Some of you already know about this. And you’ve been supportive. But I don’t want anyone thinking terrible thoughts about me. That, and I need to come clean with everybody.
So I hope you forgive me for what I’m about to say.
Last week, I was not in the greatest of mindframes. And I did something that was a poor exercise in self-control.
Bear with me.
Last week, I went to the Saratoga Casino and Hotel (hey, to me it’s still the harness track), and I spent some time (and money) in front of the slot machines. I don’t know why I did this … normally I’ll play a few pulls on one of those one-armed bandits, lose a few dollars, and then mutter, “The machines are smarter than me today,” as I leave in a walk of shame.
When I do gamble, whether it’s with the slot machines or the horses or a scratch-off lottery ticket, I always gamble within my means. I assume right off the bat that I’m going to lose the money, and that I’m not gambling away my rent money.
Still, for some reason or another, I sat down at one slot machine last week and played the one-armed bandit for a while.
And surprisingly, one of the special “bonus combinations” came up on the slots.
And after the machine went through its song and dance and ring and jingle … I was now $300 in the black.
Yep, I hit one of the machine’s “maxi-jackpots,” and next thing I know that little penny slot machine now had some serious cash in it.
And in the back of my mind, my brain is screaming at me, “Chuck, this is your lucky day. Run over to the roulette wheel and put everything on 27 black.”
And for the love of me, I thought about doing that. Such is the seductive pull of gambling. You start thinking that you’re playing with “house money,” that this is your chance to claim the big bucks.
I looked at the CASHOUT button on the slot machine. It would be so easy to do this. I have this money. It’s right there. And for a brief moment … I thought about throwing every cent of my winnings on a spin of 27 black.
Then I thought once more.
I have to be extremely careful. There are plenty of addictions that I’ve seen from people in my life – compulsions that can destroy a person without question or remorse. It’s one thing to know that you’ve set aside $40 for the OTB or $20 on lottery tickets when the jackpot is high … but you can’t assume that the luck will continue. There are numerous professional gamblers who find themselves in a room on a Tuesday night with six other professional gamblers, and they’re beginning step one of the twelve-step process.
But here’s this money. Three hundred dollars. Right in my hands.
I hit the CASHOUT button on the slot machine. The one-armed bandit spit out a $300 voucher.
This is the trick. It would be so easy to put that $300 voucher in another machine. It’s just like money. It’s not gambling, it’s gaming. We all love to play games, don’t we?
Well, I decided to play another game that Saturday.
And I put my $300 in another slot.
And in the end, my money disappeared.
But I felt like a winner.
See, the “slot” I put my winnings in was the drive-through slot of my bank. I actually arrived at the teller window about 15 minutes before close of Saturday business hours. And the $300 game I played? It was called “pay a little more on my car loan for my 2013 Chevrolet Cruze Dracourage.”
Yeah. Rather than let that $300 burn a hole in my pocket and end up back in the casino’s coffers, I used every drop of will power, cashed out, left the casino, drove down to Albany, and dropped my winnings into my car loan.
And believe me, the temptation to stay and gamble all day and night was tremendous. It’s tremendous for anybody.
But in the end, I thought about where I was in life. It’s one thing to lose money at the casino … but it’s another thing to get $300 and then lose it in nothing flat. And when you figure that I’m already six months ahead on a five-year car loan (and Dracourage has only been in my possession for about nine months), I think I made the right choice.
Now I have to remember a few more things. I can’t go up to the casino every week and claim a $300 prize, any more than I can buy a lottery ticket and automatically be $300 richer. It doesn’t work that way.
Because although they say it’s “gaming,” it’s really “gambling.” As in you’re gambling with your cash, and you’re gambling with your soul, and you’re gambling with your life.
For those moments, I was tempted. Tempted like the seductive kiss of a sensuous siren. And although I felt like I could do this … I knew I had to walk away from the siren.
This is the tough decision we all make. It isn’t just gambling. It’s a thousand different life choices. It’s will power and commitment and choice. And we do this every single day. God bless all of us who can make it through, and God support us when we can’t.
In the end, I’d rather immediately spend my winnings on an additional bonus car payment …
… than leave the casino with the thought of “Damn it, I wish I had walked away when I had that money” running through my brain.
Oh, and there was no way I could put all my money on 27 black.
Seeing as … 27 is a red color on roulette wheels …