My cocktail had gone straight to my head and, weaving my way through the jostling casino crowds, I couldn’t help but reflect on the strange places that travelling can bring you to. It was Saturday night and, with only $300 separating me from a night on a possum-fouled park bench, I had been determined not to go out. However, despite my frugal intentions, two fellow travellers – Kate and Nav – on their last few days in Melbourne had eventually worn me down. I had rashly agreed to tag along on a Yarra Valley winery tour the next day. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. Later, with the finest Japanese curry $6.80 can buy warming our bellies, we decided to take a stroll over to South Bank to soak up the bright lights of the state’s biggest gambling den. With no dress code, even my frayed jeans and sandals didn’t make me the scruffiest person on the gaming floor nor, I imagine, the poorest. But I couldn’t help feeling a little out of place among the hard-eyed players, nonchalantly throwing the equivalent of my weekly spending money on the table without a second’s thought. If you join Crown Casino’s mailing list you get a voucher worth $5 to spend at any of the tables, the idea being that you will add some of your own money once the gambling bug has bitten. Our hostel address wasn’t permanent enough but Nav gave her brother’s Brisbane address and the overeager employee signed me up at the same place without asking. We mooched aimlessly around for over an hour, looking for a quiet table to place our gratis bet without too much embarrassment. We watched the poker for a while, marvelled at the dealers’ sleight of hand, witnessed the desperate determination of the pokie die-hards and browsed the inflated drinks menu. Most casinos don’t have any clocks on the gaming floor and before we realised, it was 11.30pm. It was time to blow our five big ones. “One chip?” asked the operator at the $2.50 roulette wheel. “Two, please,” I replied. I put one chip on 28 for the simple reason that it was my age and was leaning over to hedge the other between seven and eight when I spilled the drink of the guy sitting next to me. He was cool about it, but while I was apologising the croupier spun the wheel and all bets were off. As the wheel ticked to a stop I turned to the electronic display just in time to see the number 28 blink on at the top. “It’s me! Twenty-eight! It’s me!” I watched in disbelief as the croupier swept hundreds of dollars worth of chips down the drain leaving my little yellow beauty sitting on it’s own. She was creasing up. Here I was, some scruff bag backpacker, slouching up with my $5 voucher and winning first time, when most of the punters round the table had been there all evening. Being new to roulette, I had no idea how much to expect and was pleasantly surprised when the still smirking croupier conjured a respectable pile of chips in front of me. I was ecstatic. I had bagged $87.50 for absolutely nothing! Ten minutes later we sipping a Margarita and a White Russian, still hardly able to believe our luck. Even after the cocktails I went home with enough to pay for my trip the next day.