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Thursday 27th May 2004

CNPS numbers spotted 8 (767).

"I've lost my life since I came in here," said the young Italian man next to me at the Roulette Wheel. He was attempting to comfort me as 17, which I had played fastidiously, failed to come up for the twentieth time in a row (nothing too surprising about that, there are 37 holes on the wheel).
The Italian had been making notes of the numbers that were coming up; he kept staring at his card as if somehow this random jumble of numbers between 0 and 36 would suddenly form some kind of Magic Eye pattern that would give him the formula to predict with certainty the next number to come up.
So far it wasn't working and he was losing as badly as me. Though I got the feeling that he had been in here all night and by the sounds of his tragic analysis of his existence for many nights before. "You can't win," he told me, not that I needed to be told. Yet, his realisation of this obvious fact did not stop him playing.
All logic would dictate that you should only play roulette for a short period of time, and hope that your numbers come up a disproportionate amount, very quickly. If you play roulette for hours on end, for days on end, then probability will even out and you might as well just flush your money down a toilet.
For me gambling is an occasional pleasure and if I go to a casino I work out what I can afford to lose and then stop when that money is gone (or when I have banked a few winnings). I was there tonight with 32 (I even played that number a few times in honour of her - to no avail). We were there to be frivolous with a small percentage of my money and to enjoy ourselves. But looking round the room I noticed that we were the only people who were even smiling. Everyone else was grimly handing over their chips and winning a bit and losing a bit more and carrying on whether they won or lost until finally the money was all gone. Occasionally someone would cash in a few pounds worth of chips at the cashier window. It always didn't look enough to make up for whatever they must have originally invested - no more than £50 at most.
So why do they keep coming back and handing over their money, when at least one of them is happy to admit that their lives have gone? Do they feel there is some heroism in their actions? Was this bloke actually bragging to me about how he'd pissed everything up a wall for a game which is designed to win money for the house? Is it some kind of cry for help? Is he hoping someone will say, "Stop this, you're a great bloke. Come with me and I will look after you"? Because if he is this is the one place in the world where this is not going to happen. The people who work for and run the casino are quite happy to keep taking the money off them. They feed off the sadness and tragedy. Loneliness is their meat and self-delusion is their finest wine.

There were people there who were playing games of roulette on computers. Despite the fact that there were actual real roulette tables in the room, they preferred to play the game alone at a computer screen. They could have done this at home, but then they would have missed the joyous atmosphere of this happy place!

17 finally came up. I won £70. Which more than made up for the £130 I had lost at Blackjack and Roulette up to now. Maybe my luck was turning. Maybe I had spotted some pattern that would mean I could claw all my money back. The Italian man was genuinely delighted about my triumph. He patted me on the back and smiled for the first time. "At last!" he cried, I think hopeful himself that I had cracked the enigma of this game and that soon I would have bankrupted the casino, with him hanging on to my coat-tails behind me.
But somehow my understanding disappeared and I didn't win anything else. I ended up losing £150, making this my most expensive date yet. 32 seemed quite proud of the fact that I'd spent the most on her. Perhaps the fact that I had nothing to show for my investment made the gesture even more romantic.
And once again, by taking my date somewhere where every single person was more tragic and pathetic than me, gave me an air of sophistication.
Personally I think it is worth £150 to occasionally be reminded of how lucky you are. Perhaps it would be better to take this £150 to a homeless shelter and share it around there, which would give you the same satisfaction and actually achieve some good. But that wouldn't make for a very good date, even if you brought your own cocktails.
Isn't the world strange? Isn't what makes you impressive to others rather arbitrary?

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