A friend decided to celebrate his, and his girlfriend’s birthday (one day after the other) by going out in the city of Leeds and finishing up at the casino. He invited me and my girlfriend along with half a dozen others and hired a minibus to take us in and out (a stretch limo would have been too cheesy for my tastes anyway).
So we met up at 7pm and about half an hour later were on our way to Leeds in possibly the oldest minibus in service in Britain (it looked completely out of place in this century and we were putting bets on whether we’d actually get there or not – and if we’d ever see the driver again for the return leg). After a lifetime of being battered all over the place (including overshooting the exit of a roundabout) we arrived in the city centre and made our way to a pub.
We visited a few pubs and I re-acquainted myself with having to shout at the top of my voice to simply have a conversation with someone over the deafeningly loud music being played in each place and feeling old looking at all the students out on the town who looked sooooo young. In fact, so out of practise am I that my back was aching from all the standing around (although I like to think it was as a result of all the weight training I’ve been doing – sounds much more macho). Last orders came and went then we got a couple of taxis to the casino and arrived by about midnight.
After signing in and standing in front of a video camera with live feed on a tv and saying “do I really look like that?” over and over, we entered the arena. I went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago and I was delighted to discover that this casino didn’t have a million slot machines going “ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching” constantly (I can still hear them in my nightmares sometimes). Instead there was a floor (to use the parlance, a pit) with a collection of card tables and loads of roulette tables. However, first things first, there was a restaurant and bar upstairs that my girlfriend and I decided to visit before anything else. Naturally, with it being about 12.30am we had full fry-ups (bacon, eggs, sausage and tomatoes) and it was fantastic.
Then we sat for a while watching the mayhem below us. And it was very interesting. We were watching a roulette table in particular and trying to figure out what the hell was going on and how the croupier managed to keep track of things. In the end, it’s pretty straightforward and everybody plays with a different colour of chips. But the guy’s hands never stopped moving. Everybody places their chips on the numbers they’re interested on, then the ball lands on a number, then the chips are cleared, save the ones on the number and the winnings dished out to the winner(s). The winner(s) then bet all their chips on a variety of numbers again, the losers either leave or hand over some more money for more chips and proceed to put them all over the table. And the whole thing would repeat. Again and again and again.
And the more we watched the table, the less it looked like a bunch of people gambling and the more it looked like a machine where the people were the cogs that kept the machine running. It’s like when you go shopping in a supermarket and go to the checkout. While you’re loading your shopping into bags after the cashier swipes them across a barcode reader you’re working fast to pack and are concentrating on what you’re doing – it all seeming rather frantic. But when you pay and walk away from the tills and look back, you’ll notice that again the whole picture is a machine and the cashiers and shoppers are doing the same thing over and over again so that it seems automatic.
I didn’t do any gambling and preferred to watch others lose all their money (as many did). But what was clear to me is that gambling isn’t about making money, it’s about losing it. The only thing that I know for sure about casinos is that the house always wins, and everybody else knows this. So why bother? Because it’s playing the game that’s fun. Sure, you lose in the end, but every time you win a bit back it feels like a victory and you want to up the ante. Just like living life!
Next time though I’m going to hit the blackjack tables. I can play the game and as long as I stick within a sensible budget I should be all right. I’ll need my girlfriend there though as she has all the monetary sense in our relationship – being a Yorkshire lass.