Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dostoevsky, Roulette, and Visualization

I've always had respect for Fyodor Dostoevsky He was a brilliant writer and a deep thinker. His "Notes from the Underground" is an especially powerful insight into the mind of man and the causes of suffering. What has attracted me to Dostevsky and especially this book is that his thinking is multidimensional. He simultaneously sees that man is out of control but also capable of great courage and nobility. He rejects materialism but does not see spiritualism as the answer for man He is above all, a pragmatist. He tries to see life for what it is, not what it could or should be.

Dostoevsky was a sick gambler. He constantly lost all his money and lived his life in debt, struggling and writing under the most difficult conditions. What interested me about his gambling was his belief that although the laws of probability in the long run will bury you, there are times when these laws are suspended. There are moments where the world does not behave as it should. It is in these moments that you can win.

For years I have searched for these moments. I have come to see that there are times in gambling when the improbable does occur, that heads turns up fifteen times in a row, or there is a four hour role at the dice table. Unfortunately these improbable streaks fall into the laws of probability and it is impossible to tell when they will occur.

Can you win at gambling? I don't think that you can outsmart the laws of probability. I have had two unusual experiences in routlette, though, that have kept my mind open to the possibility that you can win. In both cases, the security guards at the casinos came up to me to question me and try to determine whether or not I was cheating. The first case occurred in Atlantic City. I picked four consecutive numbers. This is a 1.5 million to one shot. I think it was just luck.

The second case though occurred in Puerto Rico and was a little different. I arrived at my hotel around midnight. I was not tired and decided to try my luck. I was feeling very alive and upbeat. I had been day dreaming about gambling throughout the entire plane ride. This was not unusual for me since I hate flying and do whatever I can to distract myself. I must admit I also think about gambling when I am not flying. So I am not sure whether this was unusual or not.

What was unusual was the degree of confidence I had when I approached the roulette table. I decided that I would close my eyes before each roll, visualize the ball spinning around, and see it in my mind land on a number. I would then bet that number. I started off betting about ten dollars on each spin, two on the number and two each on a split bet between the number I visualized and the numbers surrounding it.

I started winning immediately. Within 10 minutes I was up over five hundred dollars and had now increased my bet to twenty-five per spin. I felt like I was in a trance. I kept visualizing and winning. Before long I had thousands of dollars in chips in front of me. It was surrealistic. I felt like I was in a different world. I wasn't excited or nervous. I was very relaxed and comfortable. I had no thoughts about what I was doing. I just kept visualizing, placing my bets, and winning. I finally noticed that there was a crowd of people behind me cheering. My spell was broken and I started to lose. I got up from the table and cashed in my chips. I had won nearly three thousand five hundred dollars.

When I look back now I do believe that there was something special that happened in that moment. I don't believe it was a suspension of the laws of probability. I believe that I had experienced the power of visualization and its ability to influence reality. I don't understand it and it has never happened again. It has cost me a lot of money though trying to recreate that moment. I do believe that there is something to visualization as a way to impact your life, but I don't think gambling is the best vehicle.

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