John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

When I’ve shared readers’ stories of their first casino trips, they’ve almost always involved winning times.

There’s a great deal of selection bias there. The majority of players lose money on their first trip, just as most players contribute a little something to the casino’s bottom line more often or not. But it’s more fun to relive and retell the tales of big wins, so when reader send me their stories, they’re usually about the good times.

Greta took a different tack when she wrote to me in June.

“Let me tell you about my first time,” she wrote. “It was no big winner. In fact, after the first time I wasn’t sure I was ever going again.”

That’s probably not an unusual sentiment, though you couldn’t prove it by the bulk of my emails. New players go to a casino, lose money and think it’s not something they’d want to do very often. But let’s let Greta tell her story.

“My friend Cheryl is active in the park district, and she showed me a deal for a bus trip. There was a $10 fee, but you got $10 to play slots and a free buffet lunch. That sounded pretty good, so we decided to do it together.

“Once I told people I’d signed up, everybody had advice for me. One thing nobody told me was that you couldn’t play penny slots for a penny. They gave us cards and you had to put them in the machines to get the $10. I did that at a penny slot, pushed a button and it took $4 off my total. FOUR DOLLARS!

“I turned and said, ‘Uh, Cheryl, I don’t think I can afford this.’ She’d played before, so she explained about paylines and betting one coin per line and betting 40 cents instead of $4. I told her they ought to do a mini-seminar on the bus and explain all that to new players.

“We decided to explore and try a few different games. I don’t remember all the titles. I was overwhelmed and that trip is pretty much a blur. I did get some bonuses. Some of the Goldfish ones are fun — I do remember that one. On another one I got 15 free spins and every one was a loser. I’d never play that one again, if I could remember what it was.

“Besides the $10 we got, I brought $60 to play with and lost $40 of it. Honestly, the lunch was the highlight. I told Cheryl and my husband I was glad I had the experience, there were some fun parts, but I had better uses for $40, or $50 when you include the bus fee.”

Greta’s story left me with one big question: Why did she go back? I emailed her to ask.

“It was about a year later before I even considered going again,” Greta wrote. “It was with Cheryl on the bus again. She said, ‘This time you’d know what to expect. I’m sorry I didn’t fill you in better.’

“I still didn’t win money, but I got more bonuses and had more fun. I was up for a while and would up losing only $5 — half of the money that came with the trip. So really, everything only cost $5, lunch was good and I had a good time.

“Now I play probably six times a year. I had an $1,100 progressive jackpot once — that was exciting. But if the second trip had been like the first, I might never have played again.”

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

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