This column was originally published on RealMoney on Aug. 18 at 9:42 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Twenty-five years ago, my mom and I went to Bally's in Atlantic City, N.J., for a day of gambling. Pop had to make some box-and-bag calls down there, so it gave Mom and me a chance to play some games.
Mom loved the slots. She loved to gamble -- really a terror at the track, by the way, betting on a lot of horses that she wouldn't tell anybody about unless they crossed the finish line first. Some gamblers are like that. They tell you they are going to the powder room while they are laying down 10 smackers on Cyclone. She was like that.
Anyway, we hit the slots early, with $25 in quarters, which, at that time, meant pretty much everything you were going to lay down for a day. After about two minutes of quarter-stuffing, she got three sevens, three bang-up jim-dandy sevens, and the bells went off, and that glorious -- and now often missing -- sound of quarters cascading against chrome filled the fetid air of the joint. (People smoked everywhere then, and it was pretty repulsive around the slots, no matter what hour.)
We had hit for $100, and it felt good. At 10:30 a.m., we were already up $97. I looked at her and asked, "What games should we play?" She said she would show me. She told me to follow her, as we went toward the casino exit. Where was my mom taking me? We had games to play! Money to burn!
She was taking me to go buy a sweater.
"We're done," she said. "We've won." For some time, she'd had her eye on a $100 sweater in one of the beautiful stores that often surround a casino, and we stalked right out of the joint and bought it. She wore it for years after. She got a virtual lifetime's worth of enjoyment out of it.
Me? I got a lifetime's worth of financial knowledge out of it. We had gambled, and we had won. Worth a gazillion sweaters.
Wednesday, I decided I wanted to buy a sweater with some of my oil winnings. I had gambled, when oil was at $30, that it could double. It did. When it doubled, I stayed. I put more quarters back in the machine through
ActionAlertsPLUS -- as recently as last week, with a buy of more
, because I believed it shouldn't have been down. Still don't think so.
Wednesday, though, I said, "Enough." I don't want to be affiliated with the big energy move right here. Now, it is true that I still own some energy for ActionAlertsPLUS. But I prefer a sweater right now over staying full-bore at the machine.
I reach back to this 25-year-old anecdote because anytime you make a change, people will hate you. Anytime you decide to deviate, change the game plan, you will hear the catcalls. My mom and I didn't go to the slots that day to buy a sweater. We went to gamble. I felt betrayed by her when we left Bally's. Weren't we there to gamble and win even more?
Of course, in retrospect, we hail her brilliance. We probably would have given it back. I know that those who
to disagree with me about the oils now are thinking, "Wait a second, we aren't gambling. We are investing. Why the heck is Cramer using a gambling analogy to define something that is far more dignified, methodical and scientific than dirty, chance-filled gambling?"
To this I say, discipline is discipline. I came to play and to win. I believe to say that oil could double, to say that oil could go from 5% to 10% of the
over a couple of years' time, and then to have that happen and to then keep pressing after you have won seems foolish.
Now, the lot of the guru and the lot of the gambler are different. The guru builds a following by being consistent, often consistent
long after he or she has stopped being right
. Does anyone really listen to Abby Joseph Cohen anymore? As far as I can tell, she is, was and always will be bullish. Talk about someone who should have bought the sweater a long time ago!
Me, I cross-discipline myself, from gambling to stocks. To keep saying oil's going higher after the best call I have ever made in my investing life is dumber than giving back those 97 bucks. To those who bought oil two days ago because of me, I am sorry. I saw the signs of the top in that spike to $67. When it couldn't hold, and copper collapsed and gold collapsed and the
got some PPI number that it must now go nuts about to fight the last war, I actually decided to pay heed and be
toward my current outlook and
consistent toward what got me to the point where I don't have to work in the first place!
So, forgive me. My mom wore the sweater up until she died, which, unfortunately, was not that long after.
Impressions last. Great impressions stay with you 25 years later. They are worth a lot more than hobgoblins who play for the other team.
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At the time of publication, Cramer was long Cimarex.
James J. Cramer is a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for
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