Category: Lucky Destinations

Is this the Luckiest Casino in the World?

In the Asian gambling mecca of Macau, the Wynn Resort’s lucky streak has been going on for so long that it’s left many gaming industry watchers baffled. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch website, the Wynn Macau has been defying the odds in high-roller baccarat.  The resort’s baccarat winning percentage, otherwise known as the “hold rate,” has been abnormally high for nine straight quarters. So high, in fact, that Credit Suisse has labeled it a “supernormal win percentage.”

None of this, however, means that gamblers playing at the Wynn are getting any luckier. Rather, it’s the casino that’s making out like a bandit. Its 3.6% hold rate on VIP baccarat translates to an additional $80.25 million in gross revenues during the quarter. For all the details, click HERE. But be warned: even if you play baccarat better than Agent 007, you may need an MBA to fully understand the financial minutiae of this article.

–Kevin

Luck Milanese Style

Luck Milanese Style

Out Magazine recently traveled to Milan with up-and-coming male model Travis Hanson to chronicle his adventures during Milan fashion week. Although Travis has appeared in numerous international fashion magazines, he didn’t get booked for any shows in Milan this time around. However, this gave him an opportunity to explore the city and discover one of its luckiest spots — an ornate mosaic of a bull in the middle of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of Milan’s most picturesque tourist spots.

Luck Milanese Style

According to local custom, you’re supposed to put your heel on the bull’s testicles and spin around three times for good luck. This custom has become so popular with locals and tourists alike that over the decades, a hole has formed over the spot.

Luck Milanese Style

Part of the fun is watching the Milanese do it so elegantly–simply twirling their foot on the spot and continuing nonchalantly on their way as if nothing ever happened. Check out the video of Travis’ Milan exploits and lucky spin HERE. Hopefully he will remember to do it on his next trip before trying out for the shows.

–Kevin

(Photos top to bottom by Daniel D’Ottavio, Mike Bond, and Flamegirl.)

From Russia With Luck

From Russia With Luck

Feeling Shitty for the Sake of What Might or Might Not Be Luck

It was a Thursday in mid-October, National Boss Day in the U.S., to be exact. But it didn’t matter. I don’t have a boss. And, we were in Moscow, Russia, and hauling ass toward Red Square to see Lenin’s tomb, which closed at 1pm. We needed to see the stuffed and waxed dictator. When we arrived at Resurrection Gate, through which I could see the large expanse (400m x 150m) of Red Square, the high end GUM shopping center on the left and the considerable battlement walls of the Kremlin on the right, it was 12:20, and we had some time to kill.  Just outside the colorful gate, there were people throwing what seemed to be money.  More precisely, there were people taking turns standing on a circular inscribed bronze tablet embedded in the cobbles[1] and tossing the items, most often with a smile and cameras flashing, demurely over their shoulder, as if to say “Not that I believe this works or anything,” or, “Now I can say I’ve done it, on to St. Basil’s,” or “I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, but everyone else is doing it, and when in Russia…”

Being curious travelers, my friends and I stopped and watched. One tall woman with long blond hair took to the plaque in jeans and high boots and smiled before throwing something glinty over her shoulder. Before it hit the ground, and in confirmation that this was in fact money, and not say crumpled tinfoil, several babushkas, who had been standing quietly behind her, suddenly broke out in a flurry of activity and fought to catch the item in midair. When they failed, the group bent down in their coats like a crowd of pigeons over breadcrumbs, scrambling wildly for the tossed change.

This action seemed akin to throwing money in a well, but maybe there was something more beneficent about it than just having a wish granted. Also, there was the problem of the money not hitting the ground sometimes, which, if this had to do with making wishes, would seem instrumental to sealing the deal. If some babushka catches your coin, does the wish not come true? Or, does the bestowing of the wish get reassigned somehow to the babushka who caught your instrument of aspiration, so that she walks off with the tired bookish-looking guy you’ve been eying since you stepped out of Teatralnaya Metro instead of you?

I walked up to Stalin (well a man dressed up like Stalin who was charging to have pictures taken with him) to find some answers. I was wary of getting too close him, afraid that by being in his vicinity, he would charge me for time spent with Stalin, picture or no.  He turned away from Napoleon. I didn’t speak Russian and he didn’t speak English. I spoke to him in Serbo-Croatian (SC), another Slavic language, which I kind of know, and which kind of got me by in some situations in Russia before, barely. We resorted to broken English and what I think are very communicative and effective internationally understood hand gestures.  He said “For love” and lifted his shoulders, eyes and hands upward. “Em…for good…future,” he adlibbed and waved his right hand in front of him as if he were unrolling a scroll. “For luck?” I asked. “Svetno?” (which means luck in SC). He gave me an empty look. I nodded my head as if to say, “I understand, don’t worry,” though I firmly believed that he had either no idea what this tradition that occurred before him every day was about, he simply didn’t care, or he might suddenly become more clear for a few rubles. I almost wondered if someone had made up this tradition as an apparatus, albeit a poorly devised one, for fundraising. But faux Stalin basically confirmed in a vague sort of way the vague notions I had about this tradition: that there’s nothing more interesting to it than tossing salt over your shoulder, except that you can’t make other people move for salt. That’s not altogether uninteresting or unilluminating given that wishing wells that I’m inured to are heavy with neglected coins.

It seemed apropos in a week in which the Dow Jones had its largest and second largest point drop in its history. I wondered whether I should toss money, or join the ersatz numismatists. I decided to toss a kopek, the most worthless unit of money I had on me. It was an utterly joyless moment. I cringed as my friend took a picture of me and had this moment fixed on celluloid. I had no reason for doing it and felt badly about the movement behind me when my kopek sailed through the airspace near Red Square. I didn’t want whatever was the result of this activity.

My friends and I moved on to the tomb. We were nearly turned away at the gate by an officer who told us that Lenin’s tomb was closed, though it was clearly indicated that it was open for another half hour.  Within moments, we were approached by a man who offered to take us on a “private tour” for 700 rubles (roughly $25). This would enable us to get in, even though it was “closed.” I guess this was lucky in a twisted kind of way. Whether or not luck was the result of my flying kopek, I’ll never know. I was divested of my vest at a banya, swindled out of twenty bucks at a small-town bank outside Moscow, and charged $50 dollars more than locals at the Marinsky Theater. But provided that I was also given a ride at night by a strange young girl after being dropped off by a bus in a small town in the black of night, and walked to destinations I was seeking by generous strangers I called our “travel angels,” I was open to whatever odd brand of “fortune” came my way.

–Rozalia Jovanovic

[1] Which I later found out, via Fodor’s, marks kilometer zero for the Russian highway system.

(Photos by Rozalia Jovanovic.)

Exam Day Luck

It’s July, and while most students in the U.S. have been working on their summer tan, hundreds of thousands of students in Vietnam are sweating through their university entrance exams. But before this happens, Hanoi’s 938-year-old Temple of Literature (above) is jammed with thousands of stressed out students hoping to pass their exams. The Temple is Vietnam’s oldest university, and students come here to burn incense, pray for luck, and touch the heads of the eighty-two sacred stone turtles that represent past university laureates, hoping that some of their good luck will rub off.

Many students also participate in the exam day ritual of eating a “lucky breakfast” consisting of green beans, since the Vietnamese word for bean is also the same word for pass. With 1.8 million candidates taking the test every year and only three hundred thousand places available in Vietnam’s universities, hopefuls need every bit of luck they can get. In a country where two thirds of the people are under the age of 30, Vietnam is struggling to cope with the growing pains of a population that demands to be educated. To read more about this issue, click HERE.

–Kevin

(Top photo by Sean Madden, bottom photo by AFP.)

Happy Birthday to a Lucky Bridge

On this day in 1357, the construction of the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, was kicked off. What makes this a significant date in the world of luck is the fact that this bridge was designed, from the beginning, to be lucky. The original Charles Bridge had been destroyed in the devastating flood of 1342, so much care was taken by King Charles IV to ensure that the new, replacement bridge could withstand future floodwaters. He consulted his astrologers, who deemed that it would be most auspicious for the foundation stone of the new bridge to be laid in 1357 on the 9th of July at exactly 5:31 a.m., a date that forms a palindrome (135797531).

A number of lucky legends concerning the bridge have emerged over the centuries. It is said that special lucky ingredients of eggs, milk, and flour were added to the mortar to give it extra strength, and that every statue added to the bridge subsequently was also fortified with these ingredients. Another legend relates to the statue of St John of Nepomunk, the oldest statue on the bridge. Supposedly, St John was murdered on the orders of King Wenceslaus after he refused to tell the king about the content of the queen’s weekly confession. His body was thrown into the Vltava River, and at the precise moment his body hit the water, five stars appeared in the night sky and could be seen for miles around. (This is why the statue of St John is depicted with a halo of five stars around his head.) There is a brass plaque that depicts this moment underneath the statue, and since the ancient bridge has become Prague’s most popular tourist destination, it has become customary for the thousands of tourists visit the bridge every day to rub the plaque for good luck.

There seems, however, to be a little disagreement as to where precisely one should rub. Some advise rubbing St John’s carved body on the plaque, while others say that one should rub the carving of a dog next to it. Later this month, I will be traveling to Prague and will visit the bridge to conduct a few rubbing experiments and separate fact from fiction. Stay tuned for the full report.

–Kevin

(Photo by Bruno Girin)