After an interesting day where I got to see remote controlled planes with moveable cameras fly around a field west of Sydney (photos up when I get back) I went to the Star City Casino in the evening with Andrew, the friend I’ve been staying with.
Star City was quite a touristy place and was typically over the top as all casinos are and should be. We decided that we wanted a game that wasn’t completely random and allowed us to play for some time without (hopefully) losing money very quickly. For this reason, we ruled out roulette and eventually settled upon craps.
The more perceptive of you might say that crap is in fact a completely random game with no room for skill. This is true, in a way, but at least you get to throw the dice and indeed, who knows if we might somehow be able to use the Penrosian quantum effects in our brains to somehow collapse the undetermined waveform of the dice’s final resting states towards a more favourable result (say, seven or eleven). A little unlikely, I’ll concede, but after a couple of beers it seemed like as good an idea as any other.
Craps table look a little complicated on first blush, but ultimately the game is extremely simple and quite fun; you’re just betting on whether a particular dice result or results turns up. We were informed that the casino has an edge of 1.7% over the punter, which compares very favourably with roulette, which has about double the edge. I suppose if I was really serious about making money I’d have learned card counting and played blackjack, but I wasn’t.
Back to the craps. Starting out with about £20 worth of chips, I managed at one point to build it up to £50. Alas, the pull of the table meant that I foolishly whittled it down to a mere £24 – which of course is a win of £4. Clearly those statistics lessons at school were all for naught (mind you, that’s another story entirely…). This all brings to mind the saying that when you go gambling for the first time, ‘If you’re lucky, you win. If you’re really lucky, you lose.’
The interesting thing about Australia is the nation’s obsession with ‘pokies’ or poker slot machines. You find them all over the place, and in Star City there were several hundred of them, all running on computers with LCD screens. I’m not a big fan of slot machines, but I can see that there’s at least some kind of visceral, physical pleasure people can get from playing them as you see the wheels spin around and such. When it’s all on a computer, it just seems that much more abstract, as if you could just stay at home and play it there.
Anyway, I felt it would be an injustice to visit an Australian casino without wasting a couple of dollars on a pokie, so I went ahead and did that. Even after those games I didn’t manage to figure out how they worked, although I did impressively manage to crash one of the machines and enter the troubleshooting mode. This provided access to all of the machine’s data such as turnover (in this case, $600k) and average return (88.2%). More interestingly, it allowed access to view and edit the configuration settings. From what I could tell, there wasn’t any way to change the odds or, say, empty the machine of all its money (not that I would ever condone such a heinous and despicable crime), but there was a lot of potential for messing about.
Alas, we were getting hungry and I have the feeling that security wouldn’t have looked upon us favourably, so we cashed our chips and left for some food. It was a fun experience but not one that I’m going to make a habit of, at least not until I have lots of money I’m prepared to lose.
Right now I’m in Melbourne. On the flight in, the captain announced that the weather in Melbourne was a typical winter’s day, with a temperature of 11C. On hearing this, the passengers variously fainted, screamed, or were otherwise overcome with shock about such a dangerous, hypothermia-inducing chill. Seems like a typical English day to me…