I haven't been to a casino in many years. Here in the seaside city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, there are many casinos. There is one at the 5-star Sokha Beach Resort.

On a sunny and hot late morning after swimming at the superb private beach, my wife and I walked in the big windowless building cross the lawn from the hotel's main restaurant. At the door, the rule says the followings are not allowed into the casino: sunglasses, hats, bags, cameras, and certainly knifes and guns.

Just as we got in, a waitress gave us each a $10 coupon, saying that we could use $10 cash and the coupon to get $20 credit. Asked about the conditions, she said that with the coupon we could only take away wins above $60.

The big hall was very quiet. In fact, there were only a few guys sitting at one poker table. Of course there were many waiters/waitresses around.

We walked to the slot machines area. Not sure how much we could win, we decided not to use the coupon. With the help of a waitress, we put a $5 bill in one machine and started playing. After about 30 minutes, we got it to $15. Then we wanted to take the money and go to another slot machine. Here is what is different from Las Vegas: you don't press a button and get the chips or bills and go. We had to ask the waitress for help. She came to the slot machine, photoed the machine screen and wrote down a bill, she then walked to the cashier to get us $15.

We then walked to another slot machine and put in $5. This machine gave us very little chance and we lost it all in not much time.

Then we walked to another machine and put in $5. After about 20 minutes, we got it to $10. So in about 1 hour, our $5 turned into $15. Unbelievable to me, so we decided to leave.

As the waitress handed our wins to us, she informed us that we could eat the casino buffet lunch for free. We walked to check about the food. It was not bad, though not too fancy. I tried to stay cautious with these mostly gang (Chinese mostly) controlled casinos, so decided to not have the lunch and left.

I wonder if the wins can be attributed to our strategy, which was to largely vary bet sizes. Didn't Ed Thorp advocate this idea in his Beat the Dealer?

The slot machines give one significant leeway to bet at different sizes. The minimum bet is 1 cent on a single play. One can choose up to 10 times the minimum bet. One can also choose to play up to 10 simultaneous plays. With these options, one's bet size can be anywhere from 1 cent to 1 dollar. We tried to bet small after a win and bet large after many losses.

Or perhaps, they tweaked the machines to give us some initial advantage in order to attract us to bet big. It is not impossible.

Anyhow, Sihanoukville is a fun place: the nice beaches (some are getting ruined though), beautiful islands, and the food (a lot of world cuisines). Hotel rates go way up since Dec. 24, so we will stay away from the crowds.

Happy holidays and new year!


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