October 10, 2002

"Gambling can be Such a

"Gambling can be Such a Gamble" c. Ryan Rhodes, April 19, 2001

I'm not an avid gambler, but I'm willing to bet good money that I gamble more than is probably necessary. Any takers?

Actually, I only invest in about two or three lottery tickets a month, and I may visit a casino once every three months or so. However, given the fact that I rarely, very rarely, come away from a gambling experience with more money in my wallet than when I started, I think there's a safe argument to be made that I should stay away from gambling venues all together.

At any given moment of gambling weakness, I may depart from anywhere between $5 and $40. Now, this is not necessarily a large sum of money. Truth be told, I suffer more monetary loss from an impulse purchase at Best Buy or a particularly serious weekend of saloon celebrations (let me just take a moment to congratulate myself on the brilliant method by which I just made drinking at a bar sound almost classy).

Still, when it comes to gambling, there's a nagging burn to the knowledge that I spent up to $40 on, well, absolutely nothing. At least when I purchase an impulse item at Best Buy, I have a CD or a computer game to show for it. Even after a weekend of saloon celebrations, I can at least acknowledge my splitting headache and nausea as some sort of return on my investment. But, with gambling, I had $40, and now I don't. Where did it go? What did I buy? Air?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's not the loss of money that irritates me. Rather, it's the fact that I was enticed by the draw of easy money that makes me feel bad. After 26 years, you would think I would know better than to believe there's such a thing as easy money: well, except for hitting my parents up for a few dollars; that's still pretty easy.

However, it is, indeed, the appeal of making easy money that prompts me to buy a lottery card or visit a casino. Even more alluring than the thought of getting something for nothing is the imaginative world I escape into as I think about all the things I'll do if I do get something for nothing.

Take lottery scratch tickets, for example. When I have a considerably long drive ahead of me (anything over an hour is pretty long), I'll swing into the local Kwik Trip and purchase a $5 scratch ticket. I'll then place the little piece of cardboard in the passenger seat and, for the entire drive, I'll just sit and conjure up all sorts of big thoughts about what I would do if I won $100,000. And I would do big things, too. I'd get $100,000 in quarters and give my car the best darned cleaning ever. Or, I'd get all $1 bills and make 100,000 bank deposits. Yeah, that might be fun.

Casino visits, however, are very rarely carefree excursions. These are the big $40 trips that can make or break me. Of course, $40 won't break me financially, but for some reason my stress level jumps 300 percent in a casino. There's something disconcerting about all the whirling lights and bleeps and pings and whistles of the slot machines. It's like I'm immediately surrounded by hundreds of miniature ambulances. That's pretty stressful.

I don't particularly like slot machine gambling, unless I win of course. Overall, slot machines just seem too cold and detached. It's like putting money in the mouth of one of my ex-girlfriends.

Rather, I prefer the human component of roulette or blackjack tables. There's a sense of genuine opportunity when my money is matched against an actual person, a person who makes the same mistakes as I do, or so I hope.

Now, I'm not a very superstitious person, knock on wood, but I notice that little disconcerting personality traits surface the longer I stay at a casino. If I win a hand of blackjack, for example, I'll be sure that my initial stack of chips remains exactly the same until I eventually lose a hand, at which point I'll restack my chips because, obviously, the previous stacking method ran out of luck. Or, if I happen to remember that I scratched my armpit prior to a winning hand, I'll be sure to scratch that same armpit for the following hand. The same rule applies to groin scratches. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing that I don't visit casinos on a regular basis.

Now, given the fact that gambling often leads to an emptier wallet and a plethora of questionable personality traits, I should make a conscious effort to swear off gambling forever.

But, I wouldn't bet on it.

Posted by Ryan at October 10, 2002 12:39 AM
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