I have learned something by wasting time. Well, I was not entirely wasting time, because I was keeping my brain moving. By playing solitaire on my computer, I have confirmed something I should have known intuitively: gambling odds are never in your favor. That explains why casinos earn so much money, which owners can spend on political campaigns.
Playing solitaire on my computer is not a complete waste of time, because the other choice is to stare at a second computer screen, while the bloody machine does whatever it does inside to get ready for work. I play only while waiting for one computer to deign to do my bidding. Having more than one computer lets me keep one busy, while the other puts on its make-up and does its hair. My hands, eyes, and brain are kept active.
I prefer the Yukon variety of solitaire, because it seems to be more challenging. Of course, all are somewhat challenging for someone with no luck at cards. Although I might have a winning streak (two!), I am unable to complete a game more often than not. If I were playing in a casino, I would be deep in debt, suffering from remorse, and…still playing. With a computer, one merely starts a new game.
I have visited casinos in several countries and have contributed to the bottom line of each, except one. Being with friends or needing a few moments recreation (doesn't take long to lose the amount I was always willing to waste), I always found these visits to be entertaining, educational…and frustrating. Naturally, one imagines winning, as one enters the world of chance, which does not happen with a movie theater, restaurant, or bar.
The one exception to my losing streak occurred in Kiev, soon after the Iron Curtain unraveled. I stayed at the former Intourist hotel, which was trying (they failed) to gear up to cash in on an influx of westerners. At the time, all hotels is large cities of the former Soviet Union republics, which considered themselves to be the "top" hotel charged $300. I have no idea how they came up with this price or managed such consistency, other than it being a tribute to lingering Soviet "efficiency".
Anyway, the hotel had just added a casino in the basement. In most cities, a casino is one of many choices for after-dinner entertainment: in Kiev, it was the only choice. In such cases, I usually went to bed and read a book, but my colleague convinced me to join him. When I complained (my default trait, as you might have noticed), he—being the generous sort—offered my $100 to play with. I decided that the easiest and fast way to lose money, which I could understand, was to play roulette: pick a number, put down a chip, watch the ball spin around and around, and…lose. The odds of winning big are 35 to 1, but one can play for better odds by picking black or red. By doing this, I won $1100, which allowed me to pay back my friend and smuggle the rest out of the country. (I hope the statute of limitations has expired! Then again, I do not expect to ever visit Kiev.) I am certain that the casino owners had not figured out how to rig the wheel, had rigged it in the wrong direction, or were too stupid to rig it at all. In real casinos, I quickly lose the $100 maximum I am prepared to lose on a bit of ill-advised hope.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.