Monday, October 24, 2011

What stays in Vegas, happens in Vegas

Not to turn existentialist here, but I had an interesting experience whilst in Vegas celebrating our first anniversary. My husband learned that when put in an extremely expensive store, I become crazy; and I learned that when put at a Blackjack table, I also become crazy.

But it's my favorite problem!

I already knew I had a little thing for gambling, which is why I have mostly avoided the real gambling up to this point, but I always wanted to sit at a table in Las Vegas and get dealt a couple of cards at a time. One of the disappointing aspects of it is that neither dealer I played with had any good banter (they were also both Asian, but I think that observation in and of itself could be racist, so I’ll leave that alone), you can actually play for hours without saying anything at all. On the other hand, sitting down and placing cash on the table creates an automatic camaraderie with anyone else playing the game.

So the first time I sat down - which was also the first time I ever got carded for anything (other than a movie one time, which doesn’t count as I really was just 18) - I placed my $10 on the table and was dealt in. What a rush! Next thing I knew, the dealer gave me $10 additional, I left $15 to play with and I was suddenly on fire! My next hand I got to 21 exactly, and the dealer gave me more money. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this was easier than my job? Next hand? Blackjack! In a blur, the dealer gave me even more chips and after another hand or two, I realized I had quite a few red (five dollar) chips in front of me. I decided I should stop while I was ahead, so the first hand I lost, I walked away. I counted the $57.50 in my hands and went to the cashier before I could sit down and ruin it all. Easiest money I ever made, right? Wrong.

See, as soon as I walked away I felt an itch to sit right back down. I made $47.50 in a matter of minutes, how much more could be mine if I had stayed? Can I go back? Just for a minute, I swear! I just wanna ride this heater a little while longer!

That night after dinner, I plotted and schemed in my head (which was probably unnecessary, but females don’t do things or not do things based on necessity), and I decided I needed to get back to that table. What if I wait too long and my luck runs out? Utah doesn’t have gambling, who know when I’ll do it again? I murderously strutted down the strip in my cheap Target heels (which kill if you walk too much in them, by the way) down to the promise of easy money. Of Blackjack at the MGM Grand. Just look at the name! I could win a grand! Pay for our whole vacation here and more! I found the same table and had to wait briefly to sit down as it was full, but eventually I sat down and watched all $50 of my gambling budget disappear.

Fortunately, this lesson only cost me two dollars, fifty cents, and sore feet for a couple of days, but it’s a valuable lesson nonetheless. I’m just glad I waited until the last day to gamble so I couldn’t try to go back.

Point is - addiction is a powerful thing. It grabs you before you realize it was even there. Logic? Gone. Reason? MIA. Hope? Lost. When you Google “gambling,” the first search it offers you isn’t poker, blackjack or even gambling sites. It’s “gambling addiction.” It’s a fierce monster that shines and promises that you too can win! Thing is, the house always wins.

Psychology Today published an article online on the exact subject. Studies show that “online gamblers misjudge the variance and uncertainty of the payoffs derived from taking risks, mainly because multiple small wins inflate the players' sense of success.” It argues that specifically, lottery players tend to underestimate their losses in the constant hope of getting the “big one.” So, no matter how many small wins inflate confidence of the player, the house is still taking in more than the players realize.

“It's a statistical guarantee voided only if you're one of the fortunate few who takes a big pot and calls it quits right then and there. Play on, and the house has you again.”

In short, I left my crazy in Vegas for next time. I hope.

As the bard once said, “If evil were a lesser breed than justice after all these years the righteous would have freed the world of sin. / The house wins. Oh the house always wins. / You don't have to be alone to be lonely / You might as well give in.”