A Visit to the Baden-Baden Casino
Third and final part
Two weeks later, a friend of mine from Vienna came over for a visit. Needless to say, Baden-Baden was on our list. Now, my friend, I., is really not the gambling type, so it took me quite a while to persuade him of the historical significance of that casino. We had dinner at the Lowenbrau, threw our blazers on and headed to the casino. It was the weekend, the weather was good, the city was packed: there was some sort of open-air concert and an exhibition. Confident from my last visit to the casino, this time with an audience by my side, I stepped inside the building with anxiety. This time, I wasn’t going to play with small 2 Euro bets, so I bought chips for 200 Euros, “for starters” I told my friend. Unlike the last time, the casino was full, there were probably between 15 and 20 people per table. I told I. about my strategy and placed my first bet on red. Minus 20 Euros. “Now I’ll simply double my bet” I told him and placed 40 Euros on the same color. I lost again. A little less confident, yet still loyal to my own strategy, I told him, “It’s alright, it’s all under control” and an awkward smile ran through my face. I put 80 Euros on red again. It was a black number for the 7th time. Three spins and I had lost 140 Euros. Ideally, I should have bet 160, but I only had 60 left. So I bet 60 on red and finally won. I collected my chips and left that table. After this not so successful gambling raid, we decided to grab a drink and relax on one of the red couches with golden armrests.
“You still haven’t made a single bet?” I asked.
“ Nope. And I don’t think I will. In fact, I think I’ll head back to the hotel, I am a little tired” I. replied.
I convinced him to hang around for a little longer and to even try his luck. I suggested we separate so we don’t distract each other. So we did. I picked a new wheel and began analyzing the last 10 numbers, like if that was going to make any difference. Because the table was too crowded, I stood a few meters behind, when I noticed on my left, at one of the bar tables, an attractive woman counting her colorful chips. She looked like she was somewhere in her mid thirties. She was tall, with long brown hair, quite attractive really. She was sitting on that bar table alone, concentrated on counting and sorting out the chips, occasionally sipping on a glass of white wine. I was convinced she was Russian, yet I wanted to hear her place a bet, or say something, so I could be sure. And here came the waiter to ask her if she needed anything and she replied in German, with that accent only Russian women have, aware of itself, calm and confident. I was standing there with my drink, somewhere midway between her and the wheel I was about to bet on, thinking less and less about my bet, more and more about this woman, already building a sentence in Russian in my head. A man approached her table and covered my view with his back. She smiled and he quickly walked away. “The husband” I thought.
I looked back at the screen – 2 more numbers had fallen out creating a series of 3 consecutive black numbers. “Entschuldigung… Sorry… Pardon” I made my way through the crowd to occupy a spot right in front of the table. I almost came as a rescue to the man on my left, who seemed to be waging a war against gravity, leaning on my shoulder. His eyes were half shut as he was reaching into his hip bag, filled with 250 Euro chips, throwing them at different numbers around the table. As the croupier yelled “Nichts geht mehr, rien ne va plus!” he kept pouring his chips all over the place, some even falling outside of the numbered area. The few indignant exclamations quickly ceased as he turned around to say “Wha-a-a-t?” with an evident discontent. I still remember the number from that spin – 36. His bet was four 250 Euro chips on 36, which made 35000 Euros. Everyone seemed to be impressed but him. The croupier was still not done paying him out, when the lucky winner grabbed a handful of chips and threw them almost directly at his face “That’s for you” he said, obviously tipping him in a generous yet not very polite manner. He kept on playing, and just in 2 or three spins the same thing happened again. I, on the other hand, had gone from 120 Euros to 90. The man was stuffing his hip bag with the chips he had won, leaving a few 250 Euro ones behind, when an honest German lady collected them and with great concern gave them to their owner. I went looking for I. to tell him about this guy and at the same time hoping that he was still in the mood to go back to our hotel, so I could have a decent excuse to leave before I make another losing bet. I found him in one of the other rooms, just looking at some people playing.
“Did you win anything?” he asked.
“Nah. Lost 30 Euros. You?”
“I bet 2 Euros and lost. This is so stupid.”
“Let’s get out of here” I said.
Although we both agreed to leave, we weren’t moving but just standing in front of the table. The ball was already spinning in the wheel, when I quickly looked at the last 3 numbers (which were black), reached into my pocket and threw all the chips I had on the red rhombus. “Nichts geht mehr!” yelled out the croupier. I. just looked at me without saying anything. He saw me betting, but I don’t think he knew I had bet everything I had. The ball bounced around a few numbers and finally fell into a black pocket.
“That’s it” said-I with a smile from which you couldn’t really tell was I upset or amused “I lost everything”
“Everything?” I. asked me.
“Yes. So should we go?” and I headed to the door, suppressing my thoughts and those desires that were pushing me to tell I. that I’d meet him back at the hotel, while I stay and buy more chips, to keep on playing until I recuperate my pathetic losses.
As we were walking down the hall I noticed the same woman I saw earlier. She was talking to that same guy who had won, or lost whichever way you want to put it, all those chips. From their brief, but familiar exchange, I thought they were somehow related. I. was either asking me or telling me something, which I wasn’t listening, my eyes were fixed on that woman. As she walked by, she smiled and looked down. I smiled back.
Two weeks ago I had walked out the same casino feeling happy. This time, I can’t say I was sad; in fact, I was almost amused. I had deliberately broken every single principle I had set out to myself on my way back home from my last visit. How true, that we’re free only insofar as we draw our own limits, our own principles… otherwise we leave ourselves to the decision of a tiny ball, jumping up and down the spinning wheel.