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I have a routine on my trips to the Coast of stopping briefly at The Tachi Palace (for a “rest” stop, of course) either coming or going (sometimes both). My general rule of thumb is to stay through $20 or twenty minutes, whichever happens first. This saves me from the urge to “put just another $20 or so in, until I can catch up” and spend more than is comfortable.

Tonight, though, I was having so much fun I broke my own rule. I was winning very small amounts, but still staying ahead, when I realized that the lady playing a machine over to my left was hitting over and over. As I often do, I started playing my own machine with an eye on hers, drawn by the wonderful sounds of jackpots paying out. She was also playing the machine to her left, a little bit of a time. I enjoyed her $300+ jackpot, and then realized she had increased her bet to $5 per spin (as opposed to my forty cents). And then all heck broke loose, and her machine started paying and paying. As she sat there waiting for the credits to all load, she went back to the machine on her left, which hit the bonus again. About this time her payout stopped: a bit over $14,400. She needed to find an attendant to hand-pay her, so I offered to babysit her machines (yes, she was still playing the one on her left, too).

When she came back, I suggested she might consider buying a lottery ticket tonight, too, as she was on a roll. She agreed, and started playing the machine between us. When it hit the bonus, we were both laughing. Meanwhile, my machine was paying $20 here and $30 there (again, I was only playing forty cents), but running me down to nearly nothing in between.

As we chatted and laughed between our machines, I was remembering how much Mom (my best gambling partner) used to enjoy watching other people hit jackpots. Not nearly as much as she loved getting her own, but somehow she always used to turn other people’s happiness into a personal thing. With so much positive energy flowing around, it was impossible to have a lousy time!

Eventually the slot attendants came back and paid out my neighbor’s jackpot. And she hit a couple of other small ones on the other machines. And we laughed some more.

When she left, there was a palpable change in the atmosphere. A grumpy guy sat down next to me with a cigarette, one of those crazies who seem to think the machine will pay differently if they slap and poke at the screen as the reels spin. The woman on my right lit up, too, and soon all I could do was cough. I should have stopped right then.

Instead, I kept on playing, right down to 37 cents. But I had a lovely visit with Aunt Betty on the way home, reminiscing about our days of gambling together with Mom (playing fifty cent games taking turns — one quarter for me, one for Betty, Mom pulled the handle; one quarter for Betty, one for Mom, I pulled the handle, and so on). And other than a few patches of fog that (thank goodness) didn’t stick, it was an uneventful drive from there.

But The Palace was fun.

The reverse of my cash voucher.  The coyote always reminds me of our old pup, Bradley.

The reverse of my cash voucher. The coyote always reminds me of our old pup, Bradley.

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