The Loser

March 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Gambling has never been one of my strong suits. I’m a terrible card player, and have yet to win a penny from a lottery ticket, scratch-off, football pool or the phony raffle tickets my friend John Capobianco sells. But it is at the casinos where my failings as a gambler have become most evident. You might say that I’m Donald Trump’s number one patsy, and it would be one of the kinder remarks made about my gambling prowess. Alas, I would be hard-pressed to prove otherwise.

Maureen and I have been regular casino patrons since legalized gambling first arrived in Atlantic City during the mid 1980’s. Since that time I have never come home a winner, and we’re talking about a losing streak that now has far surpassed 100 consecutive visits. Granted we only play the slots, which lessens your chances of winning, but wouldn’t you think the law of averages would come into play at some point? Yeah, right.

I clearly remember our first visit to the Golden Nugget casino. Maureen and I made the 150 mile drive with our friend Richie Vicario. The slot machines must have been more generous then, because I played all day and lost only $40. Maureen broke even, and Richie won about a hundred bucks. Little did I know that this would be the start of an extremely frustrating and fruitless pursuit of my first jackpot that continues to this day.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve never won anything at all. Once at the Claridge I hit for $400, which is the biggest win I’ve ever made at a casino. Unfortunately, it came within the first 30 minutes we were there, so that money quickly vanished over the course of the day, and I went home a loser, as usual.

I’ve still never won a jackpot despite determined attempts in New Jersey, Connecticut, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and now Arizona. I have friends who regularly win $1200, $1500 or even more on the machines, but inevitably end up giving it all back. To me the real measure of success has always been how much of the casino’s money you have in your pocket when you come back across the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island. In my case the answer has always been ZERO.

Things have gotten so bad that most people now refer to me as “Mr. Loser”, “The Jinx”, or by several other less polite appellations. No one wants to go to the casino with me any longer because I’m perceived as a bad luck charm. And who can blame them? Maureen, at least, has won several good-sized jackpots over the years, but even she is now on an extended losing streak. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if that’s a result of associating with her loser husband.

To help turn the tide, my friends Carole Gerraputa and Marilyn Basile once made a “good-luck” kit for me. Kind of a reverse voodoo doll, if you will. They gave me a little white box containing a rabbit’s foot, a four leaf clover, a miraculous medal, loaded dice, an Irish blessing and some other assorted trinkets designed to bring good fortune. The next time we got to the Trump Marina I had that box in my pocket and was bursting with confidence. Two hours later I was flat broke! Have the gambling gods no mercy at all?

For a number of years, my Kiwanis club made regular bus excursions to Harrah’s in Atlantic City. For each trip, one of the members would bring along a movie to show during the ride. When my turn came, I asked Maureen what film the wives might like to see. She suggested “Shall We Dance?” with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. Armed with this inside information, off I went to Blockbuster. Naturally, “Shall We Dance?” was out of stock, so I asked the female clerk what she would recommend as a good movie for women. “Try “De-Lovely”, she said. “It’s the life story of Cole Porter.”

Well, that sounded like it might be a good “chick flick”, so I rented it. Big mistake. “De-Lovely” turned out to be De-Lousy. It was so bad that when we showed it aboard the bus, the group booed me incessantly. As the film concluded, everyone broke into a derisive cheer. Thankfully we were near Atlantic City by then; otherwise they might have thrown me overboard. Needless to say, I was never again asked to provide a movie for our trip. In fact, I think most of them would probably have preferred that I not go along at all. I guess it was becoming readily apparent by then that not much winning took place when I was present.

But the crowning insult took place one summer day at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Maureen and I had been gambling throughout the morning and, as usual, I was losing. We decided to take a break and walked out onto the boardwalk. If you’re familiar with the Taj, you may recall that when you exit through the front doors, there are often several hot dog carts nearby. As we walked past one of those, I felt a sudden SPLAAAT! against my throat. Thinking some youngster had stomped on a mustard packet that then squirted up at me, I glanced around trying to locate the little urchin who had done this dastardly deed. But there was none in sight.

I put my hand to my throat and came away with – green slime! I glared upward and spotted the seagull that had dive-bombed me circling lazily overhead. Well, didn’t that just figure? Bad enough the casino was taking me to the cleaners, now this feathered fink was using me for target practice! I shook my fist at that belligerent bird. If there hadn’t been so many people standing around laughing I would have shouted, COME DOWN AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN!

Some woman handed me several tissues, snickered loudly, and walked away. I did my best to clean up the mess, which had begun to ooze down my shirt into the hair on my chest. Revolting!

An older man with sunglasses who had been watching all this chuckled and said, “You know, that’s supposed to be good luck.”

A light bulb went off in my head. Hey, maybe this was a good omen. I turned to Maureen, who was still giggling rudely. Glaring at her I said, “Come on. Let’s go try our luck again.” With that, we rushed back inside the Taj, where I promptly went bust! So much for omens.

Well, I’m still waiting to ditch that humiliating moniker of “Mr. Loser” as the seemingly hopeless quest for a jackpot continues. I suppose now I understand how Don Quixote must have felt, although instead of tilting with windmills, I’m jousting with slot machines. It’s a good thing “one-armed bandits” can’t laugh.



  1. John said,

    You didn’t mention all the chances & tickets you lose at. That reminds me………….

    • yeeditor said,

      John: How could I forget??? I fixed it! Uh, does that mean I’m about to get another scam ticket???

  2. Tom Smith said,

    We love Casinos also and seldom pass one without dropping a few bucks. I have hit a few nice jackpots, one for $5000. My first wife, who is now deceased, hit a $10,000 jackpot at the casino at Camp Verde. I love your story, Jim but disagree about DeLovely. I thought it was an excellent film with great acting. Of course I am a big fan of anything regarding Cole Porter.

    • yeeditor said,

      LOL! Tom, I think my friends and I are too lowbrow and crude to appreciate the finer points of the arts!

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