Thursday, 30 April 2009

Casino Nights in Kathmandu


I am at the roulette table and I am winning.

Not bad considering that I am entering a casino for the first time. Not bad considering that this is the first time I am seeing a real roulette wheel.

There are three of us: Henrik, Ranga and I, the three-member team that has been deputed to Kathmandu to check out the facilities and infrastructure of the company’s dealer in Nepal. We have arrived that evening by a flight from Delhi which offered stunning views of the Himalayan mountain peaks bathed in subtle shades of orange, pink and grey. It is an awe-inspiring sight and we are still talking about it on our way to the hotel.

We check into the Soaltee Oberoi (it is now the Soaltee Crowne Plaza), the most luxurious 5-star property in Kathmandu. We freshen up and meet in the lobby after half an hour and Henrik announces that we are going to eat Italian that night, at the Al Fresco restaurant by the poolside. We have a nice, cosy meal, washed down by some excellent Chianti which Henrik orders with much pomp and ceremony after scrutinising the wine list in excruciating detail.

After dinner, we decide to try out the complimentary coupons for “Casino Nepal” the hotel has given us during check in. The casino is in the same compound as the hotel and is hardly a minute’s walk from the restaurant.

I walk in with trepidation because whatever little I know of casinos is what I have gleaned from watching James Bond movies: Dashing young men in spotless white dress shirts with bow-ties and jackets; glamorous babes in elaborate gowns showing off their equally elaborate cleavages; vodka and dry martinis; urbane croupiers and stony-eyed bouncers.

But when we walk into the casino, most of the faces that we come across are Indian and the large gaming room seems straight out of a crowded Indian supermarket with pot-bellied, safari-suited businessmen and large women in saris jostling for space around the various gaming tables. The three of us head for the roulette as it seems to be simpler and more straightforward compared to the esoteric complexities of Blackjack or Baccarat.

Henrik and Ranga lose their “free money” almost instantly, but I start winning to our collective consternation. Initially I am playing safe, placing bets on odd and even numbers, red and black and so on, but egged on by my two colleagues on both sides, I start playing riskier, but somehow manage to win most of the time. By midnight, there is almost NPR 20,000 worth of chips lined up in front of me. Henrik advises me to quit after couple of rounds of losses, but when I finally encash the chips, there is still enough money to buy ourselves several rounds of the most expensive cognac at the hotel bar.

Image Courtesy: www.southborough.us

5 comments:

ursjina said...

:)
I know the feeling.The same happened to me in the small casino city of Reno.The first place I came when I set foot in US.
By the end of it all, I was break even.But having had free hotel stays and lotsa goodies.

By the way, I love Kurt Vonneghun too

Cynic in Wonderland said...

..ah nice. there is something lovely in easy-earned money no?

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Rada,
So, are you behind the whole political drama in Nepal? :D

-Nikhil

Maddy said...

man, that must be some beginners luck, difficult to win at these places. vegas & cruise ships have been cruel to me..

Rada said...

@ Ursjina: Funny thing is, I have never stepped into a casino since then!
Thanks for visiting!

@ Cynic: Indeed! For once I didn't feel guilty splurging money on expensive cognac!

@ Nikhil: Ayyo! Saar! Nepalil poyittu thanne varsahm kore aayi! ;-)

@ Maddy: Yes, must have been Beginner's Luck! Should try my hand at roulette again some time!

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.