Before the year 2001, I never played the lottery. Like most people, I wrote it off as an "idiot tax".
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2001, this changed.
There was a bakery that I used to frequent in Echo Park, and this particular pastry vendor sold lotto tickets. One day, as a joke, a family member and I decided to play a couple of numbers chosen in a ridiculous pattern, and when we came back later in the week to run the tickets through the machine, we learned that we had won enough to pay for that day's culinary loot. This was a pleasant surprise. It was a way to gamble while risking very little, yet still having the minor thrill of potentially winning something.
Of course, I never entertained the thought of winning the grand prize, and I still ridicule those who do.
From a practical standpoint, winning the lottery is a mathematical impossibility, and those who actually play it as an investment (and some do) will forever be destined to flip burgers or collect welfare in order to buy their spinner rims.
When it comes to actually "hitting the lotto", I have a weird conspiracy theory which holds that nobody ever really wins the thing. In my version of reality, I envision that the supposed "winners" are either completely made up, or they are homeless people who are hired by the state to look excited ... and are then summarily executed.
Why do I have this paranoid delusion?
Well, first of all, I don't know anyone who has ever won the lottery. I also don't know anyone who knows anyone that has won the lottery. Not only that, but I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who won the lottery. I used to run into random celebrities on the street all the time, yet no matter how many degrees of separation I go, I don't have any connection to a Lotto winner whatsoever.
Second, it just doesn't make sense that anyone would ever pick the correct numbers. It's far too improbable. How in the hell did Cletus Jones know that 21-42-9-17-5-30 was going to hit? I mean, the guy is so stupid that he plays the lottery. 0-0-0-0-0-0 is just as likely to hit as his dog's birthdays, and I've never seen 0-0-0-0-0-0 hit ... therefore, I refuse to believe that Cletus' numbers hit.
Third, where do the supposed "winners" go? Why do they have five minutes of fame, and not five months of fame? 10 million dollars is a lot of money. You would think that a Lotto winner would make a name for themselves, yet, these people win, have a camera shoved in their face, and then they quickly disappear from the face of the earth, never to be seen or heard from again.
Why don't they do anything newsworthy with that 10 mil?
If I won the lottery, I would invest it. I would acquire the copyrights to every Las Vegas Review-Journal story ever published, and then I would promptly turnaround and sue the R-J for $75,000 for every one of those articles. I would grow my winnings exponentially.
See, I told you the R-J would become a running joke. These days, I don't know anyone who even mentions the R-J unless it's a punchline. Good job, Sherman. You really have your finger on the prostate of the digital consumer.
Anyway, over the course of 3 years, I spent probably $200 total on California lottery tickets, and when all was said and done, I only lost a little bit of it. One time I hit 4 numbers and won about a hundred dollars, and I had a couple of smaller wins as well.
Frankly, I didn't have any problem handing over my losses to the State of California. I was glad to do it. Let's face it, supporting the entire country of Mexico is no small task, and if we Americans don't step up to the challenge, who will?
I think not, my friends.
When I moved to Las Vegas in late 2004, I slowed my lotto play significantly, but didn't completely stop. When the jackpot got really, really big, I hopped in my Mazzarati G45ti and drove 40 miles to Primm where I purchased a ticket, then turned around and came home. Now, this may seem like a lengthy trip to get something as silly as a lottery ticket, but it really didn't take very long at all.
You see, my Mazzarati does 185.
The cops would have taken my license so I couldn't drive, but they were busy pumping nine bullets into some guy at the Summerlin Costco.
What can I tell you ... life's been good to me so far.
Personally, I remain somewhat astounded that Nevada does not have a lottery. It makes no sense to me. Given that people who visit Las Vegas are already predisposed to gambling, it feels as though it would be a no-brainer to institute one. There are also more than enough idiots in the state to tax, so my guess is that it would be one of the more per-capita profitable lotteries. I feel as if the state is leaving free money on the table. Sure, a lottery may not solve everything that ails the state, but it sure as hell couldn't hurt.
In any event, I eventually grew tired of making the 80 mile round-trip, and sometime around 2006, I ceased playing the lottery altogether. I stopped winning even small prizes, and the whole thing just got to be more of a hassle than it was worth. I didn't really miss it, rather, I completely erased it from my mind.
Fast forward a few years.
Here we are in late 2010, I am in a lottery state again, and today I decided to bust my Washington State Lottery cherry with a scratch ticket.
Before calling me an idiot, however, consider the following:
A slot machine spin takes about 2 seconds to complete, but a scratch ticket takes about 15 seconds to fully expose. This means that a scratch ticket gives over 7 times more gambling entertainment value than does a slot pull. And I don't have to stand in TSA lines or pay for hotel rooms to pay for the privilege.
Who's the idiot now motherf*cker?
Don't get me wrong, I still think the lottery is an idiot tax, and a disproportionally regressive one at that, but in many ways ... I'm an idiot. I allow myself easy amusement from time to time, because it helps keep a bullet out of my cerebral cortex.
For this reason alone, I will allow myself the ridiculous diversion of the odd lottery ticket.
Once again, by moving 1,200 miles, I have found yet another endeavor that was not available to me in Las Vegas.
I can once again play the lottery, and I can once again visit all the fully nude strip clubs I wish. Both of these are something that, for the most part, I could not do in "Sin City".
The irony continues, and (at least for me), the myth of Las Vegas continues to unravel.