I can still remember the first time I went to the casino. I don’t remember when it was (I’m bad with dates), but I can still remember the way I felt. I was nervous because they might not let me in, and I was excited at the thought of entering a casino. I’ve only seen them in movies and I was thrilled to be part of the glamour. I wanted to wear a suit but I went straight from the mall so it was out of the question.
I went to Club Tropicana, the joint across SM Southmall with two of my friends. When I went in, I was dazzled by the colors and lights of the slot machines. It wasn’t as noisy as I thought it would be, or as glamorous. I expected men in tuxedos and women in long and expensive gowns. One of the things that worried me was the fact that I was only in a polo shirt and sneakers, but it turned out I was more dressed up than many of them. All the games were run by machines (even the roulette and baccarat), which at first disappointed me. I wanted to have a real casino experience complete with dealers and women who blow on your dice but I realized a machine is easier and more organized.
I played the roulette. B insisted I try the slots but I never enjoyed it. He kept telling me that’s where the money is but I find the slots dull. There’s nothing exciting about repeatedly pressing buttons and looking at patterns I don’t understand. I like the roulette because there’s the thrill of not knowing where to bet and praying to God that you’ll win as you watch the ball spin around the wheel. It requires thought (if thoughts are required at a game of chance – I honestly don’t believe in the probability theories of statistics), and the game can get very tense. And besides, I’m not there for the money. I’m there for the fun.
And I had fun. It’s nice to know that you can double your money, which I did on my first night, by betting on the right numbers at the right time. I was so happy that I wanted to come back. I mean, I liked the idea of just sitting there, drinking free Milo (which I think gave my age away), talking to my friends while I earned money. It was a great night.
Two nights later, I was back with my friend. It was also her first time the other night so we were both excited to win big. Perhaps it was my win, but I was convinced that I would win that night, too. I was thinking about the other gamblers who seemed so tense, who were twitching in their seats and carefully watching the roulette spin. It was funny, but I also felt bad, because it defeats the purpose of going to the casino. Why would you go to a place where you’re going to end up a nervous wreck? I swear, some of the people were so nervous that they could have a heart attack on the spot.
That night, I lost half the money I put in. And I found myself tense, twitching in my seat and carefully watching the roulette spin. And then it hit me. I was now one of them. I could now empathize with the gamblers I used to make fun of. At that point, it’s not for the fun anymore. It was for the money. I realized that the casino is only fun if you’re winning. When you’re not, you become this crazy hell-bent person out to redeem what you have lost. It was a scary thought.
Luckily, I’m a stingy person. I’m so cheap, that I spend about half an hour deciding if a purchase is worth the money, even if it’s just a notebook or a pen. I’m not like most gamblers who put in thousands of pesos on something so unpredictable. My maximum bet per night is P200 and I still feel decadent.
I was back at the casino last night. We brought another friend, who had her first time. I lost two-thirds of the money I put in, but when I cashed out my last hundred, I still felt like a winner. It’s not because I was able to leave with a portion of my original money or that I could say that I still “won” something, but it’s because I realized I still know my limit, and that I’m sane enough to know when to back out of a deal.