Can’t win if you don’t play

My most recent loser…

I bought my weekly Florida lottery ticket at the grocery store this afternoon. A buck a week. That’s the extent of my investment in the slim probability of winning a couple of million dollars (well, $1.22 million after the government takes its cut), or, more specifically, one chance in about 18 million. (I feel compelled to point out here that the federal government did not contribute its thirty-nine cent share to the cause, but you can bet your bum they will want their thirty-nine percent share of the winnings. But I digress.)

It took me a little longer than usual to get my ticket today. I had queued up with three others at the ticket counter behind a bald, disheveled, middle-aged guy wearing flip-flops, shorts and a threadbare Hawaiian shirt. This fellow was busily fussing with a small, clear plastic baggy, which was stuffed with a handful of scratch-offs and a stack of Lotto tickets about a quarter of an inch think. So, we all waited patiently, watching our Haagan Dazs’s melt, as crumpled bills and dog-eared tickets were pushed back and forth between this gentleman and the clerk until finally all was apparently in order. Then, off he went to count his winnings. There was no “eureka” from him at this point, so I assumed he didn’t win the big one.

One Saturday afternoon many years ago my wife and I were visiting my in-laws, Mildred and Harvey. There were a bunch of us there, including numerous little knee-high nieces and nephews scampering about. So when everybody got hungry I volunteered to run out to a Krystal and brought back some sacks full of French fries and those miniature burgers they sell there. As it turned out, Krystal was having a promotion: each of the small burger cartons had a scratch-off for the possibility of winning some free fries or something. Anyway, there must have been twenty of these little cardboard doodads. So, with nothing better to do, I sat there at the kitchen table, while Mildred quietly watched, and diligently scratched off all twenty of them until the table was awash in scratch-off residue. Didn’t win a single one. I cleared the table and was about to get up when she chuckled and handed me the coin I had been using for this task. “Don’t forget your lucky penny,” she said.

I have always been fond of the old axiom that luck is what one finds when opportunity meets preparation. I think this is often the case. But sometimes just plain ol’ dumb luck can win the day. Like the day I met my wife, which was way back in my musical days. She was in the audience while I was performing at a hotel lounge here in Jacksonville. Our eyes locked and the rest is history.

Life is full of hazards. If we fall in love we could get hurt. If we invest our money in a dream, we could lose it all. If we don’t work hard we aren’t going to reap the benefits of hard work. If we don’t participate, which is the worst of all decisions, we will not be able to look back in our later years and feel like we gave it our best shot.

So, for you young people out there, get after it, if you haven’t already. And even if you don’t win, take it from me, it will be fun to have tried.

Clyde’s dale

I’ve always loved horses. Probably because, as I’ve noted in earlier essays, I was raised on a seemingly unending series of TV westerns during my childhood back in the 50’s (remember this? Cowboys and Cowgirls)…


If you have ever enjoyed a box of Cracker Jacks you may recall that each box includes some kind of semi-excellent prize. I quickly learned that those trinkets, along with the peanuts, usually settled to…


    Did you have Mr. Montgomery for math? I’m afraid he spoiled all of that for me when he drilled so much of that probability theory into my mind. I have NEVER bought a lottery ticket. You really think I should start now? ha ha MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    My lovely Pat: As I noted in my essay, and as you astutely picked up on from Mr. Montgomery (I think I may have missed some of that while being engrossed in my Superman comics in the back row), there’s a pretty (well, okay, astronomically) small chance of winning a state lottery–one in 18 million in Florida, to be specific. Which means, of course, on average, if you play 18 million times you will win, um, once!

    But, here’s the key: Not necessarily on the last buy! In other words, you have a one in 18 million chance of nailing it the first time you plop down a buck. And then, of course, chances are equally likely that you will lose the next 18 million times, if you are dumb enough to keep going (Don’t you love statistics? The odds are exactly the same for every bet–it doesn’t get better the MORE you bet, a misconception which keeps tax/lottery dollars rolling into state governments throughout the nation from the poor and less educated among our midst. But, again, I am sure you already know all that from Mr. Montgomery).

    But, if you prefer NO ROOM FOR DOUBT, go for not playing at all, which–guaranteed–will result in a big, fat zero! Thus, my point. So, a buck a week puts me in the running. I have always been a daredevil, ay? that’s how I used to get black eyes on recess in elementary school.

    And, besides, this essay wasn’t really about the lottery. It was about taking chances. Business entrepreneurs, for example, take chances. That’s why they are referred to as entrepreneurs (French for “risk takers.” But you know that, too). In any event, at least they have more control over the likelihood of their success, and (per the SBA) success for four out of ten beats the heck out of a lottery.

    Ergo: Dream. Plan. Execute. Have fun, even if it doesn’t work. Then, try again, if the first try didn’t bloody you too badly. It’s the American way.

    I am going to try to grill fresh Atlantic shrimp wrapped in bacon this weekend. Again. Last time I tried this I almost burnt down the house. But, dang, it is SO delicious. I think I have a better than 50-50 chance of pulling this off on the second try.

    I was determined to continue just lurking until you both started discussing “Mr. Montgomery.”

    Memories…. Mom, Dad and Uncle Paul sitting around the kitchen table in the evening, playing three-handed euchre and waiting for our phone to ring, whereupon I would answer to hear the inevitable, “Is Uncle Paul there? I’ve got a problem with this homework.” He had become “Uncle Paul” to most of our class.

    Sorry for posting off-topic. I’ve actually been thinking about that house a lot recently for some reason, and then Pat, who bought it from Mom and Dad, posted and even talked about my family. Now I’m really homesick!

    Hope this isn’t too much of a mess. I’ve never tried to write on my Kindle before–horrible for editing. I think there is a partial line below this that I can’t access to delete. Just wanted to say I’ve enjoyed the blogs and all the replies.


    person who bought it from Mom and Dad not only posts a message, but mentions Uncle Paul

    Brother, there was more than one errant, orphaned line at the end! This will be the last time I try writing on the Kindle, which I otherwise love. Sorry….

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