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A couple of weeks ago I left a comment on Babs’ post about winning at bingo. I hadn’t won at bingo because I don’t play bingo but I had won a small fortune on the slot machines and left a brief synopsis of the story on Babs’ blog.

I hadn’t though about that day in a long time. Partly because it was about 20 years ago and also because even though it was a great win it was also bittersweet.

I’d never won anything before. Okay that isn’t true, I won Dr. Hook’s album A Little Big More when I was about 10 years old. I won it by being the 9th caller to an am radio station. I would not have won it for the fact that I had faked being sick that day and was not at school but instead was at home listening to the radio. I did not stay home because I wanted to listen to the radio to win a Dr. Hook album, I stayed home because there was a math test and I wasn’t prepared for it.

But I am getting off track.

Even though I had actually won something before it wasn’t something that happened very often so when I won at the casino that night it was a big deal.

In a nutshell, my husband at the time (ex#1) and I went to the newly opened Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, MN. Minnesota had a few casinos in the state but because they had to be on Indian reservations most of them were either way up north or way down south. There weren’t any close until the one in Prior Lake was built.

We went to the casino because it was date night and there wasn’t anything else we wanted to do together. We had been married for just a little over a year but already we hated each other and needed something like date night to make us spend time together. In our short marriage we had already experienced infidelity, cancer and the death of our daughter just two weeks before the casino date night. It was a lame attempt at holding something together that really couldn’t and shouldn’t have been held together. He probably would have agreed to split if I had asked but I wasn’t willing to concede defeat so early on so through sheer stubbornness we went through the motions.

We entered the casino together and then quickly went our separate ways. He wanted to play a game of poker, something I didn’t know how to play, something I had no desire to learn and something I certainly didn’t want to watch him play. In my state of deep depression I just wanted to be alone so I searched for the most isolated slot machine and sat down with my rolls of quarters. I was still a wreck, prone to crying at any given moment so being in a dark and noisy casino was really not a bad place for me if I broke out in tears which seemed to happen without warning. I was playing a progressive slot machine which meant if I bet on all lines of play I could win several different ways so I put 8 quarters into the machine and pulled the lever. I think I won $1 on that first pull which was enough to spur me to put another $2 in the machine and pull again. This time I won more than $1, I won the jackpot. I won $2500 on my second pull.

Alarms and lights started to emanate from my machine which irritated me because while all this racket was going on I couldn’t play the damn machine. I had to wait for an attendant to come and cut me a check because the machine didn’t pay out in quarters that much money and because the IRS wants to know if you win more than $600 at a time. While I waited for the attendant to return with my check I started to play the machine next to my machine ( I wasn’t going to leave my machine until I got my check) and after one pull I won the jackpot again, another $2500. Once again the lights and whistles started coming from my machine. At this point my husband came over to see what was going on and was happy to see that I was having such a great time playing the slot machines (something he had said were for idiots not more than an hour before by the way).

Within about 15 minutes I had won $5000 but it didn’t end there. Because I had to wait by my machines I kept playing the nearest, within arms reach, machine to me and won the jackpot two more times. At this point I was pretty sure luck had nothing to do with it (except for the luck of being on date night with someone I had nothing in common with and therefore ended up at a casino because neither of us had anything against them) the casino had just opened and set the machines to pay out frequently so there were plenty of winners who would go home, tell their friends about the win and they would go down and try to win too. Funny thing was, we didn’t tell anyone about our win for a long time.

Both of us felt guilty for winning at a casino. Not so much the winning but that we were even down there at all. We, or maybe it was just I, felt as if we had no right to be anywhere having any kind of fun at all. It was just me now that I think back on it. I was surprised I had the capacity to smile again (and winning $10k tends to make me smile). When my daughter died I was pretty sure I would never smile or laugh again. I had no idea that time was a hugely powerful thing.

My ex husband and I stayed together long enough to have another child, born almost nine months after the casino win. We stuck it out for another 8 months after that and then called it quits. I have never won at the casino like that again and I don’t expect to either. You can’t win if you don’t play but if you keep playing after a big win you will lose everything back so quit while ahead.

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