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Altered states26 March 2012
In the 1980's film, Altered States, based on the novel by Paddy Chayefsky, the hero scientist discovers that there is more than one state of reality and that our consciousness can go back in genetic time and also to the edge of infinity. It's an interesting premise.
Such a condition, in a far more moderate way, can be said to exist among many players who participate in casino gambling. I remember walking through the casino with a writer friend of mine who said, "I'm looking around and a lot of these people seem to be somewhere else."
I asked him what he meant. "They just seem to exist in another place," he responded.
I knew what he was talking about. Looking out over the tables, checking the slot aisles, peering into the baccarat room, it was hard to miss that many players were indeed in their own states of altered consciousness. The real world, the flesh and the devil were nowhere to be experienced. Only one thing existed, the game they played.
Certainly not all the players were in an altered state of consciousness. Some were moaning their losses to whomever would listen; some were bragging about their wins to whomever would listen; but enough players were totally uninterested in other players' losses or wins, as these players seemed to be "out of it" in the best meaning of that phrase. "Out of it" meant "into themselves."
So my friend and I decided to do a little non-scientific experiment. We'd ask people what they felt while they were playing their favorite casino games. Would they agree that a kind of altered state of consciousness existed or would they look at the two of us as a pair of nuts? (Or both?)
At the blackjack table, one man had this to say: "I play the game to relax. The dealer sets the pace and it is like a dance. This person plays a hand; the next person plays a hand; the dealer finally plays a hand, and you start all over again. Time flies; I rarely know how long I've been at the table. So you could say that time goes away in some way."
A couple of other blackjack players said basically the same thing as this fellow. All agree that if the dealer got into a rhythm and the other players were knowledgeable in basic strategy, the game flowed in a way that time became almost meaningless.
Craps players had a somewhat different version of their internal state during a game. Paul from Minnesota explained his feelings: "On a good roll, you do lose a sense of time as the shooter rolls number after number. But on short rolls, time drags as you lose your money. So when things are going well, you kind of feel that time is pushed aside but when you are getting hammered, real time stretches and it is not pleasant."
Craps players who have had long rolls of 40 or more numbers seem to agree that they went into an altered state of consciousness where time seemed to slow down. Recently, one shooter Charlie "Sandtrap", a Golden Touch craps player, had a 90-number roll at Trump Marina in Atlantic City, the sixth longest roll since I've been keeping records. He appeared to be in a solitary state of consciousness. He didn't seem to know other players were at the table.
Now, those other players cheered or encouraged him but Sandtrap just stayed in what many craps players call "the zone," which is a concentrated form of consciousness. His is probably the most pronounced altered state of consciousness owing to the length of his roll.
Slot players also seem to go into a profoundly altered state of consciousness. Tracy said, "When I am playing the slots, within about fifteen minutes, I just get lost in the machine. I am in a state of mind that I don't know what is happening around me. I mean, a tornado could probably take the roof off the casino and I wouldn't even notice it."
Other slot players also agreed that playing the machines had a completely relaxing effect on them. One said, "The world goes out the window when I am playing the slots. I think about nothing. It's like meditating I would guess."
Maureen from New Jersey stated: "I don't even know if winning or losing money is ultimately why I play the machines. I think it might just have to do with going into another world, free from all the problems of everyday life. I don't know if other slot players experience this but that is my experience."
Roulette players seemed to have the only experiences that did not reflect any kind of altered state of consciousness. Explained Larry of San Diego, "When the table is full, people push and shove a little to get their bets in. So you are aware of other people. It is not relaxing. But when you are alone or with only one of two other players, you can get into a relaxed state, but I wouldn't call it a different level of consciousness."
Nancy said, "I try to avoid the crowded tables because the other players tend to annoy me so the only altered state I feel is anger. I go midweek when the tables are less crowded but I never feel anything different than I normally do."
Obviously, interviewing a few people is not the height of scientific surveys, but I think there is definitely something to the idea that playing casino games can get you into a state of mind that is radically different from your every day consciousness -- except for some roulette players who seem to get more angst than altered state.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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