Lose it, right? That’s what everyone will tell you. The tables are rigged – the house always wins. I decided that it’s my turn to get the unique, invincible feeling of earning effortless cash.
As you walk into Australia’s largest casino on a Saturday night, it’s hard not to be overawed by the sheer magnitude of it all. I think I’m taking a risk putting 5 dollars on my lucky number 9 but in here they put thousands down. Once you take a look outside and see Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches being valeted, you realise; some serious gambling goes on here.
People spend money at the casino. That’s hardly surprising, what did I expect? It’s crazy to actually see it up close though and there’s a weird presence around the fact that luck will be the main determining factor between a good, and bad night. That a place can bring such happiness and despair in (fairly) equal measure is pretty fascinating. Strangest of all is how when people substitute their money for plastic chips that represent their money, all perception of the monetary value of said chips seems to evaporate into a cloud of knee jerk reactions and lost inhibitions.
Anyway, back to me. I have 50 bucks in my pocket, and I’m flush. The first thing I do is buy a drink, ‘cause hell knows I need one. Whoever decided to put alcohol and gambling side by side in a setting of flashing lights and loud noises is a genius, but I digress. The drink has set me back 9 bucks, which is a fair price for a Jack Daniels and coke, no complaints so far. For me to really get the casino experience, it’s probably going to be the only one I buy. That leaves me with 40 dollars to play with. The idea that I could be anyone, with anything in my wallet has got me feeling like I’m a superstar. I tell the barman to keep the change and make haste.
The roulette tables entice me most, mainly because of the potential for a big win. I scope out the lowest spending tables with the fewest people. There’s a lot of people playing 2 tables at once, which is bewildering as much as it is greedy. One hard hitting fix of gambling on a wheel with a potential for 37 outcomes in number not quite enough, mate? Red or Black is enough for me, and my 5 bucks on red comes up. I leave that on note and put 10 bucks on the 1st twelve (that it will land on a number between 1-12). I win, again. I’m not proud of the next few minutes, but let’s just say I got carried away. I rashly scattered across numbers, and after winning a few times I should have left with the 100 or so bucks I made.
I feel a weird anxiety. Like nothing in the world, I want to run back to the roulette table and win my money back. It feels personal to lose, I want to feel the euphoria I felt 10 minutes ago, when I was winning. I remember that when we win, a massive shot of dopamine is released in the brain. The same stuff is released when we drink and smoke – it’s so good, that we crave to re-live it. Chasing of such a chemical release is also the reason why people get addicted, and so I feel it’s best to take a few minutes out.
I notice that most of those occupying the pokies seem to be aged 50+, which makes me a bit sad for a moment. I’ve played pokies before and I know how mind-numbing they can be, with the combination of incrementally losing money whilst remaining moderately entertained a recipe for an almost certain loss of funds. I wonder whether losing money is a necessary evil in entertaining the older folks here.
There’s a definite buzz in the air, and people from all walks of life are basking in it. Glamorous couples, businessmen on a trip for the weekend, adolescents chasing a big win, and then you see what I have labelled, the professionals. Systematic gamblers who play the odds. One gentleman in particular, was playing the big wheel, where you are paid out depending on what number you pick between 1 and 47, 1 being the most recurring. Every time he’s betting on 1, and every time it’s landing on something else. I decide to get in on this; I put 5 bucks on everything but the number 1 and 47. He exclaims something in what I can only describe as Chinese anguish as the wheel ticks onto something I have chips on; I won 55 bucks! When all is said in done, the systematic gambler looks to have broken even but aged about 5 years in 30 minutes. I buy a drink with my winnings and sip with a sense of victory.
I take a trip to the poker dealer, which is one that ends in confusion. I put 20 dollars down and, not fully understanding the rules, double down when asked. It turns out I had a crap hand, and just lost 40 dollars in about 20 seconds. After another unsuccessful (and ill-informed) attempt at blackjack, I decide to call it a night, finishing with a grand total of 40 dollars. Given that I killed a couple of hours, had a few drinks, and enjoyed a range of emotions, I would say the night has been a success.
Usually, my trips to the casino have been with friends, and we will take in a set amount of money and leave when we’ve either had some fun or lost it all. It was interesting to go in with no real objective other than to observe and soak in the atmosphere. You’re rubbing shoulders with millionaires, walking among to-be millionaires and others who may ruin their life tonight. You have a sense that you’re close to being wealthy. When you step back and take the experience for what it is, the casino is one hell of a treat to your sensory pallet, but damaging to self- control. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – just remember to leave your credit card at home!