Sunday, October 01, 2006

Gambling Ghost (or Du Gui)

According to the movies, there can only be one God of Gamblers, but in real life there are plenty of Gambling Ghosts, i.e. those who are just plain addicted to gambling in any form.

Being Chinese (and despite being a Christian at the same time), it was somewhat inevitable that at certain points in my life, I was one of those ghosts, too.

My earliest recollection of gambling was going to the little tuck shop opposite my house to play tikam-tikam. This is a board game where you buy tickets from the bottom half of the board in the hope of the ticket number matching one of the numbers on the top half of the board. Each number on the top half holds another ticket which when opened, reveals the prize you have won. I remember the tickets were 5 sen a piece, and the prizes ranged from 10 sen to 50 sen (a big sum back then, hehe). The friendly aunty at the tuck shop always persuaded me to reinvest my prizes in more tickets, so I usually walked out of the shop empty handed. At the time, I didn't realize that this is one of the classic symptoms of a gambling ghost, i.e. always going for one more try.

When I entered Form 1, a friend introduced me to another tuck shop, where, hidden at the back, was a real slot machine!! My allowance back then was only RM20 a month, so luckily (!) I did not get to play much, since per bet was a massive 50 sen.

In Form 3, the whole bunch of us discovered card games, and during Chinese New Year, we played endlessly. By the end of the holidays, we were so addicted we even organized additional sessions after school hours. Some of us had very understanding parents who actually enjoyed having us around and gambling in their houses (not mine, though).

When I left my hometown for college, I graduated (ahem) to buying Magnum 4D and playing Mah Jong. Mah Jong, I must say, is a superb game of skill and strategy, despite its association with the gambling Chinese all over the world. I remember spending the weekends at my kaki's house in Cheras, our whole time preoccupied with "washing the table" (the Hokkien euphemism for playing Mah Jong).

At the same time, during the holidays, I spent my time hanging around my uncle's snooker centre, where horse racing video games were the rage. This involved turf club style betting on virtual horse races, and at RM 1 a pop, it was surprising to find out that some folks actually lost fortunes on it. The machines are still around to this day, hidden in the back rooms of snooker parlours and cybercafes all over Klang Valley.

After my 18th birthday, me and my mate decided it was time for us to pay a visit to the shrine of gamblers in Malaysia - Genting Highlands. Age of admittance was (and still is) 21, so we tried our utmost to grow mustaches and dressed in our most serious outfits, and managed to sneak in. It was a revelation, watching people lose RM20k on blackjack in 30 minutes. We knew then we were way out of our league, and didn't go back again until we graduated from uni.

When in uni in UK, I was actually quite a good boy, refraining from gambling until some juniors introduced me to the joys of horse race betting in my final year. Horse races are held almost every single day in the UK, even some Sundays. There is an element of skill involved in this, and till this day, it remained the only form of gambling where I actually did come out on the plus side (to the tune of about 500 pounds).

After graduating, I was barely surviving on my fresh graduate salary, so there was a lull, until a hefty raise the following year pulled me into the biggest casino of them all - the stock market. The year was 1997 - the timing could not have been more perfect. Needless to say, I suffered massive losses, which took years to pay off.

The start-stop-start cycle of my gambling habit finally stopped when I met my wife. Its been a good 5 years since I did any serious gambling, and except for the occasional social game of blackjack, hardly indulged in any form of gambling at all. As a Christian, I have to say I'm quite ashamed of those days, interesting though they were.

And I have to thank God that I didn't end up a permanent gambling ghost. One of my mates from the college Mah Jong days ended up addicted to all forms of gambling, and has lost upwards of RM150k at the last count. As his friends, the whole bunch of us old school mates have been trying to talk some sense into him, but it looks like only God can break his habit.

  © Blogger template 'Solitude' by 2008

Back to TOP