John Grochowski

John Grochowski

Beginner’s luck exists mainly in our imaginations. First-time players are no more likely to hit a jackpot or otherwise win big than players on their second, fourth or 55th casino visit. In skill games, first-timers are less likely to win if they haven’t mastered optimal strategies.

In January, I put out a call to some frequent emailers to ask if they remember their first big win, and how often they’d played before their stroke of luck. Here are a couple who shared their experiences:

Millie: I remember it really well, because they way I played that day was so out of character.

I was, and am, a low roller. Now, I play penny slots, and only one or two coins per line. Then, I played quarter three-reel slots, three quarters at a time. I was betting about the same amount of money then as now, just on reels instead of video.

I’d been to casinos maybe eight or nine times. A couple of them, I came home with more money than I started with, but nothing big.

This time, I was losing. I had $200 with me, but I didn’t really like to spend that much. If the losses got to $100, I really didn’t want to play anymore.

This time, I went through four twenties real fast. It was so fast, it wasn’t time to go home yet. My husband was playing blackjack, and he wasn’t going to be ready to leave.

I had a whim and decided to try dollars. Instead of playing a final $20 and keeping $100 in my wallet, I did the opposite. I put $100 in a dollar Blazing 7s machine.

You know what? It took 10 or 12 spins, and then I got three double Blazing 7s. That was worth $500! To someone who had never won more than $30 before, that was a fortune.

It both thrilled and terrified me. I didn’t want to get to thinking betting big was a magic bullet. I cashed out right away and went back to quarters.

My husband was excited for my win, and not too bothered by the big bet. He told me, “You brought $200 to play with. How you play it is your business.”

But it got me too nervous to have only $20 to fall back on. I haven’t done that since, and it’s been 20-some years.

CHARLES: I liked video poker from my first trip, when I got four of a kind on Jacks or Better. They payoff was only $31.25, so not the big win you’re talking about, but it was fun.

The first one I would really say was big was on my fourth trip, I think. That was on a quarter Deuces Wild machine. I was dealt three 2s, a 6 of diamonds and a 7 of diamonds. That was a straight flush, and I could have settled for a 45-coin payoff, but I had to go for that fourth 2.

I hit the draw button, and I got it! It was when coins still dropped out of the machine, and 1,000 quarters started crashing into the tray. A slot attendant passing by said, “Nice hit!” A man carrying chips, so he must have been a table player, nodded and said, “Five of a kind.” The slot attendant replied, “Four deuces!”and the man asked, “Is that better?”

It was. A thousand quarters for the 2s instead of 75 for five of a kind. That was a cool $250, the first time I really felt I had won big.

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

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