Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rustic casino (with photos) - Puerto Princesa, Philippines

We are walking near Junction 1, an important crossroads here in Puerto Princesa, Palawan island. There are some kind of wooden shacks close to the road, next to a bar, and a small crowd in and around one of them. We draw near, slowly, keeping a low profile. When we are close enough we understand what that is about. It's some kind of a makeshift roulette, it looks like a stand of a town festival but it actually is a countryside version of a casino. The other shacks are used for other games but they are all closed now: people are all gathered here.
The croupier is holding a stack of banknotes, ordered by denomination, he looks like the conductor of a Laotian countryside coach. There are some chips in a basket next to him but everybody seems to be using their own banknotes. The spinning wheel of a real roulette is replaced by a fixed matrix of colored squared, of various hues and all with some kind of round hole in the middle. The edges of the structure are covered with colored tiles, the same colors used for the squares. There is a fence half a meter away. the players are leaning on it and gamble by throwing their money on the colored tiles. 
The croupier and his assistants move between the table and the fence. Then three random people get hold of some balls, similar in shape to basketballs but much smaller in size, and throw them on the table. The balls bounce against the edges, hit one other, roll for a while and then stop on the holes of the squares. Those who've chosen the right colors win. The croupier first collects the money betted on the wrong colors and subsequently rewards the winners. One, two or three times the wager, depending on how many balls fell on squares of that color, or even half the sum in case the money was betted on two colors. The players are not betting a lot of money but considering that they are simple people, often dressed in underwear and flip-flops, I believe that some of them are losing a big portion of their daily salary. 
Anyway this is a rather fair game: unlike roulette, which has only one ball and thirty-seven numbers, here there are three balls and only six colors. It's a bit like betting on red or black, even or odd numbers,  without the unpredictability added by the number "0". The amounts of money are never too big but the probabilities to win are not that bad.
Some other photos of the casino below:
The crowd
The elegant croupier
The casino at daytime, with an extra squatter
A closed roulette table

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