- Mental Health»
Gambling, What It Is & Isn't
Which Will You Feed?
Perspectives on Lifestyles
I live in a gambling town. I’m a spiritual being of course, but who isn’t? So it doesn’t matter who you think you are. You can’t beat them, so you join them, if you come out alive, you’ve done well. It’s a jungle out there.
I speak dramatically because my life has a few moments of dramatics I can sometimes draw poetry around and put into words. Essentially, my words mean nothing, only the fact that I’m alive means something, and only to me.
I’ve learned in this town a few things about gambling, not enough for a book thank God, but a few things I can pass on.
1) Gambling is not evil, as my daughter suggested. It is entertainment. At least that’s what the little card said next to the ATM machine: “know when to quit! It’s entertainment. If you think you have a problem, call this number.” Thanks, but the card should be a large sign, not a tiny note stuck on the ATM machine amidst all the flushed faces of those lined up to be taken by the one armed bandit.
2) What is perhaps close to evil is greed and envy, to let it run rampant in the name of excitement and the chasing your money idea. If you can walk into a casino calm and collected and walk out the same way, win or lose, you’re a real winner.
3) Take only the amount of money you can lose without missing it because the odds are stacked against you, and that’s why the casino is doing good business; the casino is betting on the fact that if it gives you a little, you’re going to put the little back into the mouth of the beast, if not today, then tomorrow, so limit your spending money to a certain pre-conceived amount and then run like hell after it’s gone. Do not take a credit card to the casino; you will be tempted to use it as soon as you lose your preconceived allotted “entertainment” money. Especially if you’ve imbibed of the free drinks while pushing the endless buttons. Casinos know that an impaired customer spends more money than an unimpaired one. Such buttons are designed to play you, the gambler. You think you are playing a machine, but it is playing you. The screen has all sorts of entertaining lights and sounds, messages such You’re a Winner! The machines dancing images mesmerize and you will keep playing just to see what fantastic image the machine will display next. The message may only produce a nickel for a nickel, but you’re a winner it says. This gets you excited and you keep playing. In the beginning, the machine knows you are a new player and it will feed you a couple dollars among great fanfare of course. You keep visualizing $20 or $100 as the payout sign above proclaims. $20 for a nickel or a dime can happen, but not as often as you wish and if you're just passing through, maybe never. It's more common to win $2 or $5 on the nickel machines. I met a casino worker who was a regular player, most workers are also players. She told me in 4 years, she had hit finally a jackpot of $400. I did not want to crush her happy glow by asking in all those years, how much she had put into the machines. I'm sure it was at least $400.
Most gamblers openly admit that there are dry spells. One gambler of 30 years duration told me you can only win 2 or 3 days of the month. I took his words to heart as 30 years of this lifestyle should have yielded him some wisdom I could count on. However, in casual conversation only the wins are discussed, even if the wins happened years ago, and most gamblers have this easy come easy go attitude about money and soon enough put it all back into the beast in a short time.
Even if a gambler had a big win and put it into the bank or did something with the money that they have to show for, winning big does not change the gambler’s lifestyle. The big win only makes you thirsty to do it again. This is called addiction, but no gambler will admit it or that would ruin the entertainment value of the gaming. There is a gambler's anonymous program and I'm glad I didn't have to go to that program to bust free.
4) You feel you are psychic. Or lucky. Neither one of these premises hold true in a gambling casino. If you were really psychic you'd have realized the odds are stacked against you in the first place. Your luck amounts to 2 or 3 times a month, or every other month. The rest of the time, you are purchasing the entertainment value and whatever money you had, you have less money now. Of course, after awhile you get tired of jotting down the losses. You only consider the wins. That is how the illusion is held among the players. To get a good picture of the lifestyle you’ve slipped into, you must balance the wins against the losses, even if it’s only $5 or $10 you play twice a week. Consider that amount over a period of years, and you will see it’s the town that’s winning, not the average Joe, and that you are supporting the town.
5) Striking a machine or kissing it may work if you are very intoxicated, you may even give it a massage, however, you cannot keep this up as an action. Whatever worked once, often enough does not work twice, and that pertains to most anything in life.
It is however, entertaining to watch others do it, after you yourself have stopped kidding yourself that it works.
6) If there happens to be a “hot” machine in the joint that everyone is winning on, the establishment moves the machine to foil the returners. This is what I heard, but sounds rather a strange option to do, as all that is needed is to set the machine’s internal percentage lever to a lower payout. I suspect there is a big computer brain upstairs running things also, but cannot prove my theory. To my understanding, by law, the machines should pay out at 55% chance or the casino receives a fine. They may however, only pay on the 45% level in truth, because to do so means the casino pays a fine, but the fine amount is much less than the overall pay-in rate of the clients.
7) The thrill of gambling is based on the next roll of the dice. That is what the entertainment value is. A high moment of anticipation. If enough moments of not having the win come through happens, gambling loses it’s allure. Therefore I came up with a strategy.
8) Walk away at the first win. Whether that win be $5, $20 or $100. Run! This requires the utmost discipline, and as a local, I can do this easily, however the snowbirds who flock to this town, it’s a little different. They were lured here by the promise of a free room and free meals for a few nights. They are essentially required to gamble then. Unless they came for the shows, the bowling alley or the built-in theatre specifically. Everywhere they go, is another machine beckoning. Even in the restaurant the waitress takes your keno numbers down as you eat. As a local, you can always go home, mostly with your tail between your legs, but the visitors to the town are not so lucky to be able to escape the temptations of the different rooms of gambling, and the variety of the highly effective machines which all promise to make you the winner that day.
I admit if everyone did walk away at the first win, the town would go broke. They are surviving on your losses, and betting on human nature to keep playing in order to win a larger amount, and do I want the town to disappear?
Not really as I see gambling as a very good way to learn self discipline and there are gamblers who would choose to spend their money no other way; but they can afford the losses. Many locals here, simply cannot afford to gamble but do anyway.
Some have lost their homes. Some live in tents, dying in a room that was given to them, so that they would continue spending their money here. Yes, I heard of somebody I know, who died alone, right upstairs in the casino.
It still bothers me that he lived in a tent most the time, in very cold weather, and would spend his entire retirement check on gambling each month, as not having to pay rent, he could use that extra money to gamble on. To me it’s sad, I wonder if he’s still gambling on the other side of life?
Another friend, who works a couple days a week when he can get the work, has a room in a casino that he can get for free on one condition; he must gather enough points in a month by playing 6 hrs a day in the casino.
What? Gambling for a room? I suspect there will be occasions where he too will find himself with nowhere to sleep and he will join the ranks of those living on the river in a tent.
The idea is you have to play regularly in order to win anything at all and it is impossible to win regularly, or as I said, the town would fold up if the payouts equaled more than the pay ins. Playing regularly you will be paying dues then and partaking of the town’s down on my luck attitude prevalent here. Without developing self discipline in this gaming town, depression is a no brainer as you will notice even when you have plenty of money, it is a momentary sense of security and satisfaction. As it’s been said money does not buy happiness.
There were times I wished everyone was a winner, and that it didn't seem like we were playing against each other, but that’s what it amounts to. Your friend warms up the machine for you as they leave, you collect what they would have won. The idea was they didn't spin the screen long enough. But that’s part of the illusion, remember, as many times as this scenario might occur, there are that many times and more, when the machine takes your last dime, as that’s what it’s purpose really is.
Never let the game play you. You play the game completely aware of the odds, and you are the winner, even if you walk out broke, if you maintain your love of life and are not defeated in your emotions, you are a winner. And thank you my friend Treb, inspiring me to write this article with the above comment to me.