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Europe Day 12 – Why you don’t ever bet on the street

Getting to Holland in the morning actually took longer than expected. We missed the earliest train that we wanted to take and then found out that all the places had been reserved on trains for the next few hours. So settled in to wait three hours for the next available train.

Travel Tip: If your train requires reservations get it done early and you won’t be stuck in the train station waiting.

Gary watched a movie on my laptop and I decided to go wander around Paris. I didn’t really know this part of town so it was an adventure. And then tragedy struck. You see being in a strange city in a faraway land by yourself can do a lot to eliminate inhibitions. Things you would normally never do all of the sudden seem normal. This combined with little sleep and strange schedules makes for a volatile cocktail comparable in effectiveness to being slipped a roofie.

In my wanderings I saw a man with three tiny foam pads (the size of a palm) he was mixing them up and then challenging the watchers to guess which one had white painted under it. I thought it was so urban; classic even. I stopped to watch, I didn’t have anything better to do.

Something happened, I was good at it! I knew where it was every single time. People where winning and loosing money left and right but I could tell where it was without fail! It was almost laughable. Of course I knew there were people that ran operations like this that cheated and we’re very good but this guy must not be very skilled. At least thats what I told my self.

The operator enticed me to put some money down which I said no to. Of course not, everyone knows that I don’t gamble. Pretty soon I forgot that it even was gambling. I knew with certainty where it was every single time.

The operator again asked me to show him 10 bucks. I opened my wallet, all I had was a 20. Not that it mattered, I knew where the mark was. I pointed triumphantly. This guy was so excited for me to take his money that I figured I should let him give it to me.

He flipped the designated pad and I stood mouth a gape as 20 euros slipped from my hands. I stumbled off wondering what in the world just happened. Had I just gambled? Once more had I just lost and not just lost but twenty euros. My internal calculator went mad, 5 Kebabs, 14 pastries, 1 jacket, 13 baskets of fries. I used to play this game when I was a missionary converting my euros into what I could actually get for them. There it was, 5 meals, gone in a second.

Travel Tip: Never think for a second that a street gambler isn’t hustling you. Don’t stop, don’t look and for heaven’s sake don’t reach for your wallet.

This is normally a bad idea but I went back to the stand still amazed at what I had just done. I don’t gamble and part of me felt consoled thinking that I paid 20 euros for the lesson why. I watched some more and once again I saw where it was every time. I wanted my money back and I might have tried to win some back had I had any cash, thankfully I didn’t.

Travel Tip: Don’t carry a ton of cash on you. It will minimize your losses to mind controlling gambling or being jumped which is practically the same thing.

There were now more people and I was standing directly in front of the proprietor of the cardboard box. I could see everyone. He mixed the pads and invited bets. I knew where it was. The man running the game leaned over to his right to invite a bet from someone standing there. While he was thus distracted an arab dude to his left peeked under the pad and then placed a bet. The woman next to him saw what he was doing and bet with him. 40 euros.

Now I had a choice. Let the robber get robbed and his just desserts or be honest and tell on them. I figured I’d already lost the right choice card earlier when I decided to loose 20 euros so as the operator pulled 40 euros out to pay I stopped them. I told him that the arab dude cheated and not to pay them. He thanked me and the Arab dude looked like he didn’t know what to do. He muttered that he hadn’t been cheating.

The game ended and the operator started to walk off. I stopped him and he gave me 10 euros for pointing out the cheater.

Life tip: Honestly pays off

I headed back to the train station 10 euros poorer with a cool story and no desire to ever gamble ever again.

Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007