One of my favorite Willie Nelson songs is “On The Road Again,” a ballad about his life as a roving country western vocalist. Every time I hear it, my urge to travel kicks in. I’m feeling it right now.
I just kicked the sand off my boots and left Pennsylvania. The Keystone State is beautiful. It was a fabulous place to grow up, but I am rapidly tiring of its limitations. It hasn’t handled this global health problem very well and It’s practically impossible to find a good poker game in the state.
The Meadows is a thoroughbred harness race track about 25 miles from where I was born. It had a good poker room and a room where you could bet on various thoroughbred tracks around the country, along with hundreds of slot machines. Now all that is left are the slot machines and every true gambler knows you have about two chances of winning on the slots — slim and none.
The Meadows management is either awfully smart or they are dealing with customers who are idiots. They lure people like my brother who is on social security out to the casino by giving them coupons worth anywhere from $20 to $60 weekly. They set their machines extra tight so that ‘free’ money doesn’t last very long. Sure enough, the slot players like my brother reach into their wallet, pull out their ATM debit card, and extract money from their checking or savings account. After that…
…it’s bye-bye cash.
I feel sorry for the retired coal miners and steel workers who live in Pennsylvania. It’s an ugly story but the casino owners have no conscience when it comes to robbing them blind month after month, year after year.
At least with poker, skill is a factor that determines whether you win or lose. And it goes without saying that skill does not figure into whether you profit or loss from pulling the handle on a slot machine.
I knew a woman in Phoenix, AZ. who was addicted to the slot machines. She owned a small ranch near Phoenix and after her husband died would spend a lot of time at gambling casinos near Scottsdale and Chandler. Her husband had left her with a life insurance policy, but it wasn’t very long until that money was gone.
Alice was a lonely woman who was addicted to the slots. She nearly lost her home. She came to me for help. There was little I could do except approach the casino management. I had a couple of good friends there and they promised to look out after her. They did to the point of almost refusing her access to the machines. The last I heard about her she was doing well and had stopped losing her money on the appropriately called ‘one-armed bandits.’
After the Meadows closed its poker room, the Sutersville Volunteer Fire Department in my home town of Sutersville, PA. continued holding Friday night poker tournaments. There for $80 you could enter a no limit poker tournament and get a free home-made meal. It was popular and attracted anywhere from 40 to 80 tournament players each week. Then, because of the worldwide health issue, I guess, the tournaments were stopped.
That was when I left Pennsylvania. And I have no regrets about leaving. None whatsoever.
I am now back in Charleston, S.C. There isn’t any poker in Charleston, but sunny Florida is just a couple of hours driving time south of us. You can drive to BestBet Casino in Jacksonville or head south of Jacksonville to Hollywood, Florida, where there is as much poker as you want. And there are cheap motels and sunny white and beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Oh, you might feel something brush against your leg now and then. Just hope it isn’t a shark or a barracuda. Florida waters are famous for them as well as giant manta rays that are up to 30 feet in diameter and you sure don’t want to collide with one of them.
No, sometimes you have to travel to search for a good poker game. Is it worth it? As sure as I voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence it is, and I ain’t just whistling Dixie.