It was while occupying a slot along a Blackjack table at Christchurch’s casino this recent New Year’s Eve that I made an interesting observation.
Indeed the Christchurch Casino comprises a number of Blackjack tables, some with slightly differing rules – frustrating adaptations of the game I’m sure are intended to victimise novice gamblers whose attention lapsed some hours prior – also with each one offering a different ‘minimum bet allowance’, so I guess a punter feels he has some control over the speed at which he is rendered impecunious.
This however, notable revelation notwithstanding, was not so much the focus of the above observation.
As I stood rigidly amid a line of seated punters – throwing the occasional glance over my shoulder to the rabble of T-shirt-and-jeans wearing louts, each with beer in hand as they seemed continually to weave their way through the gaming tables as if with a destination in mind, leading to my mild feeling of overdressedness as I brushed an errant hair from the lapel of my suit jacket then leaned back to glimpse on a shiny surface the reflection of my chic black ensemble – my already compromised attention was further split as an attractive drinks lady demanded our attention to ask if anyone required refreshment.
My eyes flicked between the table – having just been dealt a 10 and a 5 in what I have been known to refer to as ‘ugly numbers’ and which tends to prompt an inaudible cuss word or two, then giving a quick tap on the felt to reveal a 7 which elicited several more still below-volume but slightly more audible cuss words – and the drinks lady who I heard repeating the order of the drunkard to my right and the ebullient Irishman to my left…
At this point while I had $80 worth of $5 chips stacked neatly before me, I noticed the chap to my right had a veritable heap of $25 chips piled in front of him; I noticed also that most every bet he was making – ostensibly unaware at this point of what was going on in front of him to the extent that he was ‘hitting’ on 18 or ‘standing’ on 13 – he was losing. On the other side I had observed this happy Irishman over my left shoulder for some time watching the game unfold, before finally sliding a wad of cash toward the croupier and embarking on his ‘$15 minimum’ Blackjack quest.
…I noted that both men had ordered alcoholic beverages. Given however that the majority of my day had been spent basking in the sun drinking scotch, also that I was now seeking as much clarity as could be salvaged from the residual effects of the aforementioned boozing session, along with a severely sun-kissed face, I ordered a lemonade – “also, if it’s not too much trouble,” I added routinely, “could I have a straw with that?”
Midnight came and went in the discord of a band of bagpipes, which seemed only to incite cringing among revellers. A short time later the pile of $25 chips in front of the drunkard to my right had dwindled to a mere scattering; the Irishman to my left, having initially put across $100 which he’d then followed up with some unfathomably reckless betting, had departed as smoothly as he’d come. Further to my left were the other three members of my ‘family’, as we’d become known to one another; alas their onset of poverty appeared to be moving in perfect proportion to their increasing drunkenness.
My cache, as always having begun with $60, had risen to $95 before dropping sharply to $30 then steadily accruing once more; at that point I was on $120 and waiting for a loss to give me reason to step down.
As it turned out the loss didn’t come until I had accumulated $180 worth of $5 chips and, slurping down the last of my fourth glass of lemonade and directing my jaded eyes along the table to what remained of my family, with hopelessly jittering hands I pushed my haul towards the fourth dealer we’d had to endure in however many hours I’d been enduring, half-heartedly claiming, “I don’t trust my luck anymore.” As the croupier returned the simplified version of thirty-six chips along with a perfunctory chuckle at my remark I hastily mumbled, “Thank you Nicole,” then for no other reason than the intoxication, the exultation of victory, added, “you’re beautiful.”
I stumbled across to the cashier, clasping in a sweaty palm the fruits of a night’s labour and thinking, somewhat lamentably, about a family torn, broken apart by alcohol; because that was exactly what had happened – that was the reason, you see – I truly believe that alcohol was the downfall of my gaming brothers and sisters on the Blackjack table that night.
Gambling or, specifically, Blackjack, is a game of judgement. Admittedly, while a large portion does rely on chance, much of what comprises the game is discerning the most prudent option. The impulsiveness and indeed, the recklessness associated with alcohol consumption are simply not conducive to proficient gambling.
It wasn’t that I was luckier than my counterparts that particular evening, or even, I wouldn’t think, that I am a terribly better gambler than they; nay, I truly believe, thus this week’s Theory shall state, imbibing alcohol is to the unequivocal detriment of gamblers.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Cass E Know
Photography by B Tia DeHuss