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My Intercontinental Friend

S Murthy Govindaraju, India
January 2001

Last year this time I was in Las Vegas to stay for a month. It is a city of entertainment, and to be Roman while in Rome, I also visited almost all the Casinos in the Strip at the weekends. I was not familiar with Baccarat, Black Jack, Roulette and other card games and so I preferred slot and poker machines and played on, with smaller coins though I was loosing. On the other days I was visiting the nearby gas stations to play. For a visitor and an idle person like me, the infatuation for gambling will be so great that a day never passed off without spending some time or the other at the apparently hungry mouths of the machines.

Though one appears to be satisfied by initial gaining, the day never ends without heavy losing- and whose money is it any way, the money borrowed locally from one or two friends. So what? After all, I will be rich in no time, and after all, these hand loans can be repaid instantly. It is always a tempting invitation. " Come, visit Vegas once. It's a player's world. Get in the game- Roam the Casino floors and play, be cool, be rich, and become what ever you want to be- but the games should begin"

Yes, I began the games comforting myself initially at the slot machines at Bellagio, the costliest hotel in the world, assuming that one can become rich at the richest place. I started with quarter dollar slots; I lost fifty bucks.

Next weekend, I tried at MGM Grand, and again I lost. " Why not I try video poker at a different Casino"-So I tried at Treasure Island and the machines said "sorry." But I learnt the game.

Finally I had come to a conclusion that I would not be lucky at the bigger Casinos at the Strip, and try my luck at smaller Casinos. By that time my liability to my friends had gone up to a thousand bucks. How to repay, I am only on a tourist Visa.

It is the turn of the events now and I got the way out!

On a sunny afternoon I went to a Casino closer to my residence and comforted myself at a poker machine. I inserted a quarter and went with the draw. And Lo! It went into the drain; again and again I inserted quarters with no hope. My liability appeared to be increasing. As a final chance I wanted to try at one dollar machine. I inserted a dollar coin and pressed deal draw. I got the most disappointing cards and with disgust I was about to hold some cards or the other and about to hold two cards. " No, don't hold them. Just hold the king and press draw" someone at my back whispered. I was surprised with dismay as to who would in this part of the world render unsolicited advise. I turned back and saw a forty plus person with Hispanic features. His English was American and he was in jeans with a multi coloured T-shirt. With out any second thought I pressed the button holding only the king and pressed Draw. It was a "Straight flush" and I won! I turned back and saw that gentleman with a beaming face.
"See, I told you. You must be from India. Where do you come from?"
I told him. " Ah! I also belong to that place.
Come, this is not a lucky machine, the one over there, play with that." And without my acceptance he took me to a five-dollar machine. " If you play, it should be with a higher stake, or else don't play". I was not at all for it. My fear was what little I made now would again go to the drain and I would be left with an increased debt. But I had no option. That person was responsible for my comfortable position. With out any further argument, I occupied the chair opposite that five- dollar one and about to insert a five.
" No, Insert ten fives." That was the only amount left with me.
I told him I would go for two. " No, Insert ten!" This was like an order.
Who is he after all to give orders and why should I give weight to it? "I will go for two" was my reply again. "You fool, Do as I tell you". Like a child taking orders from the parent. I inserted ten fives in the machine and pressed "Draw" and to my disbelief, surprise, and astonishment and what not, it was the fastest spin and ended up with a "ROYAL FLUSH"! And I won two hundred and fifty times! I was in a jubilant mood and turned back to thank him. But he was not there!
Where is he? I got the cash form the counter and searched for him at the every corner of the casino. But I couldn't trace him. I waited outside the casino shivering in the desert chilly wind for more than an hour and felt sorry returning home with out locating him. I was really a fool, I didn't ask at least his name.

The next few days, I was on the shopping spree, thank God, my liability was totally cleared and I was left with a surplus. The period of my visa expired and I packed up for the return journey to my Homeland.

The flight took off at the Los Angeles airport and after a twenty-two hour journey I was in a different continent. I had a brief stay at Singapore and proceeded to Kuala Lumpur where I have a friend who invited me for a stay of a week on my return trip. My friend had taken me round the entire city and the numerous shopping centers. At the weekend he proposed a visit to Genting high land. So we went, enjoying the ride in the fastest cable car in the world, connecting two points of the steep hills where Hotel Genting is located at one point.

We had an over night stay at the hotel and to my delight a Casino is also attached to the hotel. Casino De Genting.
Oh! This is really worth the trip, I thought. And with my earlier experience at Las Vegas I thought that I would be a fish in water. Within no time I wore a tie as per the custom over there and got into the Casino. I have exchanged my US dollars to the local currency and started playing with heavy stakes- losing every time the wheel spun. My friend had no idea of the games and was a silent witness to my playing. I was totally engrossed in the game and almost ignored my friend and also a host. I increased the bets with a simultaneous increase in losing. What I made at Las Vegas was almost dwindled. My friend, perhaps, thought that I have become mad, left the Casino, to tell me that he would be waiting for me outside. I didn't bother to what he said but continued with my machine.

I have inserted ten dollars and pressed the bet and about to hold two cards.
"No, just hold the king and press draw"
I suddenly turned back, as the voice appeared to be familiar. And to my shock and surprise he was again standing behind me- with a Jean pant and a multi coloured and flowered boutique shirt. The same person at Las Vegas who saved me from running into debts. " Ah! How is that you are here" It was not a question but only a casual inquiry. "Never mind, just hold the king and draw".
I turned back to the machine because I had to do something- I had already inserted the currency in it. I pressed "draw" and the wheel stood at "Three of a kind". " See, you were doubtful- so you got what you deserve. Insert fifty now and draw"
I was really doubtful about this character. Who was he after all to give orders, and why doesn't he play?. I was about to get up and call my friend from outside for a moral support.
" Your friend is not there now, he had gone to the lawns which is far away- now play". With an uncertainty I have inserted the fifty, held the Ace as per his Order and pressed Draw. It was a Straight Flush and I got forty times. Thank God, I was left with about thousand and I wanted to quit the Casino and go in search of my friend.
"There, that one, it is a lucky one, play with that". Against my will, I followed him to the poker machine a little far away. It was a hundred bucks one! My fingers shivering I sat over there, waiting for his orders. "Insert twenty" he said. My lips dried up because that was the entire amount left with me, and if I lose it I will again get into debt with my host.
"What are you waiting for, go ahead" again an order.
Mentally I was not prepared to go in with such a high stake. " Why not I go to machines with smaller coins" I had come out.
"You fool, insert twenty",
Again like a child, I inserted twenty and pressed Bet. I was wondering as to what I should do now.
"Hold king"- I obeyed.
"Press draw"- I did.
The wheel went on spinning and with all my nerves shaking, I thought of what is in store. Suddenly the machine stopped spinning and my heart stopped beating. The whole of two thousand had gone to the drain
With an irresistible bad temper, I turned back and he was not there!

Again I searched for him in the entire Casino but it was a disappointment. I could only locate my friend but fought shy to narrate to him my story. I started my return journey in the cable car with almost an empty pocket and with all the sorrow on earth I was looking down the dense forest. My friend appeared to be engrossed in the nature's treasure.
Suddenly I heard a voice at my side. "You didn't believe me. And so you got what you deserved." I turned aside and to my shock, I saw that person sitting by my side. I was about to cry for help of my friend to hold the collar of this fellow and thrash him into the deep forest below, and I literally cried for help!
"What happened?" My friend demanded - I had no answer because I was seeing with my own eyes that the Unknown person was falling deep into the forest below!
"Why did you shout, What happened? My friend again demanded. But I had no answer. I will never find an answer again- but I always shudder recollecting my experience to know who he was and what made him come to me to the Casinos, and did what he did. But I bet I will never visit a Casino again.

S Murthy Govindaraju, India
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