Life Matters

I can win at Solitaire

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I will admit to having a slight interest in gambling. It started when I was a younger adult always on the lookout for activities to do with my brother who was multiply disabled. Conway Tours ran a trip to Foxwoods for a mere $10, which was a huge bargain according to my super frugal mom. We would get a nice bus ride to the casino, have a free buffet lunch, and then $10 with which to gamble.

We loved the variety of foods at the buffet, and would languish there for hours nibbling and sampling everything, a favorite activity for my brother. (He chose to nibble the most at the dessert buffet where miniature favorites of his, lemon meringue pie, banana pudding, peach cobbler and mini ice cream sundaes would be “calling his name.”)

After eating, we would put our free $10 coupon into the slot machine. My mom, being the stingiest, would cash her money right out without actually playing the game. This was smart because she would end up being $10 ahead, where my brother and I would not have that guarantee. I would sit next to my brother and help him play his favorite slot machine, “Space Invaders,” a nod to his schizophrenic tendency to think he was from outer space himself. He would laugh and point at the animation on the screen, oblivious as to whether or not he would win any money.

When his $10 had been spent, mom would take him for a walk around the casino, stop to buy him a Diet Coke, and he would be a “happy camper.” I would then be free to play the slot machines myself. As was customary, my $10 would be gone quickly. Against my mom’s moral compass, $25 would be stowed away in my pocket, anxious to get out to win, win, win playing the penny machines. My mom was convinced that the machines would “let” you win in the beginning but would then mercilessly take all of your money. In her naivety she may have been right, but I was able to stretch the money out to last an hour or so. Although I did always lose, the fun of playing was worth it, not to mention the passing promise of a possible million dollar win. Visiting the casinos from time to time, with a limited budget of course, has continued to be a favorite activity of mine.

Last year, a slot machine “app” was advertised on my cell phone and soon playing Willie Wonka slots became a favorite. Each day the game would offer free imaginary money that I would then pretend gamble away. The pretend money was always lost and I had to wait until the next allotment of imaginary money to play again. Soon the game was offered with the ability to play for actual money. Just register my credit card and I would be given real coins with which to play and to keep should I win. I never won with the imaginary money, how could I expect to win with real money? As if losing money in casinos was not enough, this experience offered the opportunity to lose in the privacy of my own home. What fun is that? No buffet? No nice ride to the casino? No believable bells and whistles?

I had just overcome my annoyance at the slot machine ap when an opportunity was advertised to win money at Solitaire. Everyone can play Solitaire! It is not up to dumb luck but up to skill. The commercial shows a grandmother-type cluelessly playing a game with her granddaughter and then celebrating over her surprise win of real money. (Everyone knows that somewhere along the line she will lose more money than she wins.)

Somehow, gambling seems to have crossed the line and has lost its luster for me.

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