Jun 24, 2007

betcha bottom won

Technically speaking, there's only one true South Korean Casino and it's nestled deep, but not so deep that tourists can't find it, into the mountains in Gangwon-do. There are casinos in Seoul, but they were built solely for entertaining foreign tourists - no domestic nationals allowed.

The Kangwon Land Casino occupies the first floor of a mammoth glitzy-tacky-beautiful green and beige hotel, diamond-shaped windows trimmed in neon light fueling the visual of a spaceship blasting off and jutting out at ever angle, the only gambling entertainment complex in the country that caters to actual Koreans.

Because of this surefire popularity, or what goes beyond popularity into the realm of zombie-like devotion, certain towns in the province are banned from entering beyond one specified night a week - or else locals would ultimately come to gamble and never leave.

For all their cultural repressive tendencies, the Koreans participate in all of the so-called gluttony-type pleasure sins with a kind of zeal and abandon unlike anything I've ever seen. Seriously, we've got nothing on them in any debauch-department - binge-eating and drinking, adultery - and gambling of course is no different.

Having spent a big chunk of my young adult life in a gambling town [hi, Hali!], I walked in with a little I-know-the-game strut that I quickly dropped looking around the place.

Gambling is a little different here.

Every machine was occupied, and it was impossible to find one free, whether there was an ass in its requisite chair or not - first rule in Korean gambling - a seat is worth money, but no one's going to be impolite enough to steal it. Neither will anyone steal the ten-thousand Won bills crumpled over touch-screens, credit cards wedged into the corners of 'bet max' buttons to force the machines to play on their own, nor push off legs, arms and jackets hung over chairs from over two machines away counting as 'saving the spot'. Everywhere I looked, there was a machine playing itself, a bunch of invisible phantom Korean gamblers in every seat. It's totally acceptable to throw a few hundred in a slot, wedge your card into the spin button and walk away. Come back in an hour and see if you won anything. It's alright, no one touches your shit.

The tables are a different story. The crowds are three and four deep around each one, available chairs are long gone by 10am. In the 'foreigner room' there are no foreigners (although with five, you can reserve a table much to the chagrin of anyone lucky enough to have landed a seat before your group gets there - we didn't do this, since we were one man shy and only 'high-rollers' in the scope of our own imaginations). Baccarat and blackjack are big games, and everyone's playing intently with stone-cold faces.

The way I understand it, business men will come, gamble, lose all their money and then sleep upright in a chair during the slow games overnight (24-hour play) so they can sell their spot at the table in the morning for bus fare home.

Funny thing, for all their indulging, the Koreans don't seem to mix their vices - the casino is dry. They don't need liquid-fire incentive to bet it all, they're going to do that anyway.

I bet ten thousand (the equivalent of ten bucks) on a cheap and available slot and lost it. Figures, sloppy seconds, with all the choice machines long gone. No regrets.

We grabbed some buffet, saw a free show (strangely enough, Ukrainian variety dancers fake-flamencoing to Santa Esmeralda's 'Don't let me be Misunderstood'. It's the one time I've been pissed off that you can rock out to that song for more than ten minutes), lost my and a few others' hard-earned ten thousand-notes and hit the arcade. Except for the absence of kilts, cheap beer and white people, I could have been back home.

Some casino photo goodness...

No pictures allowed in the Casino as usual, so right after we snagged this shot a security guy came over and demanded we erase it from the camera memory. Yeah right buddy, we were in North Korea last week, you're going to have to do better than that (linked to detail).

Since I'd already gambled only my one ten-dollar bill - I said 'what the hell' to using the last of my change to whoop Adam's butt at the arcade, where we discovered the game of all games: Come on Baby!

Don't know if you can make it out on the left there, but there's a black baby Al Jolson.
I played that character. Racism is fun.

I guess I look a little enthusiastic-retarded in this picture, but whatever, you didn't play the game.

After all the kick-ass threats and big-game talk, neither of was really winning because we couldn't figure out how to play, but still, it was awesome.

OK, so this was arcade photo goodness, but like I said, no pictures in the actual casino.

1 comment:

lisa said...

arcades are way more fun than casinos. i played a little pinball last night at stones' place... i kick pinball ass.