Chasing Loss, Playing to Extinction
I would start each morning with a handheld video poker game—that
would set the pace of my day. I’d wake up and reach for it, and I’d
play three games: If I won two out of three then I’d have to go play
at Lucky’s [supermarket]. I’d get disgusted with myself, playing that
stupid little machine in the morning to determine whether I was going
to go to work or go play. I tried to convince myself that it mattered,
but the fact is, I always went and played anyway.
One day I threw it against a brick wall in a parking lot. I drove back
later and it was still there, and the damn thing was still working. I
was so determined to stop playing. I gave it away as a gift, sent it to
somebody. And wouldn’t you know it—somebody bought me one for
my birthday…. So I gave that one away too. All those silly little things
you do with yourself to try to get control, but you don’t have any.
The place of control in gamblers’ stories is often inconsistent. Lola told me that she played video poker because she wished to be “in control,” and then moments later confided, without a sense of contradiction, that she wished she were a robot, free of self-directive capacities. Randall, above, claims to have played video poker machines to “determine” his