Know when to fold your cards for a better Tết

January 28, 2024 - 10:34
The Lunar New Year brings good vibes to most, but with it also can come bad vices. One of which, is the prevalence of gambling during traditional festivals or family meetings.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

Anh Đức

Tết, or Lunar New Year holiday, is famed for the colour red, for flowers, for festivities, and for the scent of new beginnings hanging in the air.

The Lunar New Year brings good vibes to most, but with it also can come bad vices. One of which, is the prevalence of gambling during traditional festivals or family meetings.

It is unknown when and why the traditions of gambling in Tết holidays started, and the earliest documentation of the vice was written 200 years ago in Trịnh Hoài Đức's Gia Định thành thống chí (Records of Gia Định City).

"From the day when the New Year pole is erected till the day it is taken down, every household enjoys playing card games for money, with no restrictions," the book says.

Today, despite the illegality, gambling still happens, either secretly at home or blatantly in the yards of village festivals.

When asked why they gamble during Tết, many say "Well, if I win the game, it means luck for me for the entire year."

But there are two facts that every gambler should know: for every winner, there must be a loser; and only the banker, the croupier or the gambling organizer always wins.

In common card games played in Tết, the rules clearly state that there can be only one winner. Sometimes, the winner can win triple the bet of the losers, and the losers can lose more than they intended.

Moreover, the croupier can rig common dice games and coin-flips for their advantage, using multiple high-tech tools to steal money from gamblers. For those games, the odds are no longer fifty-fifty but rather a 100-0 to the croupier, who are in control and can choose who wins.

Therefore, any gambler must face the consequence of losing, and if losing means bad luck, why would he even want to gamble at Tết?

Scientific research shows that gambling, despite the lack of chemical ingestion, generates excitement much like drugs and alcohol. When you win a bet, or a game of chance, your body generates dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness that is part of the human brain's reward mechanism.

But according to the Australian organisation Gambler's Help, "When we gamble often, our brain gets used to the dopamine, which makes that winning feeling more and more difficult to achieve. Consequently, we may have to gamble more and more to feel the same level of pleasure."

And the situation gets much worse if you are on a losing streak. The games you once thought were "for fun" become a battle to reclaim what you have lost. A few hundred soon become thousands, and thousands became millions, and all of a sudden some are left ridden with huge debt, right at the start of a new year.

The aftermath, for a gambler, mostly spells doom and gloom. As losses ultimately mean debt, they may even engage in other crimes such as burglary to get their money back.

For others who still hold their morality, they are sometimes pushed to the edge and succumb to mental issues such as depression. The most desperate ones even resort to more drastic measures, such as suicide.

As with other vices, gamblers often carry the thought that everything is too late to come back and that their brains cannot get rid of this addiction. However, as ridiculously simple as it may seem, everything starts with a thought in the right direction: "Enough is enough!"

If you are a problem gambler, the first thing you need to do is to cut off your connections with gambling: whether it's an online app, a website, or even gambling groups of friends.

Tell a close friend whom you can trust, or seek counselling if possible. Try to fill your calendar with exciting activities, so that the urges of gambling can go away.

If you know someone who gambles a lot, please first be a listener, not a judge, and try to show them a better path in life.

The Year of the Dragon, a mythical creature related to luck and wealth, is coming soon. Let us all start the year with actual luck, and not a hefty amount of debt or a mental issue stemming from the scourge of gambling. VNS