After 52 weeks straight of going home empty handed, someone will at last leave Phnom Penh’s Walkabout Hotel nearly $25,000 richer.
Tonight marks the end of the hotel and bar’s so-called Joker Draw game, which has lured an unlikely gathering of players from heads of NGOs to local waiters vying for the $24,856 jackpot.
“There is definitely a buzz. It’s a big thing for Phnom Penh,” Walkabout owner Glenn Press said yesterday of the jackpot, a sum that easily dwarfs the annual salary of many in the capital.
The game consists of 53 playing cards, a full deck plus one joker, tacked facedown in a locked display case. Every Friday night patrons buy numbered tickets whose stubs are placed and mixed together. Whoever holds the winning ticket drawn out of the bunch gets the chance to turn over one card. If it is the joker, the player wins the accumulating jackpot. Different cards, such as kings and aces, fetch other prizes.
While the probability of flipping over the correct card out of a deck of 53 is less than 2 percent, the odds of getting to the correct card only the last draw are under 2 percent.
But that is what has happened at the Walkabout over the last 52 weeks, and now there is only one card still face down inside the glass cabinet.
Over the weeks, the jackpot has increased and increased to the massive amount it is now.
“It’s beyond belief that it gets to one card left,” Mr Press said. He added since the game first started in January 2001, the previously lowest number of remaining cards unturned was four.
Mr Press said the winnings would likely be transferred to the winner’s bank account or handed over in person during an arranged meeting.
The co-owner of Phnom Penh’s Alley Cat Café, who gave his name only as Dallas, is one of the unlucky players who turned over a losing card a few weeks back. Dallas, who declined to give his last name, said he has played in the past but may keep his distance tonight.
“It’s just so crowded there,” he said. “I’ll go down and buy some tickets and sit next door where it is comfortable.”
As for his recent chance to win the jackpot, he stressed the memory is not a pleasant one.
“I wish I hadn’t even gotten the draw,” he said between drags from a cigarette. “I would have been happy if at least it was an ace.”