Friday, December 23, 2005

Lady Luck – Come All Ye Faithful

One of the few times when I truly feel the power of faith is when I’m gambling. Not before I gamble, or after I gamble, but during the actual act of gambling.

That’s when I become a True Believer in Lady Luck. When I have a lottery ticket, I BELIEVE I’m going to win, and I’m disappointed when I lose. It depresses me, as if I actually had a chance. Because of this, I stopped buying lottery tickets.

When I put money in a slot machine, I BELIEVE that I’m going to hit the jackpot. I usually don’t, but sometimes I do.

A horse, especially the long shot, is going to beat the odds and I’ll walk away with a nice wad of cash. I usually don’t, but sometimes I do.

I have faith, even though when I step back my logical mind tells me that gambling is a bad investment – at least most of the time.

Fortunately I have a personality trait that trumps my faith in Lady Luck – I’m cheap. So I don’t gamble very much.

A couple times a year we gamble at the local casino and make it a social occasion. Once a year we go to the horse races when they come to the county fair. I have a lot of faith when betting on mules, because my sloppy methodology is probably as good as any other method. Mules don’t follow rigid rules. (I respect them for that.)

Once a week I visit the local casino for business purposes. When I do so, I gamble whatever change I have in my pocket, or whatever quarters are rolling around on my car’s floor. That means I usually gamble $1 to $3.

Today I walked in the casino with exactly $1.25 in quarters. I found a 25 cent slot machine and deposited three quarters. I always bet the maximum (75 cents, or whatever I have left in my pocket) because that’s the only way that you can win the BIG jackpot. I pulled the lever and lost.

Then I put in the remaining 50 cents, pulled the lever and won $10! For a moment I was logical and grabbed a bucket to cash out.

That’s when I was overcome with faith. Hallelujah! Lady Luck was in the house!

I started hitting the “maximum bet” button and the wheels turned and turned as I watched my $10 in credits nearly disappear. But each time the wheels turned, it looked as if I was SOOOOOO close to winning.

Very close. Almost there. One more and I could win. Half an inch higher and the jackpot is mine.

The credits dwindled and I was close to losing $10. I began to wonder whether I should have cashed out.

Then it hit again and I was up $10! This time I did the smart thing – I cashed out. $10 worth of quarters filled my bucket and I reached for them and stood up and got ready to leave.

Before walking away, I decided to drop another 75 cents in the machine – it was a lucky machine, perhaps inhabited by a deity that was friendly to me, or at least sympathetic. I lost, again. Then another 75 cents. Nothing.

I decided it was all or nothing – I would sacrifice my credits to the gambling gods. I sat down and starting dumping my winnings back into the machine. My bucket was now nearly empty and I began to getting that nagging feeling that I had really blown it.

I had won $10, lost $10 and then had been miraculously given a second chance to walk away when I won the second $10. Instead, I was squandering it. I began to feel like a dumb ass.

Then, something happened. I hit a combination of characters that made the machine beep and my credits inched upward to $20. Wow! But there was more. One of the characters promised a “free spin,” or something like that, so the machine spun again and there was another jackpot. Then it spun again. Another jackpot. And another. And another.

The machine was beeping and my credits climbed.

Lady Luck – my sweet, satisfying mistress – had turned $1.25 into $60. I hit the “cash out” button and watched the bucket fill with quarters. The cashier converted the quarters into three crisp $20 bills.

The cashier is located in the back of the casino, so you have to weave your way through a maze of slot machines and card tables to find the exit.

Oh, the temptation.

If five quarters can be transformed into three Andrew Jacksons, imagine what could be done with $60. Maybe I could sell the business and buy a small island in the South Pacific.

I made it to the door, left the casino and did a little Christmas shopping.

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