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A Winning Hand? I Wouldn’t Bet on it July 9, 2009

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.
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At the risk of whining, I’ve endured some pretty lousy weather during my two-week ‘staycation.’ I made pretty good use of it last week, getting things done in and around the house, but by the beginning of this week, I’d had enough! Enter my sister Kathy to the rescue. “Want to go to the casino?” I heard her ask over the phone. Done!

Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

So yesterday, Kathy, her husband Mickey and I hopped aboard a bus bound for the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y. At one point during the ride there, I found myself reflecting on a conversation between college friends that took place at a party just a few years ago. The issue: Identify a ‘vice,’ for lack of a better term, that could most easily become an addiction. I recall alcohol being suggested a few times. But for me, the answer was gambling, no hesitation.

Now, don’t worry, there’s no need for an intervention. My sister is not an enabler, and I have everything firmly in control. It’s just gambling has long been a recreational pastime in the Stella family. Probably a lot of people who know me will be surprised that I learned to handicap horse races by the time I was 8. Growing up in Genesee County, Dad would occasionally take me along on an evening visit to Batavia Downs. He’s the enabler! 🙂 But I loved to go.

I’ve just always had a soft spot for the rush that comes from gambling. In a lot of ways, it’s hard to reconcile because it cuts across every instinct in my approach to financial management. I often tell people, I am so completely the product of depression-era parents. Other than my mortgage and a home equity line of credit, I have no debt. Credit card balances get paid off monthly. And I simply live within my means. But…I can’t deny the rush!

I guess it still makes sense. I mentioned Dad. He enjoys the horses, plays poker with buddies on a regular basis, and he and Mom made annual trips to Las Vegas. But, looking back, our lives were modest. There were few excesses, but there was always something left over to play with.

It’s a Stella thing. I get out to San Diego pretty frequently to visit my other sister, Pattie, and the beach is only one attraction. There are at least 4 casinos within 20 minutes of her house. It’s become a bit of a joke for us. She’ll ask, “Want to get dinner at the casino?” My reply, “Might as well.” We’ll laugh. Occasionally, one of us will make enough to pay for dinner.

Back to Niagara Falls 2009. Big spender that I am, I immediately go looking for the Black Jack tables. $5 minimum: Love it!  Prior to the recession, anything less than $10 was hard to find. But the rush I talked about…here it is. The dealer shows a face card, and I’m sitting there with 15. No choice, I have to hit. I tap my index finger on the table…and the dealer flips over a 6. 21! Come on, bring it!! The joy inside of me is practically embarrassing.

Mickey, Kathy and I before hopping onboard for the bus trip home

Mickey, Kathy and I before hopping aboard the bus for home

Okay, full disclosure. That happened maybe once. But it’s what a gambler lives for! It’s like that 53-foot putt for a golfer. Okay, maybe he shot 108, but he made that 53-foot putt.

Outside the casino, waiting to hop on the bus for home, I see Kathy walk outside. She looks at me, puts her fist atop her forehead, thumb and index finger extended. “Loooos-er!” Yeah, me too, I said. Mickey, just a few minutes later, same story.

As we take our seats onboard the bus for Rochester, I lamely mention something about quality time with family. “I saw you once…at the buffet,” said Mickey. We laughed. “Yeah, whatever!”

At least the sun was finally shining.

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