Donâ€™t get me wrong, I enjoy hanging out in a pub with friends and the usual clubbing nights. But on the other nights when you just donâ€™t feel like setting your liver on alcohol overdrive, London has limited things to offer.
Compared to Malaysia, there are no mamak stalls or pasar malams, very few karaoke outlets or night fairs, and hardly any midnight movies here.
But on the bright side, there are strip clubs, lots of great casual pubs, and casinos! Back in Bristol, my friends and I usually visit casinos after some light drinking, which have led to many irrational bets.
Last night Claire and I went to Aspers Casino in Westfield Stratford City out of utter boredom. We made sure we were completely sober before entering.
It was pretty large and did not require membership! The casinos that I had been to in Bristol all required â€˜membershipâ€™ â€“ free of charge, yes, but youâ€™d need to fill in a form, bring identification, snap a photo, and carry a card with you.
But here, just flash any ID proving youâ€™re over 18 and youâ€™re in! But then many of the London casinos, especially those in tourist areas, also do not require membership â€“ with good reason. I remember entering the Hippodrome Casino beside the Leicester Square tube station and saw tables and tables of (mainly Chinese) tourists gambling their fortunes away.
But last night, I was not (technically) a tourist, not from China, nor was I with a lot of money. Haha!
In fact, I am probably a member of the â€˜undesiredâ€™ group of casino customers. Being a student, calculating, stingy and worst of allâ€¦ rational. I have strict upper and lower limits (I will walk away when Iâ€™ve gained 50% of my capital, or have spent more than a certain predefined time at the table), specific capital limits (I always spend up to a maximum of 20x the minimum bet as capital, and never top-up when itâ€™s gone), and gaming rules (itâ€™s all about betting against a known probability, and if Iâ€™m playing Blackjack, I never sway from the Basic Strategy).
No I donâ€™t do card counting.
This strategy is not too bad, you know. I daresay about half of the time I can get away with a 50% profit, 2 out of 10 times I get away with minimal losses (about 10% which I call â€˜entertainment chargeâ€™), and the remaining times I lose all my capital, but nothing more.
I sat down at a Blackjack table with a rarely low minimum bet (Â£3) and started playing with a bankroll of Â£50. I love the casinos here because they usually offer tables with low minimum bets (usually Â£5 and sometimes as low as Â£3). Good for poor people like me. Remember the casino in the Baltic cruise a few months ago? There was a table with a record low minimum bet of 20 Swedish crowns! That is roughly equivalent to just Â£1.87 per hand.
Of course, our very own dear Genting casinos sometimes offer RM25 Blackjack tables, which is indeed around Â£5, but if you adjust it by our countryâ€™s purchasing power, RM25 in Malaysia is worth way more than Â£5 in the UK!
My luck fluctuated throughout the one-hour game.Â At one point my chips hit Â£70, excitingly close to the Â£75 upper limit reaching which I would walk away, before tumbling down to Â£8 following a series of ridiculously pathetic hands.
Since Â£8 canâ€™t be divided by Â£3â€™s, I divided the amount into two â€˜lastâ€™ hands and bet Â£4. I was dealt a six and a four. I threw my remaining Â£4 in and double and got a queen.
Now with Â£16 in my stack I felt an unexpected sense of annoyance. It was getting late and I had expected to just finish it all and leave. So I threw in a Â£6 and was dealt two eights. I split and was given an ace and a miserable six. I decided to stand on the fourteen because the dealer had a fifteen. I held my breath and the dealer, as anticipated, drew a jack.
I was tempted to walk away but I had hit neither my upper nor lower limits and Â£22 was a little high to be considered â€˜entertainment chargeâ€™. So I raised my bet to Â£8 and was dealt a three and a six. I was like screw this and doubled. The old man sitting next to me smiled and said â€˜nice oneâ€™ when I was dealt a nice round ten. Hah! But it really didnâ€™t matter because the dealer got bust. The dealer shuffled the decks and I counted my chips – Â£44. I didnâ€™t think my lucky streak would go on and a 10% entertainment charge was acceptable so I thanked the dealer, stood up and cashed my chips.
Â£6 for an hour of entertainment. Not bad.
So tonight was Claireâ€™s birthday and we went for a movie at the Odeonâ€™s flagship cinema in Leicester Square.
This place was pretty expensive for a cinema (Â£36 for two tickets) but then it was a single-screen cinema, meaning the entire complex with all its 1,683 seats showed only one movie, on one screen. It is the largest of its kind in the UK.
I had walked pass the imposing cinema building for a while now and had always wanted to check it out. Iâ€™d heard that lots of UK movie premieres take place here and it even had a special room reserved for a visiting queen!
Haha but of course, once youâ€™re settled in your seat and got over the impressiveness of the whole place with its circle and stalls there just like a theatre, the movie experience becomes quite ordinary. Especially after the lights are dimmed.
Iâ€™d say that while casinos in the UK are great, the cinema-going experience in Malaysia is still better than that here. Itâ€™s incredible how thereâ€™s like five cinemas in five malls along the LDP alone! And yeah itâ€™s waayyyy cheaper to watch a movie in Malaysia without compromising comfort and quality.
Now having said this, I miss my country very much.View More