Two favorite places even though chance of winning is slim

Probably as soon as humans realized there was a tomorrow, that a future existed, someone decided to try to predict it. Not long after that, others began to argue over the prediction; and soon they began to wager on the outcome. Thus, gambling came into being. Gambling is risk taking, and social scientists have different explanations for why we gamble. Probably it is related to the pleasure principle, which is involved in most of our basic drives. And like most of our other drives, gambling can lead to an addiction.

Gambling exists today in almost every society in the world. There are many types of gambling from the kind that occurs on the Wall Streets of the world to the back alley dice game to lotteries to throwing sticks. Religions are too busy curtailing our sexual proclivities to be concerned about gambling.

Sometimes it is legal, sometimes it is not. Casino gambling is legal in Costa Rica. There are several casinos in and around San Jose. I prefer two of them – The Colonial downtown on Avenida Primera between calles 9 and 11 and the Crowne Plaza in Sabana Norte, on the highway.

Both have one armed bandits (aptly named), although they no longer have even one arm but are electronically controlled. I know nothing about how they work. My game is roulette when I go, either at the mechanical (electronic) table, which has a wheel, or human controlled.

Most casinos have the canasta roulette, a basket of numbered ping pong balls, instead of the wheel, although the Colonial does have a wheel.

Most people realize that the odds are against their winning (unless you are an insider trader on Wall Street), so there are usually other attractions. The Colonial has great free bocas, especially their chicharrones. The Crowne Plaza offers small sandwiches or a sweet during the week and, my favorite, a plate of fresh fruit. Both casinos have free dinners on Saturday nights. Non-alcoholic drinks are free, those with liquor are usually 500 colons ($1).

And there are the other players. Even though you don’t really know them, you recognize them, have become familiar with their playing habits, and it is nice to have company.

Finally there are the croupiers. Here I have to say I prefer those in the Crowne Plaza. Although the dealers in both casinos are pleasant, the dealers at the Crowne Plaza will play at my rhythm, not rush me, which they tend to do at the Colonial (although they will slow down, if I ask.). The other advantage of the casinos here, or the ones I patronize, is that you can buy chips for just 100 colons each. The minimum to play is 20 chips distributed among the numbers, or in a stack on the outside bets.

The main problem I have with the Crowne Plaza is they seem to keep their air conditioning at about 68 degrees or less, not a comfortable temperature for me, at least, if I am sitting down. I bundle up when I go there. The Colonial is more temperate.

Both casinos have restaurants. I have not tried the one at the Crowne Plaza, which is poolside, but I do enjoy lunch at the Magnolia, in front of, and separated from, the casino area. Most of the hotel casinos open around 11 a.m.

The other nice aspect, at least for a woman, who is not looking for a date but just wants to enjoy a safe night out, is a chance to meet some visitors from a variety of countries. It gives you the opportunity to help by explaining the game, or translating for them. It is nice to be helpful.

Metered taxis are available in front of both casinos. At the Colonial you just have to stand out front and wave one down. They are parked along the highway at the Crowne Plaza. If it is night time, it is a good idea to take one, whether you have won or lost.

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