Gambling ruins whatever life you have
Hello, my name is the Digital Slob, and I have a gambling problem.
For the most part, mine is a typical story you could hear on any Super Saver bus ride back from Vegas.
At first, I basked in beginner's luck at low-stakes Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments. I never saw a flop I didn't like. Casino regulars would get up from the table in a huff, cursing my name. Some refused to play with me.
Then I got arrogant.
I set my sights on high-stakes games. Those people don't blink. My bluffs were useless. I lost. And lost again. Then I really lost.
Now I've got to face my situation. When you've got news like this, I guess it's best just to come right out with it directly:
I lost $19.10 -- in Second Life.
Oh, you scoff? I suppose you think that's hardly a crippling amount of debt, but in this particular multiplayer online 3D community of avatars, that's more than 5,000 "lindens" (the in-game currency).
That's enough for a down payment on a virtual Porsche. Not quite enough for the virtual insurance and virtual extended warranty, but you get my point.
If those numbers don't impress you, perhaps these will. Reuters News Service (which now has its own bureau inside Second Life, by the way) reports SL casinos rake in more than 3 million lindens (that's $11,000+) a month. One SL casino owner claims he's seen pots on his tables (or at least on scripts of computer code shaped like tables) equivalent to $940. And, for small fees, users can easily convert lindens back to actual dollars.
Unlike most online gaming sites, Second Life casinos are part of an entire three-dimensional universe, almost as social as the real thing. Plus, the bathroom's a lot closer if you need to go between hands.
What makes SL casinos really stand out, however, are the real live pit bosses who stand nearby in case something goes wrong.
But wait, isn't online gambling illegal? Well, "yes" and "no." Well, more like "yes, but the FBI is probably still training agents on how to use Windows 95."
In 2006, Congress banned the use of credit cards in the U.S. for pure online gambling sites. But in Second Life, you can still use your Visa to get virtually rich quick, and then flaunt your bling any way you want, from buying a mansion to an island to a leather-clad fantasy slave who charges by the hour to a seat at a poker table.
And though this virtual world vows to adhere to any orders from the real Washington, the feds have yet to draw any official conclusions about whether Second Life activity has first-life legal consequences. Some speculate that they'll jump on the case next March, right after they raid every NCAA office pool in the country.
Of course, just like anything fun that's taken to excess (food, alcohol, Paris Hilton trials) gambling can leave you with a soul-crushing aftertaste. Take the advice of someone who now must earn 5,000 lindens before his virtual bookie (a flame-spitting gargoyle in a Hugh Hefner bathrobe) comes to collect.
Maybe the Leather-Clad Slave Outfit Emporium has something in my avatar's size.