Monday, December 3, 2007

Games of Chance--Part #2

Some people claim that when they play games of chance they do so only after they have logically analyzed all the odds and appraised their chances of winning at any particular game. They are truly the minority. Most people "play with their eyes" not with their brains.

Casino floors are filled with a huge array of colorful machines, all designed and positioned to be attractive to those who come to play them. Yet, not all machines are the same.

Some offer an assortment of "bells and whistles" to attract players. There are catchy musical compositions playing. There are "cute" cartoonish characters prominently displayed. There are multiple bonus games advertised. These machines scream "fun, fun, fun!" loud and clear. And obviously some players hear the message. They are drawn to the machines by the outside trappings.

Some machines cash in on popular cultural phenomena, such as daytime television shows or first-run movies. You may not have starred in the Batman movies, but you can "star" on the Batman slot machine. Players are, in a sense, pre-programmed through prior exposure to find these machines attractive. This is what society values so you value it too.

Some machines are starkly simple in their presentation. These machines say "serious business." Whereas some players would avoid the "bells and whistles" machines as being an obvious ploy to attract, they see the "plainer" machines as being a more solid "investment" for their money. There are fewer players drawn to these machines then to the more vividly presented ones, and yet the results are the same.

Some machines attract because they "only" cost a penny; others attract because they cost $1, so are clearly a "better" bet. The reasoning is that things in the outside world that cost $1 are "better" then things that only cost one cent.

In the end, however, all slot machines have one thing in common: they are designed so that the casino will make money and the gamblers probably won't. Occasionally a bettor will score a big win; most do not. and the wins are purely accidental. The rules that govern these machines are not slanted in favor of the player.

At first players are excited about the machines; they truly believe they are going to win. A few seats away from them someone suddenly yells and the sound of $50 dropping into the tray is heard. Wow! everyone around them goes, and they go back to their own machines with renewed effort. "That person is no different from me," they think. They win $5, but $5 is not enough when there is the possibility of $10,000 there. So the $5 gets put back into the machine. Two hours later they get up in disgust, having lost $100. And yet they don't blame the casino system--the machine was cold, or it was the wrong time, or they are not wearing their lucky t-shirt, or they didn't push the buttons just right. And despite their disgust for now, they will be back again in a few hours.

Sometimes the players decide that they have been playing the wrong type of machine, or the wrong monetary denomination. They walk around the floor of the casino, find a "better" type of machine, and in goes the money once again.

Despite their losses, these players continue to play slot machines. They develop elaborate systems of rules and regulations to guarantee themselves a big win. If one type of slot machine isn't good for them they simply change to another type. They never consider that maybe, just maybe, it is slot machines as a whole that are the problem. If everyone else is playing slot machines, then they, too, will play slot machines. It doesn't matter if they are bored, it doesn't matter if they get angry at all the money spent with nothing to show for it, it doesn't matter if they think the whole thing is a waste of time. They came to the casino to win and they are going to win or die trying.

What do slot machines have to do with shidduchim? Slot machines are designed so that players don't have to do much thinking, if any. All they have to do is sit down, put in their money, and push the buttons. If they follow the rules posted on the machines then they have a chance at a win. Some people in shidduchim are "playing" by slot machine rules.

Shidduchim shouldn't be about luck--they should be about brains. There cannot possibly be one set of "rules and regulations" that will fit everyone who is looking for a spouse. If you can't find what you are looking for when "playing" one kind of "slot machine" the answer is not to find another type of machine;their outside appearances may differ somewhat, but they are all the same on the inside. The answer is to stop looking at slot machines. There are lots of ways in the world to come out a "big winner." Persisting with one way in which you have had no success, despite the "odds" against your winning, is to throw your "money" down a hole.

And yet, casinos are full of people playing slot machines, and our communities are full of people "playing" the shidduch game. Both are following all the rules; both are sure they will come out a big winner; both will not "settle" for a "mere" win of $50 or $100 or $125 dollars when they "know" that tomorrow that $10,000 will easily slide into their pockets. Both refuse to recognize that they may be "playing" the wrong "game." It is the few, the very few, who eyeball the "machines" and say "enough!" When the rules are set up not in your favor it's time to either change the rules or move on to a different "game."