Hello, Gamblers Anonymous? | AspenTimes.com

Hello, Gamblers Anonymous?

The minute I walked in the joint, they could tell I was a woman of distinction, a real big spender, as evidenced by my request for $20 worth of 50-cent chips.I proceeded to dole them out at the roulette table with an atavistic stinginess borne of an internal struggle between Scottish blood and a budding gambling addiction. Two-dollar minimum bet? Fine. I bet two bucks on every turn of the wheel.Other people plunked down chips of excessive, spendthrift denominations. Five bucks on red; $10 on a row of numbers. They amassed small fortunes and lost bigger ones, but I’ll get to that later.I experienced the heroine effect of gambling almost immediately upon my arrival in Reno, which isn’t anything like Vegas. It’s more like visiting Grand Junction, except with casinos.The ground floor of my hotel buzzed and binged like a giant pinball arcade frequented by bluehairs. There were old people everywhere, chain smoking and drinking midday cocktails in one hand, while playing the slots with the other. I know how this happened. They won once and couldn’t walk away, or else they couldn’t find the exit. I experienced both phenomena myself.I innocently plugged a quarter in a slot and instantly, out came enough coins to do my laundry for a couple of weeks. Of course, I immediately started feeding my winnings into the suddenly frugal machine.No matter. Roulette is my game. Blackjack is out of the question – it involves quick, simple addition in my head – and craps mystifies me. A cute young woman rolls the dice and people stand around the table shouting. But at the roulette table, I ruled over lesser players who had vastly more money. At least, they did before they lost it all. One guy next to me bet his stack of pricey chips plus a $20 bill, just for good measure, on the red just as his incredulous wife walked up. I’ll bet he lost more than his gambling privileges.I was down to six chips from my $20 purchase when I reached a Zen-like connection with the wheel. I bet on a pair of numbers signifying a date when I got lucky and damn, I got lucky repeatedly.My accumulating wealth inspired a reckless spree. I was wild, I tell you, sometimes betting five, even six chips on a single spin of the wheel. That’s three bucks!All I needed was a cigar to chomp on and a fine tumbler of single malt to look like Ms. Big, squinting over her turrets of cheap chips and judiciously placing bets at the last second, so others couldn’t try to piggyback on my good fortune and ruin my luck.Instead, I had an empty water bottle next to me and nature was calling. But if I cashed in and headed to the restroom, I feared my lucky streak would disappear faster than the signals I was receiving from my bladder.How do those old people do it?Janet Urquhart didn’t win enough to quit her job. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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