Saturday, June 27, 2009


About ten years ago, I was in Las Vegas for a two week business trip. Before the trip, I was full of confidence that I would not be gambling.


If there is such a thing as a gamblers’ paradise, Las Vegas is it. The moment you step off the plane, you are greeted by one armed bandits even before meeting any airport officers.

Once out of the airport, there were jackpot machines at the taxi stands, petrol stations, at the car rental company where we picked up our car, convenience stalls, literary everywhere we turned.

We were careful to select a hotel away from the main strip of casinos. But there were jackpot machines at the hotel lobby, restaurant and bar! Fortunately, they did not put slot machines in our rooms!

When we were off work, we would tour the casino strip.

The cheerful atmosphere along the strip just attracts people like moths to a burning candle. I was able to tour the strip for more than a week without touching any of the gaming machines or sitting down at the gaming tables.

I did indulge myself on the sumptuous spread of food offered by the casinos. The food was fresh, delicious, plentiful and served in a cheerful ambience. There was cuisine to pamper every palette and taste. The service was superb. They made us feel and feast like kings. Best of all, the meals were at very attractive prices. Just $10
will get you all you can eat of top quality food!

There were also the entertaining shows and shopping paradises inside the casinos.

Eventually, the excitement of the gaming room sucked me in. I began to wander around the gaming machines and at the card tables. I was fascinated by the technology of the computerised gaming machines and the behaviour of the patrons.

Now and then, I would hear a bell ringing and a siren cheerfully announcing that another person had just struck the jackpot! The people would surge forward to see who the lucky person was. The windfalls range from tens of thousands to more than a million dollars.

More than a week passed uneventfully for me. I was pleased and proud that my resolve was holding up well.

It was just a couple more days before we were due to leave Vegas, when I finally caved in to temptation. I purposely brought only twenty dollars of cash with me to the gaming hall and told myself that the worst that could happen was I lose twenty small potatoes. Who knows? I might be the next lucky one to strike the big jackpot!

I put in my first dollar coin and poof! the money was gone in a second. I put in another and another and by the fourth dollar, the machine was clanging happily! I had struck a mini jackpot and three hundred golden dollar coins tumbled noisily into the tray!!

Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! ! !

It was exhilarating!

I was elated!! By now, I had forgotten my earlier plan to stop at only twenty dollars. My mind was only thinking about striking another jackpot. The day continued; I won some and lost some. By the end of the day, I lost all $300 I won plus the twenty dollars I brought with me.

I could not wait to come back the next day. This time I did not impose any limits on myself. All I wanted was to get back the money that I lost the day before, before returning home. The events of the previous day repeated itself. I had some good luck and lost some but by the end of the day, I had lost all $1,000 cash I had on me!

There was the option of just swiping my credit card and presto! I could have access to my bank account to play at the slot machines. Fortunately, good sense prevailed as I realised that that could have my whole bank account cleaned out in the blink of an eye. In any case, it was already time for me to return to Singapore.


I learned three lessons for myself from this episode.

Do not be deceived by the seemingly wholesome attractions such as the entertaining shows, excellent food and exciting shopping. Once you get in, it’s half the battle won for the casino. These seemingly harmless activities are baits designed to draw you close enough to give the casino the opportunity they need to break down your resolve.

Do not step into the gaming room out of curiosity. Once you are in the gaming room, your willpower will surrender, sooner or later.

The second lesson is, in the long run, the casino always wins. The odds are set in favour of the casino. Even if you are lucky and strike the jackpot early in the game, if you do not take your money and run, the casino will win all of it back plus whatever money you are willing to wager.

Finally, I have to accept my losses and run NOW. There is really no chance of winning our money back from the casino. The harder we try to win our money back, the more money we will lose.


1 comment:

  1. I love it, I love it, I love it. Living in Los Angeles for 30 years, I occasionally drove to Las Vegas just to check it out in the late 1970s and early 80s. Back then, it was a dusty, foul spelling town, with lots of gaudy architecture. What particularly bothered me was the sight of elderly people from the rural segments of the US sitting them frittering their money away.

    I frequently referred to it as the only city in the world that I had ever visited to that point that I actually hated.

    But something began to happen in the 1980s, when they cleaned it up and started to big really beautiful theme hotels, and family attractions. I went there to speak at a convention and only allowed myself time to run in and run out, and actually found myself "attracted" to this place which I once hated.

    I went back in 2000, and completely fell in love.

    My story about winning and losing is not dramatically different. I only go in with $40 each time, and decide to walk away with $60, after the giant winnings start, and the decline follows.

    Great post.