[ROSTRUM] Better a Casino Owner Than GamblerWe Are Meant to Return What We Win, and as Gamblers, We Are At a Marked Disadvantage
by Seok Ji-Myeong
The recent U.S. presidential election is more exciting than a sporting event. It is not only a match between Al Gore and George W. Bush; the entire United States has been divided in two, and people around the world are not only watching, but playing along. Everyone has a favored candidate in mind and is rooting for his choice. His mood improves when his candidate is ahead, and feels worse when the other candidate is ahead.
Some people even feel depressed, as if they personally lost the election, when the candidate of their choice loses. They try hard to understand that the election outcome has no direct or indirect bearing on their personal lives. Then they tell themselves to forget about the game. It is a game where all the watchers are participating with the two candidates.
After a new casino opened in Jeongseon, Kangwon province, it was reported that some tourists lost a large amount of money, in excess of hundreds of millions of won. Some persons could not tear themselves away from the casino and became addicted to gambling.
I once engaged in a long conversation about blackjack, a card game, with a chance acquaintance at Atlantic City, a famous casino city on the east coast of the United States. He insisted that after memorizing certain rules and following them, anyone could win at the game. He played a number of games to show me his system and won every time. Later, he published a novel called "Entrance," with the theme that people ruin their lives when they abandon their principles in life and indulge in gambling.
I insisted that his argument, that a person can win at gambling if he follows principles, was wrong, as much because of human nature as statistics. Of course principles can help one win, but no one can win endlessly. Even if someone wins 10,000 times, he may lose in the next game, and if he has been increasing his bets along the way, that final loss could damage him severely.
Casinos are not in business to do favors for gamblers, and the rules are skillfully set to favor the house. Also, compared to individual gamblers, casinos have an almost endless amount of chips. Even if a person wins a thousand games worth 1 won each, he could then lose one game worth 10,000 won. Unless the casino runs out of chips, it has nothing to worry about, but gamblers with limited funds will definitely be shaken at some point. When they lose, people regret making mistakes. When they win, people regret not betting more. Even if someone wins a large amount, it is difficult for him to keep the money in his pocket until he leaves the casino. Even if he brings the money home, he recalls the exciting moment and returns to the casino again with more money.
In this universe, we may call ourselves gamblers while nature can be called the casino. Of course this casino － nature － never tempts us to gamble. But we have created games such as the match between Al Gore and George W. Bush ourselves, and started betting. Just like the casino at Jeongseon, we must lose at some point at the casino － our world. We are meant to return what we win.
Then how should we live? We should not be obsessed with games in our world, but just do our best. We should learn how to enjoy the games, regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, we should at some point try to become the owner of the casino, the universe where nature reigns, rather than staying as guests of the casino. Then, everything in this world would become the property of the owner. There would be nothing to lose, nothing to win.
The writer is the head priest of Popchusa temple.