NORMAN — During Kentucky Derby week, gambling was at the forefront of my life. Along with non-stop activities in my home state of Kentucky, I spoke at a dinner for the Society of Settlement Professionals in Las Vegas. A film crew flew in from Rome to interview me for a documentary about lottery winners.
My father was a professional gambler, but I went the other way. I help people who get large sums of money hang onto it. Occasionally, our two worlds meet.
I am a mediation and settlement consultant. I attend conferences with injured people — or with an insurance carrier who wants to settle an injury claim — and develop financial strategies to make sure the money that person receives makes their life better.
As I have noted in two books and numerous columns, people who get big money from a lottery often wind up worse off than when they started. The same can happen to injured people. Blowing through a big sum of money can make their situation worse.
I know in the first few minutes of a mediation if a person is likely to blow through their money. Most people give off obvious “tells.”
As Kenny Rogers sang in “The Gambler,” poker players often use body language that signals the kind of cards they have. It’s the same thing in mediations and settlement conferences. I would actually pay the attorneys and clients to bring me to mediations — as opposed to calling when a case is settled — since I can spot problems and make corrections before they get money in their hands.
The son of a gambler, I can spot a “tell” a hundred miles away. Some obvious ones are:
1. People who have a large entourage. Entertainers like Michael Jackson or Elvis are known for attracting a large “posse” of people who want part of their money. The same thing happens to injured people, but their posse usually consists of family and “friends.” The larger the entourage, the more likely that one of them has their own agenda for the money, especially if the posse includes someone with a controlling personality or a new “love” interest.