Gold Mining as a Game of Chance

Gold miners are many things...some good and some not so much. But one trait we all share in common is a willingness to take a chance on the long shots.

Booms and Busts

This gambling analogy is a good one. In most instances gold prospecting and mining is a game of chance where miners are still willing to roll the dice or play that next hand despite the odds stacked against them. We're all gamblers to one degree or another and that's a fact.

Gold Panning Kits
Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

There's a great scene (among many) in the classic adventure movie "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" where Howard, the old time prospector and miner, compares finding gold to spinning a roulette wheel. "Just one more spin, one more spin." In the movie, Howard had been in every major gold rush of that era. He knew the score...the risks, the booms, and the busts.

It's All About the Search

I think this element of risk or uncertainty is one of the most powerful and compelling aspects of gold prospecting and mining. Finding and recovering gold is the ultimate goal but it's the search that really drives us deep down. The idea of what may be found, not what's in hand, is the real dream.

It's my contention that each and every time we do our thing we're pitting our knowledge and skills against the hard-case dealers in Mother Nature's outdoor casino hoping to hit the "big one." The anticipation of what may lie around the next river bend or farther up that desert dry wash is very close to that experienced when we pull that slot handle or play twenty one. One more spin or an ace onto that ten and we'll finally hit that rich pocket of yellow metal.

Bean Counters and Others

Think on this for a moment. Gold prospectors and miners have never been "play-it-safe" types. This is just as true today as it was in the days of the old timers, including those grizzled single-blanket, jackass prospectors who paved the way for the rest of us. I suspect that corporate bean counters and those who rigidly adhere to the mathematics of probability won't find much interest in gold mining. You see, long odds aren't the strong suit of those afraid to take risks.

That small-scale gold mining in all its forms is (or can be) addicting is a moot point. That said, does this mean we're all degenerate gamblers throwing caution to the winds and destroying lives in the process? Absolutely not. That extreme form of gambling is a sickness and a disease...a compulsion that some poor souls simply can't control and that will destroy them in the end. Us? We're in it for the long haul.

So here's a little tip. If you don't like games of chance or aren't willing to take a risk now and then I'd say you're probably better off hanging around the house getting those "honey do's" done. You see, you have to be a gambler at heart to be a gold miner.

Best of luck out there.

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2013

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Jim, I've always had that disease....I call it "Round the corner-itis"! I couldn't live someplace flat, I need to know whats over that next hill, or around the bend. Prospecting fits right in with this sickness...just one more shovel full.... You could be just one shovel full away from a million, or a million shovel fulls away from a dollar. You just don't know. Frustrateing sometimes, but overall I enjoy it. Glad to see ya back, Gary

  2. Thanks Gary. Yep, "Just one more shovel full will do 'er!" J.R.

  3. J.R.,
    This is a great post! Most of your points are the "my" reasons as well. I also found these truths to be evident in my "fishing" desires as well. Your skills / your knowledge / you choose the spot / you choose the bait / the day / the time / the presentation, etc.

    We have a saying in the fishing is taking your chances, that your "offering" will come across a fishes path in the "big blue desert". Although there is water everywhere.... fish are in very "selective" places. Your odds are very poor. You have to do something to increase your chances. So ponder / practice / prepare / press on! Last but least, let's not forget the lost "art of observation" necessary for success in both of these endeavors.

    As for "one more shovel full" Hope....can be a mean mistress....for both miners...and the fishermen of the world! That said....thanks again....welcome back!

    San Francisco

  4. There is definitely a correlation between fishing and mining. So your points are very good ones. I appreciate your good words and support. Best, J.R.


Post a Comment