The Gambler

A CBC News story today highlights research that suggests an "alarming number" of young Ontarians believe that poker — particularly the online variant — may be a viable form of work. This probably should not surprise us, given that many ad campaigns for online poker companies have promoted just such a fantasy in a thinly veiled fashion.

He said, son, I've made a life out of readin' peoples faces / And knowin' what their cards were by the way they held their eyes / So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces / For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice. …

"We must presume that as the casino becomes more virtualized, thus offering more privacy to the end-user, that catheterization will become the next evolutionary stage for the human-datapod hybrid, allowing urine to freely flow away to unseen underground canals in a fashion that allows for the uninterrupted complementary inflow of (seen) information channels." » resample

Urine as Noise

A payoff is looming on the horizon. A gambler is wearing adult diapers so that he doesn't need to leave the slot machine, but rather can just piss himself and keep wrestling the one-armed bandit a little longer (see, for example, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, 1997; 157 (1)). We are describing a perfect coupling of man and machine, and a precursor of what Virilio describes as "polar inertia": the tendency to stasis as we approach the absolute speed of real time.

As work and leisure increasingly blur, productivity assumes game-like properties, and the economy of the slot machine (or sports book, or stock market) becomes increasingly net-connected, virtual, and devoid of spatial referent, do we not face a situation like that visualized in The Matrix?

The movie's metaphor is inexact, however. Rather than humans providing electricity to the machines from the incarceration of their pods, they are instead providing information — or at least playing a vital role in sympathetically vibrating information forward.

slot machine and Matrix pod montage

We have the casino as an institution to "launder" money, removing its impurities before recirculation through the global networks of capital — a renal function that can only be considered soaked in irony. Urine is a friction — or perhaps more appropriately, acts as noise — to this coupling between human and datapod, and thus the use of the adult diaper. But the diaper only alleviates the problem temporarily — eventually the soiled undergarment must be removed and replaced with a fresh one. We must presume that as the casino becomes more virtualized, thus offering more privacy to the end-user, that catheterization will become the next evolutionary stage for the human-datapod hybrid, allowing urine to freely flow away to unseen underground canals in a fashion that allows for the uninterrupted complementary inflow of (seen) information channels.

The Narcosis of Gambling?

From NOW Magazine's Year in Review issue:

Why Poker Craze May End Up Costing Society More Than Drugs

"Studies in animals have clearly shown that the amount of dopamine released by natural rewards is dependent on the level of predictability of the reward. In gambling, the reward is unpredictable, which means it has a particularly strong impact on dopamine release." — David Zald, psychologist and neuroscience professor, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

The Daily Racing Form

Last year I took my first trip to Woodbine Racetrack and posted my observations about it afterwards. As part of that post I wanted to scan a few pages of the daily racing form that is available for a couple of bucks at the track. Now that I have my new scanner and a few free minutes, I can!

(click on the image for a full-size PDF file)


Woodbine derives neither its power nor its profits from the capital that is concentrated in the racegrounds proper. Rather it is through the control of information that Woodbine asserts itself: it is flatly impossible to do a decent job of wagering on the horses without the sophisticated information contained in the daily racing form; it is equally assured that the majority of track goers do not want to share their programs — and their scribbled meta-analyses of the information contained therein — so that they may retain as much of an edge as possible against the betting odds.

I think that a glance at the racing form lends support to this analysis. That this is an extremely sophisticated piece of information technology is perhaps patently obvious (to understand better, see the legend here and here). But if one visualizes each piece of information contained therein as a cell in a database, one begins to have a greater appreciation for the vast tidal flows of information that must circulate in order to create the form in the first place on a daily basis — and what kind of power the vectoralist possesses by controlling it.

By the way, my scantly "scribbled meta-analysis" didn't win me a damn red cent.

Multi-Sensory Perception

RFID Update reports on massive overhauls in gambling technology, as casinos plan to roll out gaming chips embedded with RFID tags.

By equipping casinos with RFID readers and RFID-tagged chips, "the house" will be able to detect and monitor those things which the ubiquitous, human-manned video cameras often miss: card counting, dealer mistakes, chip counterfeiting, and chip theft. With every chip in the casino tagged, the possibilities for the detection of scams and loss centers are endless. Indeed, the gambling industry is probably approaching RFID-enabled visibility in much the same way as the supply chain folks: they can already quantify profound efficiencies to be gained, but they expect that even more as yet unimagined benefits will reveal themselves only after the systems are in place.

Like the case of the Boston Marathon described earlier, this appears to be a case of supplementing the panoptic visual sense with the pantactile touch sense. It is the last sentence that requires the most attention, however: what are the "benefits" that will reveal themselves after the systems are in place?

(via Bruce Sterling's cleverly titled Ocean's 11 011011001010111010 post)

Vulnerabilities in Surveillance?

From American Roulette, a blog about a "professional casino cheater's thoughts on casinos, gambling and updates from currently working, never-caught, cheaters":

All the fantastic things you hear about casino surveillance systems, such as that cliche about surveillance cameras reading the date off a dime, are only partially true. Yes, they can read the date off a dime, but only if the lens is zoomed in for that particular purpose. Casino cameras are only zoomed in when surveillance personnel are already suspicious about certain activities and are trying to get a closer look at a suspected cheating move and film close-ups of faces and fingers to use later as evidence in court. But against us, that was zero. We were constantly on the lookout for undue attention. Plus, we were hit and run cheaters. We never got involved in prolonged continuous operations which gave the casino time to set us up. We hit and then we were gone. Their cameras never had the chance to zoom in on us.

My informants in the Strip Casinos surveillance rooms would give me the total lowdown on casino surveillance, and keep me posted on inter-casino communication about what cheaters were doing. I also received copies of my mug shots which were passed frequently around the casinos, helping me choose the appropriate headdress to avoid detection while I worked the tables.

We would watch these casinos surveillance tapes in my apartment. On the screen I saw everything their cameras were capable of. I learned all the details, became sort of a surveillance expert myself. They taught me about the multitudinous camera movements - pan and tilt, angle shots, zoom-ins, every minute detail concerning surveillance operating procedures.

Another thing I learned was that the surveillance inspectors themselves were quite ineffective. In the old days, Vegas used ex-casino cheaters who'd gone straight to spy on their ex-partners from above. These guys in the eye knew something, were capable of recognizing something going down in the casino on their own feet. But today, everyone working surveillance, was a legitimate person who had taken a training course before getting his job in the "sky." Imagine the level of incompetence existing when comparing today's book-smart casino sleuths with yesterday's sharpies who could read the date off a dime without the help of cameras. Asking someone fresh out of surveillance school to spot a slick move going down in a casino was tantamount to putting a cabdriver behind the wheel of a 747.