Gambling House or House of Chance
These are the relevant references from the Books where a Gambling House or House of Chance is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
"What is wrong, Mistress?" asked Midice.
"The guests have fled," she said.
I did not understand this, for the tables, the games, did not close until the early morning.
Did we not invite in the patrons, at the door, with our smiles, the glances over our shoulders, our fingers lightly touching our brands beneath the cloth, not silk, but rep cloth, for ours was a shabby den for its purposes. We served as the slaves we were in the wide low-ceilinged, ill-lit interior of the outer room. We would bring the gamesters Paga and ka-la-na, and platters of meat and bread, and cakes and sweets, to keep them at the tables. We pretended zestful enthusiasm for their playing, as if it might be our own. How we rubbed against them, so inadvertently, laughed, joked, touched their arms, and hands, applauded their boldness, pretended dismay at a loss, pretended chagrin and sorrow when they made to leave the tables. Rather they should choose and again match ostraka, hazard another turn of the wheel, another placement of the stones, another roll of the dice! We must serve our paga and ka-la-na modestly, of course, for the men must be kept at the games.
"Astrinax," said Menon, "is seeking slaves for a gambling house. It is one of several on the Street of Chance. In such a house, there are commonly slaves, beautiful slaves, to wait upon the men, to serve drinks and food, to contribute to the décor and pleasantness of the setting, to mingle with the patrons, to encourage betting, even to the point of recklessness."
"I see," I said.
"In the beginning," he said, "you would be a lesser slave, though not hard to look upon, and might assist the other girls."
"Yes, Master," I said. I was pleased, at least, to learn that I was not hard to look upon. Perhaps in such a place I might attract a man and win for myself a private master. I could make my choice judiciously, finding a fellow both handsome and strong, and, in such a place, quite possibly one of wealth. A girl has ways of course, of influencing a fellow to think of buying her.
It was lonely in my chains, at night. Sometime I clutched them, hurting my hands, in frustration, those metal fastenings on me so fixedly, and thrashed on my mat.
"I think I know the house," said Menon to Astrinax. "If it is the one I think it is, it is rumored to be dishonest."
"If so," smiled Astrinax, "I think our little Allison might fit in quite nicely."
I remembered my response to the question about the candy.
"Doubtless," said Menon.
I feared I had disappointed my master.
"You understand the sort of thing we have in mind, do you not, Allison?" asked Astrinax.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"Do you think you could well fulfill your duties in such a place?"
"Yes, Master," I said.
"I thought so," he said.
"Slaves, there," said Menon, "exist to loosen the strings on pouches, urge fellows to shower gold on the tables, to risk much, beyond reason, to pout and look away if there is evidence of hesitation or circumspection, to cry out in pleasure if an extra tarn disk is put in the plate, another card drawn, another flash of dice cast."
"Yes, Master," I said.
I did not see that that was my concern.
"Some will ply them with drink " he said, "and bring them food, to keep them at the tables."
"I understand," I said.
"You may be expected to do such things," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"And," said Astrinax, "you would be expected to do such things well, with an appearance of delight and enthusiasm. Do you think you could manage that?"
"Yes, Master," I said.
In such a place might one not secure a suitable master, perhaps even one rich, though, to be sure, I would hope to be his only slave.
"What was she?" asked the woman.
"A gambling-house girl," said the man.
"What is that?" asked the woman.
"A serving slave, a display slave, a lure slave, such things," he said. "They encourage men to drink, to eat, to spend, to wager, to linger at the tables, to draw further cards, to cast the dice just one last time, and such."
"The gambling," she said, "is not then done with lives, those of men and animals."
"Not in any obvious sense," said the man.
"I see," she said. And it sounded as though she dismissed the bouts of the spinning wheel, the shaken box, the buying of chances, the drawing of cards. The blood shed in such games is largely unseen, doubtless, but, I fear, it is there.
I did know that men bet on tarn races, which could be dangerous at the rings, sometimes a body broken, a limb lost, a wing torn away, and that some cared for arena sports, sword games. Tharlarion races were regularly held at Venna, and other towns. Sometimes, interestingly, fortunes were wagered on kaissa matches.
My hopes of acquiring a suitable master had been muchly dashed after the burning of the gambling house, and my translation, with that of my chain sisters, to the Tarsk Market. What suitable master would have recourse to such a market for a slave? One would hope to find then, if slaves at all, only pot girls, kettle-and-mat girls, she-tarsks, so to speak. I certainly did not consider myself a she-tarsk. I had been popular enough, and as a slave, in the gambling house. Its patrons had not found the former Allison Ashton-Baker, barefoot, collared, briefly and seductively tunicked, remiss as, or displeasing as, a slave. And how she had enjoyed the eyes of the men upon her, well understanding such appraisals as evidence of her value! The free woman is doubtless priceless, but the slave has an actual value, what men are willing to pay for her. My thoughts of a master had varied from time to time. Sometimes it seemed to me that I would like a weak master whom I might control, manage, and manipulate, rather as a typical female companion on my native world was accustomed, given the culture in question, to control, manage, and manipulate their male companions, rather to the unhappiness, distress, and frustration of both. Would it not be pleasant to be owned by a weak man, with whom one would be sure of having one's own way? To be sure, one must be careful. I would be in his collar, and there would be a whip on its peg. But I though, rather, I must be a true slave, as I wanted a true man, one who would lust after me with power, who would be satisfied with nothing less than owning me, wholly, one who would be to my slave a master, one who would have me kneel before him, naked and collared, perhaps chained, my head to his feet, one who would own me, unequivocally. I wanted to be his, his property, a helpless object, goods, possessed by him, in all the fullness of law, in all the fullness of culture, in all the fullness of nature. I supposed then that I must be in my heart a slave, one radically female, and needful. To such a man I would have no choice but to submit, and wholly, and to such a man I longed to submit, and wholly. It was in the collar of such a man I wanted to be; it was the collar of such a man I longed to wear. It was the touch of such a man which would make me weak and helpless, a yielding, submitted slave. It was the touch of such a man which would set me afire. It was the touch of such a man for which I would beg. But, alas, how can one's slave be satisfied, as in the lament of so many women of my world, where one has no master?
I remembered the kitchen of the eating house. There at least, from time to time, men would put me in their hands, and do astonishing things to me, which left me in no doubt as to my bondage. Too, in the gambling house, though seldom, for we were not to distract the men from the tables, I was put to a customer's pleasure, usually when it was feared he might be on the point of leaving. At such times a copper tarsk was often put in my mouth, to be retrieved by the customer when done with me, a tarsk which might be redeemed for tarsk-bits, to be spent on the tables, tarsk-bits which might, soon, result in the loss of tarsks, even of silver.
Then I recalled that Astrinax, now with the caravan, long ago, had arranged my purchase from Menon, on behalf of the gambling house. I recalled both Astrinax and Menon had thought I would be a good buy for such a place, a girl willing to wheedle and smile, to pretend to emotions of excitement and enthusiasm, one who could adroitly feign dismay and sympathy, one who would ply customers with drink, urge them to remain at the tables, encourage them to recklessness in wagering, though it might lead to the loss of estates and honor, to shame, vagrancy, and destitution.
"You are familiar with card-sport from the gambling house, are you not," he asked.
"No," I said. "I did not know those games. Some were played at tables in the back."
There are different decks of cards, containing different numbers of cards, with different markings, and such. The most common deck of cards is thick, and contains a hundred cards. For the most part there is little standardization on Gor, and many things differ from city to city. One game does tend to be standardized, or relatively standardized, however, and that is kaissa. The kaissa of Turia is apparently identical with that of Ar, and that with that of Port Kar, Ko-ro-ba, Anango, Tabor, the island ubarates, and so on. This probably has to do with the Sardar Fairs. As you know there is literally a caste of Players, generally itinerant, which makes its living by "the Game." The charge for a game can range from a tarsk-bit, which is common, to a golden tarn disk, of double weight. Important kaissa players are celebrities, welcomed in a hundred cities, and entertained at the courts of Ubars. They have a status comparable to that of conquerors and poets.
"Was the card-sport honest in the gambling house?" asked he in whose care I was.
"I do not think so," I said.
"No more than other games?"
"One guesses not," I said.
"You seem to know little of it," he said.
"I am a slave," I said.
Such things were managed by the masters. They were seldom made clear to slaves. Our concern was to keep men at the tables.
"Perhaps you are curious as to why you have been ordered to report here," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"It has to do with your experience in the house of chance, in Ar," he said.
"I was only a serving slave, an entertainment slave," I said. "My role, and that of the others, was primarily to keep men at the games."
"While your masters ruined them," he said.
"They were free to leave whenever they wished," I said.
"But perhaps their luck would change," he said. "And how, if they left now, could they recoup their losses? And might their departure not dismay the pretty kajira who has been so delightedly and enthusiastically at their side encouraging them to spin or choose once again, and then again, one sharing so sympathetically in their fortunes? Could they, if they were to leave, brave that tiny exclamation of disappointment, a pout from such pretty lips, a turning aside to another fellow, one of greater interest?"
"Master has been in such a house," I said.
"Perhaps," he said.
I looked up him. I felt myself his slave. I wanted to be his slave. Then I put my head down. "Master has suggested that my presence here has to do with my having served in the house of chance, in Ar," I said.
"Do you remember my concern with cards?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"You served in a house of chance," he said.
"Until it was burned, and I, and others, were sold in the Tarsk Market."
"That seems a suitable place to sell one such as you," he said.
"Doubtless," I said.
"In the house of chance," he said, "there were games involving cards, were there not?"
"In the back of the large room, at the far tables," I said, "but I did not attend on those tables. Most of us attended on the gaming tables, with the wheels, and the dice where most of the men were."
"But you must have heard things," he said.
"One always hears things," I said, warily.
"I am not an investigating magistrate," he said, "with a rack in the next room."
"I understand," I said.
"Presumably," he said, "those gambling on behalf of the house would wish to have some advantage in the matter."
"Otherwise," I said, "they might lose money, unintentionally."
"Unintentionally? " he smiled.
"It is important," I said, "for the patron to win occasionally, else he might abandon the game, or grow suspicious."
"And how," he asked, "does the house obtain its advantage? Are there apertures in the ceiling through which an accomplice, perhaps with a glass, might somehow signal the house's player, are there loitering observers nearby, in a position to read cards, and convey signals?"
"I do not think so," I said.
"The advantage then," he said, "lies in the cards themselves."
"That is my understanding," I said. "But I did not personally, attend on the far tables."
"There would be calls for new decks, sealed decks," he said.
"I think that decks were prepared, and then sealed," I said.
"The house's player could recognize the nature and value of an opponent's card from the back " he said.
"There were intricate designs on the back of the cards," I said, "apparently identical on each card."
"But not identical," he said, "for those who knew what to look for."
"I think the differences were subtle," I said, "very subtle."
"May I see it?" I asked.
I took the deck of cards in my hand, and moved the cards about a little. I detected no slips of paper hidden amongst the cards, nor anything on the cards that was foreign to the expected designs and markings. As far as I could tell, it was a normal deck of cards. Perhaps, I thought, there is nothing more here than what appears to be here. Might this not be innocent? Perhaps Kleomenes had expressed an interest in play, which interest had come to the attention of Desmond of Harfax, who had somehow located and supplied a suitable means for exploring this interest? Certainly they knew one another from the time of the caravan. Kleomenes had been twice at a camp of ours, when we first met him and his hunters, and, second, when he had visited us after his hunt, the night the tharlarion had been driven away. The one difference in this deck of cards from the deck which I had earlier seen in the keeping of Desmond of Harfax was the attractive speckling on the edges of the deck, a sort of design with which I was familiar from the house of chance.
I did know that messages were somehow conveyed in some decks of cards, but, as far as I could tell, this was an ordinary deck. It did have the speckling about the edges of the deck, which I had seen in the Cave, but I had seen such cards, as well, in the house of chance. Indeed, many decks came decorated, in one fashion or another.
"You have had too much to drink " he said.
"You followed me from the gambling house," I said.
"You lost heavily," he said. "Perhaps tonight you will feed from the garbage troughs."
"Perhaps," I said. "Who are you?"
The Gambling House of the Golden Urt, managed by the 'Three Ubaras', was on Garland Street in Sybaris. Its reputation, as I noted earlier, was unsavory. There was much suspicion of fraudulent play.
I looked about. The lamp-it premises were large. In the crowded room there were more than two dozen tables devoted to various games of chance. Many dealt with colored placards or marked stones. There are several such games. Two tables were devoted to the 'Which-Cup?' game, in which one guesses beneath which of three cups a tarsk-bit may be found. Once the tarsk-bit is placed, the cups are rapidly shifted about, making it difficult to determine beneath which cup the tarsk-bit now resides. A skilled game master can, by sleight of hand, should he be so minded, remove the tarsk-bit from the cup and, if challenged, seem to retrieve it from beneath a different cup. There were also 'Urn Games', playable for different amounts. In these games, one generally draws marked ostraca from an urn, with one result or another. In one 'Urn Game', even numbers of red and black ostraca are placed in an empty urn. One chooses a color and then, if one draws two ostraca of that color from the urn, one doubles one's money. In such an arrangement the odds are clearly unfavorable to the player who, mathematically, has only one chance in four of winning. But such considerations are often unlikely to deter the zealous gambler. In gambling, more seems to be involved than mathematics, probability, and rationality. Who would not be pleased to receive two tarsk-bits for one tarsk-bit, or two gold staters for one gold stater?
"There seems no clue here," said Thurnock, "as to where the corsairs will strike next."
"It seems not," I said.
At one wall, to the left as one would enter, there were low tables, and, nearby, behind them, a counter at which light foods, paga, and ka-la-na might be obtained. At gambling houses, unlike taverns, free women, if escorted, were welcome. Might not they be parted from their money as well as their male counterparts? There is little economic point in neglecting possible sources of revenue. At the opposite wall, there were some curtained thresholds behind which slaves might be kept. These were not permitted on the floor during business hours, in deference to free women. It is a rare gambling house on Gor which does not contain certain aspects of the restaurant, tavern, and brothel. I did note three free women, unescorted, presumably the 'Three Ubaras', mingling with the customers, doubtless listening and chatting, making fellows feel at home, putting them at ease, calling attention to the house's amenities, and, one supposes, encouraging play.