As far as anyone can tell, Credit Card Roulette (CCR) can be traced back to 1960 when a gambler named Jerry Osip attempted to leave a restaurant without paying for his meal by playing a form of the game with his waiter.
Osip reportedly cajoled a waiter into participating in CCR with him by tossing a few of his credit cards into a pile, including one that was no longer valid. Osip allegedly promised the waiter a big tip if he managed to select one of the credit cards that had not been previously cancelled. If the waiter happened to choose the invalid credit card, Osip would be allowed to walk away with a full belly and without a receipt in his pocket.
Whether Osip won or lost remains a mystery, but CCR is by no means a mystery to poker pros who regularly engage in the practice more than 50 years later. Credit must be given where due and Osip deserves his share, although the way CCR is played nowadays is quite different.
The basic parameters of the game as introduced by Osip remain the same. Making a game out of who must pay a restaurant or bar tab in hopes of letting someone other than yourself pay the bill.
CCR’s popularity has reportedly reached far and wide to include gambling types from all walks of life. It isn’t only poker players who enjoy spinning the wheel of Credit Card Roulette. McDonald’s ran a commercial on CCR about three years ago. But the game is custom-made for poker players to whom playing games and making bets for large sums of money is an everyday occurrence.
How Credit Card Roulette is Played
For those unfamiliar with CCR, the game is typically played at a restaurant among a group of people after the meal is finished and it’s time to settle up and pay the bill. Each player or diner will give a credit card to the waiter or waitress, who then tosses and mixes the cards into a hat or in a pile for random selection.
There are generally two ways of playing at this point, the first one being that the very first credit card selected randomly by the impartial wait staff employee ends up as the unlucky loser who has to foot the bill. However, that method of determining winners and a loser lacks suspense and brings a rather abrupt end to the game.
The other way of playing CCR that is favored by a large majority of players, except perhaps the faint of heart who may be prone to anxiety, is to implement a reverse-order draw in which each credit card selected is given back to the owner. The last credit card to be chosen becomes the loser who gets the honor of paying for the entire meal or tab.
The second method allows for an abundance of fun and excitement for the players whose credit cards are chosen early on in the game. Those players tend to revel in their good fortune, which generally includes good-natured ribbing of their fellow diners who may still be on the hook for paying the bill.
It’s a game of chance that is dependent upon the luck of the draw. However, those who play the game regularly often use “lucky” or favorite credit cards, insisting that such credit cards allow them to skate away without paying much more often than not, resulting in being ahead of the game overall.
The Advantages of Credit Card Roulette
The advantages of the game are fairly obvious. First of all, there is no unnecessary quibbling as to the amount owed in divvying up the bill. Whether your meal consisted of lobster or a cheeseburger, the bill will be paid by the loser whose credit card is selected either last or first, dependent on whatever way it was agreed upon to play the game.
Regular players of CCR generally agree to play the game before ordering their meal. This sometimes leads to menu selections on the pricey side in order for players to “get their money’s worth.” Depending on how well you know your fellow diners, this behavior may be frowned upon. But to some CCR players who know each other quite well and whose incomes tend to come in the form of cashing in high stakes poker tournaments, over-consumption may be part of the game.
Another benefit is that all but one of those playing CCR will walk away from the table with a full belly at no cost. Elation from winning at CCR is practically priceless. Added to that is the amusement of fun-spirited mocking of the player who gets stuck with the check, a mocking that is completely optional. Remember that the shoe could very well be on the other foot one day when your credit card gets selected.
One more benefit pointed out by MMA fighter and former poker pro Terrence Chan on a recent blog post entitled “Why You Should Play Credit Card Roulette, Even If You Don’t ‘Gamble'” is that losing at CCR can actually be good for you. Chan tends to think outside the box, and his take on the game of CCR is a fine example:
To be an effective gambler, you have to embrace the sting of defeat,” Chan stated. “It has to hurt a little. It shouldn’t hurt so much that it seriously damages you, but constantly exposing yourself to small financial pain is beneficial, in exactly the same way that getting regular exercise makes your body healthy. Losing money is a stressor that makes you more emotionally prepared to lose money.”
Don’t Play Credit Card Roulette if You Can’t Afford to Lose
As alluded to by Chan, it should also be pointed out that those who cannot afford to lose at CCR should not be playing. The game is meant to be fun among friends and if a loss at CCR might hurt you financially, then you should opt out and agree to pay for your portion of the bill and not participate in the game.
Osip probably did not know that his gambling spirit and desire to eat a meal for free would one day become such a popular game among diners, especially poker players. He was also likely unaware that someone would eventually dub the game Credit Card Roulette. Those who play and enjoy CCR regularly can thank him, while those who lose and get stuck with the bill can wish the game was never invented.