What do you imagine in your brain when you hear the word “casino”? I’m sure some of you are thinking of a noisy craps table exploding in celebration or a ball bouncing slowly off a roulette table as players stare intently praying for their number to appear. But not me. I think of endless rows of slot machines as far as the eye can see.
As you look down each aisle, you’re greeted by a cacophony of beeps, bloops, and coins falling into metal bins. I hope you see a blue-haired old lady with an oxygen tube under her nose and a Virginia Slim hanging from her lips, staring at the machine in front of her as she spends the hours hoping for a massive victory. Yes, I can see how you would find such a depressing sight, but I feel otherwise. It’s invigorating! Exciting! That’s what casinos are all about: the dream that in an instant everything changes and you’re ready for life.
When I turned 21, I went to Las Vegas for the first time, like a lot of people do. As a young man, I didn’t have the kind of disposable income that allowed me to sit at a $15 blackjack table for more than 20 seconds at a time, so I had to find a cheaper way. to get my fix. Slot machines were the perfect solution. You can sit back and walk away for a while, or just drop a buck or two while strolling somewhere. If you were lucky, a cocktail waitress would come with a free booze and you were set.
It was on this trip that I found a glorious small slot machine called “Stampede”. It was an interesting time for slot machine technology – machines that simply relied on reels seemed outdated, but there weren’t too many super fancy digital machines that came dangerously close to video games. Stampede was right in the middle of those two eras. It had reels but also a rudimentary dot animation board. When you lined things up correctly, a digital cowboy would appear on the board and shout “STAMPEDE!” The reels would start shaking, the whole machine would go crazy and all of a sudden you would be $50 richer. He reigned.
As you can imagine, there was a decent amount of alcohol in my system when I first had a stampede and, well, I went nuts. I was jumping in place, screaming like I had won millions of dollars. It was glorious. And then, like a true slots enthusiast, I sat down and funneled most of my winnings back into the machine.
I don’t know if there are any working Stampede machines left in the world, but if there are, I’d love to sit in front and give him at least a week’s pay. Maybe two. But maybe, just maybe I’ll come away victorious after a few big jostlings.
I should probably get my favorite slot machine tattoo. Tons of people have gotten slot machine tattoos and I have to be honest, they are all winners in my book. Place an order with the waitress and settle into this fantastic gallery of slot machine tattoos. And if you are on oxygen and you smoke, please ash the cigarette before it becomes dangerous. Thank you.