Three-Mile Limit, Auctions, Pools, Professional Gamblers - 1923
Until recently the jurisdiction of a country has been supposed to cover the adjacent sea for a distance of only three miles beyond its coast line.
Auction and Other Pools
Almost the first thing the steamship passenger begins to hear about is "the pool." On some ships there are swimming pools, but "the pool" usually means the total amount subscribed by a number of passengers who bet upon the ship's daily run. There is the hat pool, for instance, for which ten persons subscribe an equal sum, from one dollar to twenty-five dollars, placing the total in the hands of a smoke-room steward or one of their number. Each chooses a number of 0 to 9. At noon of each day, when the ship's position is taken, her run from noon of the day before is posted, and whoever has the number corresponding to the last figure in the run, wins the pool.
Auction pool is not so easy for everybody to understand, and the chances are that the layman who is not interested in gambling will find it difficult to comprehend if he has to depend entirely on the information usually obtainable. But here is the explanation:
Twenty men are selected, usually by a group of themselves, who, it is supposed, can be depended upon to "stay in the game" until the end of the voyage. These subscribe five dollars or a sovereign apiece to the pool, and each selects one of twenty numbers, based upon the run of the ship during the day ending the previous noon.
The numbers are put up on auction, and the owner of a number has the privilege of buying it in; if he fancies it, he may have to pay a good price for it. If it is sold to another, half of the selling-price goes to the original owner and half into the pool. After all the numbers have been auctioned, "high field" and "low field" are sold, high field and low field being respectively all numbers above the highest one sold and all numbers below the lowest one sold. If the weather is unusually fine, after a bad day's run, high field is apt to bring a big price.
If the weather is bad after a good day's run, low field is apt to be much sought. On a big, luxurious passenger steamship, it is not unusual for a single number to sell for as much as $150, and for high or low field to bring from $300 to $500. Occasionally the value of an auction pool may run to as much as $2,000 or $2,500.
On many steamers notices are posted warning passengers against professional gamblers; yet, in spite of it, every once in a while there is evidence that all travelers do not heed this warning. The man of experience should be able to distinguish a professional gambler, if not upon sight, at least after a little observation of the other. The smoke-room, or the lounge, affords ample opportunity for all who wish to play cards on shipboard.