Gambling’s most peculiar attribute is the fact that it is generally – if not always – an activity where all the odds are against you. To a player, it always seems as if he has an Everest to climb. As a mountaineer stands at the foot of the imposing Mountain looking up at the top of the world, so does a player stare at the imaginable small odds and uphill battle he is about to face when standing, for example, in front of the roulette table.
The odds, the possible betting choices, the different strategies available all designed to better the odds of actually breaking the bank, even if the likelihood only fractionally improves, that player is no better off than the adventurer at the foot of that mountain. As he climbs up the mountain, braving everything nature can through at him, so to does the player fight his way through hand after hand, turn after turn. The odds are against them, then why do it? There must surely be easier and less riskier ways to earn a buck.
Nonetheless, a mountain, like some gambling activities, has a certain way of motivating people, the sensation of reaching the top or the amazement that you beat the odds. Defying laws of maths and rational. As the mountain is the hiker’s friend and nemesis, as is the Casino to a player. This constellation gives rise hundreds of legends, myths, so called experiences. Have people seen the Yeti or not, or has someone actually ever managed to “break the bank”? These legends not only put a bit of spice in the game, but they serve a very important function, that they keep people on their toes, they inspire, they caution and they mystify. In the end, it is not where theses are actually true or not, that is not what their intention is. As adventures have their “Big Foot”, Yeti, and superstitions, so does… especially does the gambling world.
For example, is it actually true that casinos pump extra oxygen onto the gaming floors during the early-morning hours to keep tired patrons from heading off to bed. Rumour also has it that in 1873 a British mill engineer actually managed to break the bank at a Monte Carlo casino. There are many inspiring and honourable stories indeed. It has been told that a policeman promised a waitress half the winnings from his lottery ticket; all the numbers came up, and he kept his word by sharing the jackpot with her. Apparently an unkempt, filthy, shoeless bum turned a $400 Social Security check into $1.6 million playing blackjack in Las Vegas (this is the type of story that Vegas lives on).
Gambling, however, also has other Urban legends, bitter ironies of life, people so unbelievably unlucky, that one is forced to ask whether God is just waiting to clobber anyone getting to close to heaven. Lottery winner is run over by a truck and killed hours after his win, or a gambler the only person to ever manage to pick the right order for the first five finishing horses only to have his wife wash the ticket in a washing machine. These are stories that songs are written about, books are filled with and movies are made of. These are the motor of the gaming industry – casino operators need them as it drives people, it lets them dream that maybe, just maybe….
The Question is not whether the stories have ever actually been proven – some of them may very likely have happened- but that gamblers aren’t always rational and the game doesn’t want them to be. It’s a question of believing, just like a lonely mountaineer on his Everest.