When Luck Comes,
It Just Comes

Interview by Robert O'Malley

(The woman interviewed for this story preferred to remain anonymous.)

When I first started gambling I used to play mah jongg at home. Playing mah jongg gave me a chance to meet with friends. Every time I played I could also bring the kids together. I have kids and my friends have kids, so the kids could play together while the mothers were playing. Sometimes I'd get lucky and win some money. This made me happy. At home I didn't lose much.

In the beginning I'd gamble about $20. In the beginning it was very very small. Sometimes if I had bad luck I would lose $50 to $100 at home, but mostly I'd win or lose $50. I like playing mah jongg because I can control it and not risk too much. If it's a small game I won't get much money but I won't lose much either. If you play a big game you can win more money but it's hard to win.

When Atlantic City opened I started to go there. I would get there by bus or by car. In the beginning I liked the slot machines, but I'd lose a lot of money in them. Most of the time I'd lose like a few hundred. If I went to Atlantic City I'd have at least $1000 in my pocket. Most of the time I'd lose all of it; I wouldn't leave until there wasn't even a cent left in my pocket. Of course I would feel upset, but I couldn't control myself. I liked the fun of it. When you hit the jackpot, the money comes out of the machine and it sound so good. If I can win the money I don't feel bored.

I love casinos! I like them because you only see people gambling, walking around and playing there. The rooms have a lot of light. It makes me feel happy. I never know if it's dark or light, daytime or night-time outside. I don't have to worry about outside. Inside the casino, you see people 24 hours.

After I lost $2000 or $3000 at Atlantic City one night, I felt scared. After going there about seven times, I said I wouldn't go there anymore. The trip made me feel tired because I needed to ride on the bus for seven hours. This was maybe six or seven years ago. After that I gambled only at home. I played mah jongg. I started to play a little bit bigger then. Now I usually play a few hundred dollars a night.

I am interested in any kind of gambling. I either go somewhere in my neighborhood or to my friend's home in Cambridge, which is quiet and comfortable. I tell myself that that is a very good place to play mah jongg. Why? Because the table we play on is so special and my friends treat me very good. She cooks for us. So we just eat and gamble. She's a good cook. We have coffee. Almost every week I go to her home to play. We play from Friday night until Saturday, or from Saturday night until Sunday. I like to play a long time - all night. We play maybe 16 hours, from Saturday at 3 o'clock to Sunday at 12 o'clock. We don't sleep at all. We don't get tired until the end, and then we go home and sleep. I'm happy to play. Of course we get upset if we lose but we get upset with the game, not with the people. This week the money goes to you, but next week it comes back to me.

Istarted going to Foxwoods in 1997. I go there at least once or twice a week. In the beginning I didn't bet when I went there. Then after about the fifth or sixth time I started to bet. Then I got crazy. I wanted to go whenever I had a chance. My friend drives me there. It's so easy to get on the bus to go, but I would rather drive because then I don't have to be controlled by the time. It's easy to drive down. Any time I feel like it I can just go. On Saturdays I like to go after dinner, after I settle down from everything. Most of the time I leave at about 7:30 and get there at 9 o'clock. I stay till Sunday. When I play I don't need to sleep. I don't want to leave. I get on the Black Jack table. First thing I do is take a look at the different tables. If there's a seat I just sit down and play.

First I take out $100 to play a small game. When you gamble first you need luck, then you need some skill. It's exciting when I get lucky. Every time I hit a good game I ask for the good cards. If I ask for a good card it's more exciting. I can't tell beforehand if I'm going to have good luck or bad luck. I only know that I feel good when I have money in my pocket because it means I have a chance to bet. I go in with at least $500 or $1,000; if I have more I will take more. I don't set aside special money for gambling.

One time I went to Foxwoods with only $100. I hit the jackpot! I was so happy. It was a slot machine. I just put the money in and played the slot machine. $2,500 came out. That was at the end of March. Because I had only $100 I didn't want to sit at the Black Jack table. At the Black Jack table I need more than $100 to play.

Last week I got really lucky - on big games and small games, at home and at Foxwoods. I won because of the feng shui. A few weeks ago a fortuneteller told me to move the clock from the wall beside me to the back wall. Two people helped me do that. After I moved the clock I got lucky.

This weekend I got so lucky. More than lucky! I had a lot of fun at the Black Jack table. I went to Foxwoods on Saturday. I left home at 7 o'clock with my friend and coworker. We got there at about 9 o'clock and went to separate places to play. I went to play Black Jack.

At first I had very bad luck. I lost the money I brought - $1,000. I don't know how long I was gambling because I don't carry a watch. After I lost I went to look for my friend. I said, "Let me have $100." And he gave it to me - $100 in chips. In my purse I also had an extra $75. So I sat down and bet $25. On weekends they don't have small tables.

So I started with $25 and lost the $75 I had in my purse. So I told myself, "I don't have luck. Why not bet one time? Because if I bet $25 I can't make money." So I put the whole $100 down, and I won that game. I won $100 - one to one. So then I doubled down and I won again, so I got $300. So that meant I had $400. So I doubled down again and I hit it. I had $800. I was so happy! I said I must go. I wanted to go but I said, "No, I've got luck." So that's why I kept playing more and more. So I took back $600 and I bet $200. But I was lucky and I won more and more. So I don't know how long I sat at that table, but I made $4,000. I don't know how much time I needed. Of course I took back $1,000 of my money so that meant I only made $3,000. I felt so happy; I thought, "I should go." But I said, "I still have luck because the dealer is so good to me. This is my lucky night." So that's why I kept playing. And so I kept playing and somehow I lost $1,500. And then I left. I had at least a $2,000 profit.

Then I met someone who lost all her money. I know that woman. Yeah she's from Chinatown. She asked me, "How did you do?" I said, "I made some." And she asked me to lend her $100. I said, "$100 is not enough to bet, maybe you need $200." And then she said, okay, she would return it to me. She said she had lost, like, $4,000. Every time I go there I see her.

This weekend when I was at the table an old Chinese woman came up to me; she was over 70 years old. She wanted me to buy a coupon from her. She came by bus and got the coupon with her ticket. I don't know where she came from. She maybe saw I was Chinese. So she asked me to buy the coupon from her. She had five coupons, which are worth $10 each. Everybody who takes the bus gets a coupon. To use the coupon you have to bet an equal amount of your own money. She didn't want to bet because she didn't know if she could get back the money. It would be safer for her if she just sold me the coupon. She said she would give me $20 for five coupons. So I said, "Okay, I'll give you $50." And she was very very happy. Usually they don't get that lucky. Maybe because of this I got lucky too.

I see a lot of people from Chinatown at Foxwoods; most of the time I see the same faces. Yes, some people lose a lot of money. But for me, I can still control myself because I have a family to take care of. I'm not really really crazy. I'm crazy but I'm not really really crazy. I work every day.

Some people who lose a lot sometimes lose their house or their restaurant. I know a friend who lost his restaurant. He had to run away so he wouldn't be tempted. He moved to another state because he wanted to be far away from Foxwoods. It's too easy to get to Foxwoods - only two hours. He lost everything. Even some people lose their family. I don't know why they do it. Gambling is too interesting; gambling makes it very easy for you to do something crazy.

I like to gamble because if you get lucky you can make some easy money. If you don't get lucky you lose. That's why I don't bring my credit card; I don't bring my bank card; I only take the money I can afford to lose. Before I used to bring my bank card. It was so easy to get money. If I lost, I would say, "Okay, get some money." That's why I don't bring the card. Some people bring a bank card, credit card, whatever they can. I think the Chinese like to gamble about as much as everybody else.

When I gamble I don't feel tired; I don't feel sleepy. If I have money I feel happy to gamble; you don't even know the time is passing. Of course if I win my kids are happy and I'm happy. But if I lose money...

If I stay at home too much my kids will say, "Mom, how come you don't gamble?" They will say that because they know I'm interested in gambling more than anything else.

I think it's up to the person if she wants to gamble or not. If they want to do it they do it. At least they don't kill people or rob people. I don't think it's bad. Some people like to travel but I don't like to travel. Travel makes me very tired, but some people enjoy travel. It's just like that: different people, different types. I think if you lose a restaurant, that's too much. If I say, "Today I can lose $1000," then I bring $1,000. That's all. If I get lucky I can bring home more than $1,000.

I will share my luck, my happiness with everybody, with my family and my friends. I will buy gifts for my kids. I will do something I want to do. I like Foxwoods because at Foxwoods all the people are the same. They're all gambling people. So I don't have to worry about people saying, "Oh, you do bad; you gamble a lot." Because we're the same type of people. I think this is interesting for me because I don't have to worry about someone saying, "How come you don't go to school? How come you don't you go to work? Something like that. Because we are in the same building.

I like casinos because the lights are on 24 hours; you don't need to turn off the lights early. In the casino, it's always like daytime, always the same. When I sit at the table I just concentrate on the table.

When luck comes it just comes. When you hit the game you feel strange. Black Jack is difficult. You have to think, "Do I ask for a card or not?" If you have 17 you can stay, but if you have 12 to 16 it's very hard to ask for a card because you could lose right away. So you're thinking.

Maybe if you have luck you don't have to worry about anything. You just ask for the card, and you will get a good card that fits you.