Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Gambling for wimps

I've always been a lousy gambler. No nerve. I play the cheapest slot machines I can find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City--that used to mean nickel slots, but now there's just a few of those machines in the farthest hidden corners of the casino, and you have to fight deeply entrenched senior citizens to get to them. You'll never see me walking around with silver dollars, though. Too cheap. Even betting quarters makes me break out in a cold sweat.

Lottery tickets are out of the question, even when the jackpot is a bazillion dollars, as it's been in New Jersey these last few days. People are lining up around the corner to buy lottery tickets. People from other states are beseeching New Jersey-ites on e-mail lists to buy them lottery tickets. Story one on the news is lottery tickets--who's buying them, who's selling them, who's winning or not. Lottery fever--they've got it. They're in it to win it. And I'm thinking...I'm thinking, I'm going to buy a ticket, I'm going to lose, I'm going to feel stupid. No one anyone knows ever wins those things. I've got a dollar and a dream, but no guts.

Which is why I love Surely you've seen the commercials for this internet portal, which run approximately every two minutes on the TV network of your choice. The idea is that you can win money for doing just what you would ordinarily do--read the news, search the internet, check your stocks, look at your horoscope. You earn entries for each of these activities, and at the end of each day there's a drawing for a fabulous cash prize, and no one anyone knows ever wins those things, but at least you've held on to your silver dollars. It's like a daily lottery with no cash investment and no standing in lines involved. Well, of course, they probably do keep a record of your every internet move and sell the information to the highest bidder so that they can pelt you with spam, but isn't that a small price to pay?

As so rarely happens on the net, this site does actually have things I'm interested in. The search engine is surprisingly effective, almost as good as my favorite,, which doesn't pay squat. The news stories are pretty much the same as those on my personalized Yahoo page, which similarly offers no payoff. And there's sort of a cheap--a very cheap--thrill to seeing my entries piling up in the tallies at the top of the page. Too bad it cuts you off at 100 a day, though; I feel like a sucker to keep using the portal after that, and so I'm constantly saving something I want to do 'til tomorrow.

That's about as much gambling as I can handle, though. Oh, well, that, and adopting children with special needs from Russia and hoping that everything works out okay. That's about the biggest gamble I've made in my life, and it cost a heckuva lot more than a few silver dollars. Payoff's pretty great, though.

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