Stickman Readers' Submissions September 23rd, 2009

Luck of the Draw

Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Louis Pasteur

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I’ve never put much stock in luck. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been all that “lucky”, at least not as far as vast fortunes coming my way. I’ve never won a single contest I’ve ever entered. I’ve
never picked a winning horse at the track. I’ve certainly never held a winning lottery ticket, although that’s probably due to never buying any lottery tickets. I’ve always believed that the odds of being
struck by a meteor are a whole lot greater than me winning anything.

The one and only time I’ve ever won anything was when I was ten years old. On Friday evenings, my local Boys Club showed movies. These were the kind of movies that can only be appreciated by ten year old boys. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman!,
The Creature From The Black Lagoon! and Invaders From Mars! Ah, they don’t make ‘em like that any more! Plus, there were old time
serials, like Flash Gordon. Midway through all of this, the activities director would draw a member’s badge number, and awarded a prize. Imagine little Sawadee’s surprise when he held the lucky number. The prize was a large case
of Milky Ways…and I do mean LARGE. It contained at least a dozen boxes, with each one of these containing two dozen candy bars…and these were full sized candy bars, not the tiny things you see today. The upshot of my ‘luck’?
I have never, repeat never eaten a Milky Way since!

What does any of this have to do with life in Thailand? Well my friends, today was about as lucky as you can get here in The Land of Smiles. That is of course is because of today’s date, September 9, 2009…or 09/09/09. In case you never knew,
the number nine is considered lucky by Thais. Perhaps that’s why every student, teacher, office worker, cleaner and maintenance person at my school was standing in silence at 9:09 this morning, singing songs
in praise of HRM. Obviously folks thought a little luck would come their way. I would venture confidently that a huge number of lottery tickets were bought today all over Thailand.

One of the things you’ve just got to love about this country is the casual attitude Thais have about gambling. Where else could you find folks selling lottery tickets outside of a temple? Lotteries are of course all about the “impossible
dream”; that is getting fabulously rich without actually doing any work. It’s the same in Farangland as it is in Thailand. People think there is such a thing as a free lunch.

For the investment of some loose pocket change, “champagne wishes and caviar dream” could be their destiny! All that’s necessary is to tap in the ether and pluck that lucky number out of the air. For those who lack the psychic powers
necessary to do this, there are plenty of Thai magazines, books and websites that for a “small fee” claim to be able to deliver that lucky number. Alas my ability to read Thai is limited to short (very short!) words.
That is why I cannot relate details of the how exactly all this is supposed to work. Oh well, yet another fortune is out of reach to poor Sawadee!

My darling wife is not much of a gambler. Whether this is because she thinks it’s a wicked vice, a stupid vice, or simply because she is too cheap (I mean frugal!) to indulge in I can’t say. Certainly the rest of her rather large family
down in Buriram is not immune to the siren song of gambling. The fact that the whole bunch of them taken together barely has two baht to rub together has never stood in their way. Even though my wife is no gambler, every year
or two, she feels compelled to go out and buy half a dozen lottery tickets. “Why don’t you simply flush the money down the toilet”? I suggest. She of course ignores my suggestion. Needless to say, she has
never had a winning ticket.

I don’t know why I’ve never had the urge to gamble. Hell, my dearly departed father did quite well at it. In his case, it was his weekly poker games that earned him a reputation as one shrewd cookie.
I remember looking into our kitchen, through a miasma of cigar smoke when one of these poker sessions would be held at our house. I had no idea that some serious money was being wagered. I also had no idea that
it was my father who usually took home a hell of a lot of money. Years later, my mother confided to me that he won enough money to buy our lovely new home…paid for in cold hard cash!

For my ex-father-in-law, it was all about the lure of the ponies. My in-laws lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which wasn’t far from Pocono Downs. George wasn’t a big better. For him the allure was “studying” the racing magazines
for hours on end, looking for that night’s “big winners”. Occasionally he actually won. Most of time, he lost. No matter! He happily went over old racing magazines with as much zeal as he did when
first perusing them…to reflect on what the horses he “should” have picked. On the rare times I accompanied him to the track, I placed one or two two-dollar bets. No “scientific methods”
for me! I simply picked a horse with a name that struck my fancy….and lost…every time! For me of course it was nothing more than an entertaining night out, the highlight being nothing more than a hot dog with sauerkraut
and a beer.

The one and only time I actually gambled, was done in much the same spirit of a night out on the town. My ex-wife and I were on a Caribbean cruise. One of the ship board attractions was a casino. What the hell! We might as well take a whirl through the
shiny neon. I told my wife that we had $100 dollars to spend…period. When that was gone, so were we. It took a surprising short time, even placing small bets to run through every last dollar. Then, having had
enough of “the Casino Experience”, we headed off and had much better luck at the ship’s Midnight Buffet. I personally would rather be eating my fill of shrimp and lobster than standing around
in a noisy, smoky “den of iniquity”.

Has anyone out there been to Macau? I’ve seen a few documentaries about the gambling industry there. Even if I were fabulously wealthy, I doubt you would ever find me there. As for Asians…both
rich and not so rich, the allure of casinos seems an extraordinarily powerful force. A dark force I might add. For every winner, there are many, many more losers. The stories of families being ruined by gambling
are sad, and all too predictable. Hey, The House always wins! That is why powerful folks build these places…to extract folks from their money. Guess what? It works!

If there is one thing that Thailand does not need, it is casino gambling. There is enough corruption and organized crime here already, without adding to the problem exponentially. If Thais really
want to improve their luck, they’d be better off by stopping the perennial squabbling and start finding solutions to the real and pressing problems that face Thailand. I am not of course holding my
breath waiting for this to happen. Hmmm, maybe I should wander down and pick up a lottery ticket today…one with lots of nines in it. Maybe…just maybe it will be my lucky day today!

Stickman's thoughts:

Gambling is a massive problem in Thailand and is probably the single largest way the bargirls blow their money, especially the younger ones. They play all manner of card games and often the games can run for long periods, 12 hour stints or more, often while they are taking ya ba. It is a crying shame to see them blow money so easily.

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