I Thought I Had A Gambling Addiction — Until I Met Ted

I didn’t know when to cash out.

Woman at casino Billion Photos | Dean Drobot| Canva / mbbirdy | Getty Images Signature

"Red Sevens! Red Sevens!! Come on, Red Sevens," I shouted while holding my hand against the screen of the Blazin Sevens slot machine. 

"Ooh, too bad," I said as the only thing on the center line were one seven and a few cherries.

No payout on that.

I took another sip of my free watered-down Seven and Seven. I like to coordinate my drink with my machine. I fed another twenty-dollar bill into the hopper convinced a big payout was coming soon.


My happy place was the bank of $1.00 slot machines at almost any casino. Winning was fantastic, but there’s also weird satisfaction in losing. Minutes turn into hours and before you know it, you’ve wasted money and hours of your life that could have been better spent.


Addiction can turn you into a selfish jerk, and that goes double with a gambling addiction.

You make terrible decisions and use people, but worst of all, your humanity, empathy, and kindness disappear along with your self-esteem.

You’ll do almost anything to get your fix.

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My gambling addiction — and yes, that’s what it was — didn’t start in the usual way. I’d been to Las Vegas a couple of times and thought the slot machines were fun but not especially captivating.

My obsession was born in a Palm Springs Aqua Caliente Casino.

I’d been working there for a few weeks, and at night there wasn’t much to do to unwind.


My friend Larry and I started to go to the Spa Casino. They had a smoke-free room and there was nothing I hated more than sitting at a machine and having to endure a chain smoker puffing on cigarette and blowing smoke in my face.

Smoking was one of the things I despised about Las Vegas.

But in a smoke-free room, I could enjoy hours of fun, and it was fun, really fun — so fun that I’d take my Christmas bonus money and gamble it right the fun away.

Seventh Heaven was my first slot machine obsession. You’d think from the name, the game would be all about cherubs and angels, but its theme was silly fruit. Think Fruit Loops but with more personality.


The animation of the fruit was very charming, featuring whimsical pears, jolly cherries, and wacky bananas.

When I won my first jackpot of over $2000 on Seventh Heaven, I was, yep you guessed it, in Seventh Heaven.

I created backstories about the animated fruit as I tried not to think about how badly I needed to use the bathroom but didn’t want to give up my machine.

There’s no seat-saving in a casino, and nothing is more annoying than getting up from a machine, only to have it hit big for the next person.

When three bananas were together but not lined up, I would say they were a dysfunctional family.

I prayed for the bananas to put their differences aside, come together, and win me some money.


Since I seldom got oranges, I deemed them snotty and standoffish. I once said upon getting grapes that even though I hadn’t won, I still felt as if I had accomplished something that day since they were so rarely seen.

When you are playing the same machine for hours on end, it’s important to exercise your mind so that your brain doesn’t become a stupid pudding.

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After I stopped working in Palm Springs, I’d drive to another local-ish casino two hours away, quickly lose my money, and come home again in the same afternoon.

If I went to a casino with someone else, it felt more social and less desperate. Most of my friends didn’t want to hang out at a casino, and Larry had a busy social life.


I needed to find a gambling buddy.

Enter Ted,

We met at a singles dance. He was immediately smitten, and I was not, but I liked him.

Only someone with a plum pit for a heart wouldn’t like him.

He resembled a big panda bear. He was cuddly, cute, and had a scruffy beard. The dark circles under his eyes came from working the late shift at the printing plant of a local newspaper.

By our second dance, he couldn’t hold back and asked me out.

Teddy couldn’t play it cool even if he was standing in a deep freeze.

I didn’t want to be outright rude, so I searched for something we might have in common.

He loved anything with cilantro in it — cilantro tastes like soap to me.


He was scared of cats — I can’t live without cats.

Camping was his favorite thing in the world — I hadn’t camped since I was a Girl Scout.

I encouraged him to talk about himself but the more he said, the less interested I became.

"One of my favorite things is to go to a casino and play the slot machines," he said.

Wait, what?

"You’re not into table games, just the slots?" I asked barely able to contain my excitement.

"Yeah, I mean 21 is fun, and poker can be okay, but I don’t know — I like the slot machines better. Sometimes I go to Cabazon and play through the night."

Now I was interested.

The Cabazon casino was about a 90-minute drive, and even though I’d never won there, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a first time.


So, on the ninth time he asked me out, I said "yes" with the caveat that we wouldn’t be going out for dinner or the movies, but to Cabazon.

Ted was a super kind guy who wanted to play the slots — I could learn to love him.

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He picked me up in an old beater of a car without a paint job and patchy primer. That was fine; I’d never judge anyone by the car they drove.

"Is it okay if I stop at a check cashing place? I don’t get paid until next Friday, and I’d rather not get cash off my credit card."

I knew this was a flashing red flag, but I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’d had an unexpected expense come up, and he didn’t want to break the date because he had no money.


He’d have to pay a fee, but he wouldn’t miss our date.

How cute was that?

Okay, not cute, and neither was it cute when after blowing through his money at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, he asked if he could borrow some money from me.


I’d hit a small jackpot, so I cashed out and gave him half of my winnings.

The money I gave him didn’t last long, and mercifully he knew not to ask me for another loan, so he went off to get a credit card advance.

He must have gotten five credit card advances, and he either ran out of credit or his access was shut off by his bank. Within an hour, he was tapped out, drinking a soda, and watching me.

"You’re cute when you win and when you lose," he said breaking my winning streak.

I didn’t want his bad luck rubbing off me and he was insisting on sticking close to my side. There was no reason to stay any longer.

After asking me for gas money, we got into his car and made the trek home.


When parked in front of my house, he leaned in and went for a kiss. I moved my head slightly and got a big wet kiss on the upside of my chin.

I didn’t know how to let him down easily, so after the fifth call begging me for another date, I told him I had endometriosis (the truth) and that I was in too much pain to date (sometimes true.)

It was over a year later when I went to another dance. As I feared he was there, but uninterested in me as he’d found another woman to be his cash machine, I mean, love interest.

Although it’s been many years since I’ve been to a casino, I still enjoy playing slot machines, but not to the point where I’m in debt or in danger of losing my house.


I won’t gamble with my finances or my heart, even for a row of arrogant oranges.

The National Council on Problem Gambling operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network. The network is a single national access point to local resources for those seeking help for a gambling problem. The network consists of 28 contact centers that provide resources and referrals for all 50 states and US territories. Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential. Call 1-800-Gambler.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.