Know When To Hold Them

Next week, the six of us are heading to Reno, Nevada, for Left Coast Crime—and some super-mild, low-stakes gambling action. We’re also celebrating the upcoming release of Vickie Fee’s latest novel, which is set in the Gambling Capital of the World, Las Vegas. (Til Death Do Us Party, available for preorder, thank you for asking.) So this week, we’re finding out who knows when to hold ’em, knows when to fold ’em, knows when to walk away, and knows when to quote Kenny Rogers. 

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

I’ve won at gambling—“winning” meaning anything besides putting money into a machine and watching it disappear—exactly three times in my life. The first time, I won fifty bucks on a video slot machine in Vegas. Then I made the rookie mistake of thinking the machine liked me and watched my $50 dwindle to nothing. The second time, we stopped for gas in Arizona and popped into the casino next door. Within minutes, I’d won $25, and, having learned my lesson in Vegas, cashed out and left immediately. But my biggest win was in Reno: $88 on the Wizard of Oz game—one of those big fancy machines that at least provides some entertainment in exchange for your quarters. Glinda the Good Witch herself came down in a bubble to bestow my earnings upon me. (I’m sure Billie Burke could never have imagined that!) Anyway, not that I expect lighting to strike twice, but I probably won’t be able to resist the urge to try to make Glinda appear.

Ellen Byron


I’m so gambling-averse that I don’t even play the stock market. As a frustrated investment advisor once said, “You might as well put your money in a mattress.” Thank you, will do! I’ve legit gambled once in my life. When my play Graceland premiered in the Actors Theatre of Louisville Shorts Festival, we got to take a side trip to Churchill Downs. I put five bucks on a horse and promptly lost it. My second gamble took place when a friend talked me into participating in what turned out to be a giant pyramid scheme back in NYC in the late 1980s. I was one step away from the top slot when I turned on the news and saw fellow “investors” being led out of a meeting in handcuffs. Turns out the whole scam fell under the jurisdiction of illegal gambling. As I watched those people being carted off, I thought, “Uh oh.” Yup. Never saw a dime of that money again.

Vickie Fee

vickieI’m sure I’ll plug a couple of slot machines while we’re in Reno for Left Coast Crime next week—just to say I did. But I’m not a gambler. If I’m down ten bucks, I’m out. Losing money just isn’t fun to me. When hubs and I went to Las Vegas last year on a “research” trip for my new book that’s set there, I think we left town maybe thirty dollars lighter than when we arrived. But a highlight was playing a quick game of blackjack and roulette. The table games usually require higher minimum bets than I’m willing to plop down. But at the old school casinos in downtown Vegas there were a couple of casinos that allowed minimum bets of just a dollar or two, so I couldn’t resist. I’d always wanted to say stuff like, “Let it ride.” My money didn’t ride very far, I’m afraid, before taking a hike.

Cynthia Kuhn

cynthiaCompletely forgot Reno had gambling! I was so focused on the conference part that this topic was the first I’ve thought of it. Anyway, I have played slots—penny or quarter. (Not a big spender here, ha!) My favorite machines were the ones that had a “wild” icon that could land on the line and count for anything…or the ones that had an incremental increase, like 2x or 3x winning. It’s ridiculously exciting to think you’re going to receive 20 credits and then you get way more. (Plus the bells and lights go off, which feels like a party!) Also tried blackjack once, which was completely stressful. Maybe it was the math? Or the grumpy guys on either side of us? Point is: I kept tapping the table out of nervousness which meant that I would get more cards by mistake and lose instantly. Oops.

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

I have two favorites: the dollar wheel (yep, just put down a buck and spin) and Wheel of Fortune. Of course, what I really want to do on that last one is Solve the Puzzle and Show Vanna, but…I’ve won $200 bucks twice playing it. I get super stressed out placing $20 into a machine and watching it dwindle—so I don’t do it often. My idea of gambling is watching other people lose as I sip free drinks. But a favorite memory of mine is of watching in awe as a good friend (an uber-successful mystery writer) taught herself craps with one of those helpful little hotel guides the night before her wedding—and beat the odds to add to the honeymoon fund!! Of course, I never caught on to the science (I never did in my college Stats class, either, taught by an esteemed gambling professor who usually showed up to—or canceled—class drunk). Oh, and also…my daughter went to college near Mohegan Sun and my husband gave her twenty bucks on her birthday to spend on—you guessed it—Wheel of Fortune. Two hundred bucks, kerching! She looked at her winnings in amazement and said, “Wow, this is more than I made all week!” We got her out of there FAST!

 Readers, what’s your favorite game and/or Kenny Rogers song?

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32 thoughts on “Know When To Hold Them

  1. I loved reading my fellow Chicks’ experiences. I think I’m going to allot a $10 gambling budget in Reno. Okay, $20. Okay, $50. Okay – kidding! Most it’ll be is $20, frugal Capricorn that I am. Here’s hoping I come home with something. Mama needs a new roof… among other things!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. A company I once worked for held a party at one of the local racetracks and gave every person $50 to bet. Yep, The Hubby and I lost it all.

    When I was in Puerto Rico, every hotel had a casino, including the Holiday Inn where I was staying. After work, I loved to sit and people watch with a daiquiri in my hand. The little old ladies at the slots with their buckets of coins were hysterical!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can tell I’m in good company here. I lost a dollar in the nickle slots once in Vegas. I felt guilty the entire time. And then I watched my uncle and aunt gambling at the roulette table and felt guilty even though it wasn’t my money!

    Having said that, about 12 years ago, some friends got together regularly for a poker night. It was a $10 buy in, and I never felt guilty about that. I only one once (and usually didn’t come close to winning), but I figured it was better time hanging out with friends than a movie would be (they were about that price back then) and about the same amount of entertainment. I found I really enjoyed it, too, although I would have been perfectly happy if we hadn’t put any money in the pot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mark, after I was on Still Standing, some of the other women writers would get together for poker. I loved it. I’m not a card player, but I found I really enjoyed poker for some reason. I even laminated a sheet so I knew what all the hands meant. I hope I get to play again sometime – at a VERY low stakes game!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I like to buy a roll of nickels for five bucks, then play the nickel poker machines till the roll is gone. And I can usually drink two of the casino’s watered-down drinks in that time, so I figure it’s a good deal and an amusing way to spend a half hour.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Amusing” is a great way to describe it. (I like to watch the wheels spin around. It’s relaxing.) Looking forward to seeing you next week! And congrats on your book launch–hope you’ve been celebrating a lot!


  5. I’ve been to Vegas once. It was fun but I am definitely not a gambler. I did finally graduate from the 25 cent slots to the $1 slots. I broke even…and after a couple of days, I was over the whole gambling thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think you have to look at playing the slots as just an hour (or less) of entertainment and if you keep to your budget, you won’t be out anything more than the cost of that short entertainment time. I usually can’t put up with the cigarette smoke for very long anyway. I’m very excited to be one of the ten lucky fans to go to your cocktail party on Friday evening. Thanks for hosting. Ellen, I’m bringing my book to have you sign (must do this since my name is in it!). This should be a really fun week!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I am a gambler. Blackjack is my game. I’ve played upwards of 8 hours straight. Usually break even or lose a little. But like Fran, I look at it like paying for an evening of entertainment. If you go to a movie, looking at $20+ per person. A football game? Could be $100 or more per person.
    It’s all about spending only what you can afford to potentially lose.

    Liked by 3 people

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