July 3, 2022

Scratch N' Hope

I was in a store last week buying milk. The woman in front of me had about a dozen plastic envelopes and the clerk had a stack of lottery tickets she had processed on the desk. Winner, loser, free play, ten bucks, play again, loser, rinse repeat. The lady stood patiently as it was tallied. $238 was her take. She said it was a good week.

She then started reciting what she needed for her next haul; and don't forget those scratch tickets! She placed each ticket into its corresponding labeled envelope, paid her money, and she was on her way. I wonder what would happen to these people if they ever won the big one. Would they retire from their career of buying lottery tickets? 

Motivating factors 

This has happened before; perhaps it's happened to you. You just want to get your stuff and get home but I was fascinated by this woman. What was her motivation? She can't be up after all the weeks or months or even years she's been doing it, so she is spending money to lose money to spend more. That makes perfect sense. 

On my first trip to Vegas, the two guys behind me on the flight were calculating how much they were willing to lose. They knew it was doubtful they'd be coming home with more money than they went down with but they seemed okay with it. A buddy once remarked on the shuttle driver's comments on his first trip there who said; "Welcome to Vegas, folks. Please keep in mind this city was not built on the backs of winners." 

I've been there twice, both on business trips, and I've spent about $50 on blackjack. My short-lived Vegas career has me up about $450. One night, I hit a bit of a lucky streak. My two buddies kept saying I should keep going. I grabbed my chips, stood up, and walked away. You might win some but the house will eventually beat you. Breakfast on me in the morning and let's go home. 

Gambling on real life

How often do we go for that gig that may be a bit out of reach; ask that woman for a date who may say no; sell the house and move to a new town where we know no one for a chance at a new venture?

We know as we board the plane that we won't be playing Phil Ivey in the World Series of Poker final at the Bellagio but we go anyway. The woman in the store knows her odds and keeps playing. Is it lunacy or hope? Is it the thrill of the chance or the chase of a dream? It does bring up one important question.

How often do we place that bet on ourselves?

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