Gambling to Travel

December 8, 2009

I know there have been numerous articles on the subject, and there’s really no point in writing about this ex post facto, as the perception of the gambler is significantly different than the perception of the non-gambler, even if they happen to be the same person. Of course it seems ridiculous to throw $500 down on a stupid game, but it’s the risk that’s the thrill: the promise of money. That in itself makes Vegas as much of an adventure city as Queenstown. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this… let me just state my experiences thus far.

“Blackjack!”, banspy
Blackjack!, banspy

I have an addictive personality, no doubt about that. When I see one episode of a TV show I love (or am even moderately interested in) for the first time, I feel compelled to see every episode every created, then wait for the new ones to come out. If I have 24 Dr. Peppers in my apartment, you can rest assured they won’t last the night; as a corollary, if I only have one, I don’t really feel the need to rush out and buy more… if they’re there, I’ll drink them, if not, I’m satisfied with what I have. And if there is a casino nearby, I don’t know when to walk away. Not until my bank account is drained and I’m left with twitching hands and this empty feeling in my soul, as though I knew doing something so stupid would come back to bite me, and I have no one to blame but myself.

About seven months after I turned 21, a friend of my brother offered to take me as his guest to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. Of course I was thrilled to have the chance to see the city and actually try blackjack in casino play. Brought $200 with me for spending money and none of it came back. Of course, I really didn’t know what I was doing.

Over the course of a few years, I’ve made trips to Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of the closest places to gamble from Austin. I can clearly remember my birthday/graduation/friend’s wedding celebration there… had two $1000 chips (bigger and orange, btw) for the first time in my life after splitting aces on an $80 bet, and told myself around 2 AM “you know, I really should just go to sleep and keep my winnings. But, for some unknown reason, I’m going to stay and ‘have fun.'” Of course it sounds stupid, but to the gambler, it makes perfect sense. Why else do perfectly rational people riffle through their pockets for another $20 to throw out and make up for the lost $650? And when that’s gone, they keep looking for more.

Weekends in Auckland, with its Skycity Casino, just make things more interesting. I lost about $560 in Queenstown between the Skycity Casino and Wharf Casino over two nights. When my parents flew out of Auckland they gave me the last few Kiwi dollars they had on hand, which, of course, I used over at the blackjack table without thinking twice. $40 somehow became $1800.

How is that? Well, besides the obvious luck, New Zealand casinos have a really good side bet for blackjack: perfect pairs. Say you place a $10 bet and a six of diamonds and six of hearts come down. A lousy hand to hit 21, but a pair payout of 12 to 1: $120. Had they been two six of diamonds… 25 to 1. Colored pairs, mixed pairs, and perfect pairs. My secret weapon, whatever that means.

I had about $1400 from my winnings that weekend (spend on food and such, no loss) when I returned to Auckland to hear the Dalai Lama speak. All that quickly went up to $4600 Friday night with the right combination of perfect pairs and dealer busts: a fun night, filled with drinks, encouragement around the table, and praise for my “skill”. Yeah, right. I may know what I’m doing, but 99% of it is luck.

Let me be clear: all this cash was in my pocket from 2 AM – 3:30 PM Sunday. If the banks were open, I could have simply wired it. But no… such an opportunity was not to be missed. Two hours before my bus leaves, and I decide to head back in to shore up my winnings with another few thousands. For a time, I was right: $4600 became $5800… then my greed got the best of me and I returned to $400. Just like that. Gone, taken piece by piece out of my pocket. I missed my bus, had to pay for another one, and ended up being dropped off in the rain and dark. Granted, that still might have happened even if I had been holding $6000 in my pocket, but somehow, the environment seemed to echo my own feelings.

Even though I have just as much money (in fact, a bit more) as that when I started, I feel almost hollow. It’s not like I simply went in and earned a hundred dollars. I won thousands… and lost thousands. So why do I feel as though I’m worse off that I was?

I felt like talking to the monks when I returned, and brought up the issue of gambling. The Buddha abhorred gamblers, and considered getting out of debt to be a very noble pursuit. The monk told me it was good that I had lost big, because had I won and stayed ahead, it would just have reinforced the idea that gambling is a reliable source of income; winning would encourage me to lose more in the future. This certainly was the case in April, when I returned with a few thousand dollars from the Skycity Casino, only to lose most of it in Indian Casinos across the Oklahoma border. And why? Because I thought I could get more, because I wasn’t satisfied with what I had.

I hear from many travelers who supplement their income or even support their travels with online gambling… any stories from readers?

One Response to Gambling to Travel

  1. Austin Cook on May 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Online Gambling is sometimes very addictive, a couple of years ago i lot a thousand bucks in online poker~,,

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