say and how they conduct themselves on a daily basis. I fear if we do not, we will soon see the housing/mortgage market come crashing down around us, not because of outside influences, but because of our own lack of self-discipline. We owe it to the generations to follow not to be so focused on today, but to remember the future.
Ralph LoVuolo Sr., CMC is president of Mortgage Motivator, a mortgage industry training and coaching firm. He is a founder and past president of the New York Association of Mortgage Brokers, a teacher accredited by the New York and New Jersey Real Estate Commission, a former associate professor at Atlantic College and New York University and a published author. He can be reached at (609) 652-6901 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.