John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

When readers relay tales of their gambling exploits, they’re almost always taking a victory lap. Everybody loves to relive their big wins.

Of course, we all know the losing times are part of the deal when you play. And every once in a while a reader comes through with a cautionary tale.

In the case of Ryan, a New Yorker who finds himself in Las Vegas a couple of times a year on business, the cautionary tale has a happy ending. Some of the cautionary tales I’ve shared don’t end as well, such as the woman who lost all $1,000 of a royal flush within a few hours of winning.

Ryan got off with a little discomfort, thanks to one well-timed hand that seemed like a miracle.

“I was in Las Vegas for four nights for a trade show,” Ryan explained. “I’m not a huge gambler, but I do like to play. So does my wife. She and I probably play once a month around New York, Connecticut and Atlantic City. At the trade show, I was on my own, budgeted for $1,000 to play with while I was there.”

Ryan figured he’d play some $10 blackjack and quarter video poker, and see where that left him day by day. Conference events didn’t start until his second day, so he planned his first night for his biggest chunk of play.

“I didn’t bring $1,000 in cash,” he said. “I brought $300 and some change. If I needed the other $700 I’d use my ATM card.

“My first stop was a $10 blackjack table, and it didn’t go well. It ate $200 just like that.”

Ryan checked his wallet. The other $100 was there, but his ATM card was not.

“I don’t use ATMs much. I keep the card in a desk and take it when I need it. I phoned home, and sure enough, I’d left it behind.”

Now Ryan had to decide what to do. He couldn’t see spending the rest of his stay without playing at all, but he and his wife both hated the idea of cash advances, casino fees and credit card interest rates.

“We talked it over and said if it had to be, it had to be. I decided the advance would be no more than $500, cut the budget to $800 instead of $1,000, and pay off the bill and fees right away.”

Before any withdrawal, though, he succumbed to one last reckless urge. Instead of playing the quarter video poker he planned, he sat down at a $1 Bonus Poker machine.

“It was stupid, really,” Ryan said. “A hundred dollars is only 20 hands of dollar poker. My money could have been gone in five minutes.”

In all too short a time, the meter was down to $10. What could have been Ryan’s next-to-last bet before advance time included an Ace of clubs. He held that, and discarded the rest.

“When the other three Aces came on the draw, I got seriously choked up,” he said. “That was $400. Not a ton of money, but the most beautiful $400 I’d ever seen. I thanked God. I thanked my late grandmother. I thanked Kurt Cobain. I thanked anybody I thought might be up there listening.”

Finally, the caution light went on.

“When I won, I cashed out and went to my room. Then I made that $400 last for the other three nights. No credit card interest rates for me. They would have been a real waste.”

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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