Not-o Lotto Reasons to Play

Ponder the number “6” for a minute and see what spins around in your brain.  A half-dozen eggs sitting neatly in their half-carton.  The perfectly-square sides of a cube.  Strings on a standard guitar.  A team of volleyball players.  The geese in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  A Star of David, a purchase of beer, or the largest roll of a die?  Forget ’em all; they pale in comparison to this week’s headlines.  Here in America – happening more and more frequently – “6” causes a nationwide frenzy for a wholly different reason: ping-pong balls.  Ping-pong balls?

Powerball, the American lottery game shared by 44 of the 50 states, has its jackpot blossoming into the stratosphere again this week. The five white + one red (Power)balls are spinning relentlessly into our hopes and dreams.  Local news is positively frothy over the $750,000,000 jackpot, the third-largest since Powerball began in 1992. Never mind the ridiculous odds of winning (1 in 292,201,338).  Never mind no one picked the winning numbers in twenty-six consecutive drawings since Christmas.  Also never mind not one of the 183 winning Powerball jackpot tickets has ever been sold in Colorado.  That’s 16 years + 1,664 drawings = 0 winners in the Centennial State.  Even tiny Rhode Island fared better than that (1 winner).  No matter; our broadcasters still push aside this week’s actual news to cry, “Get your tickets now, people – you could be the next Powerball winner!”  Yeah, right.

Powerball jackpot history does not favor Colorado

Admittedly, my wife and I have played Powerball – but only a handful of times.  It’s like we have an unwritten rule: no tickets unless the jackpot exceeds a half-billion dollars.  But it’s not the news alerting us to all that potential windfall; it’s my mother-in-law.  She follows the lottery like a hawk.  Whenever we step into her house, she always knows exactly where the jackpot stands.  Her tickets sit patiently on the kitchen counter, ready for that next biweekly drawing (as she unfailingly asks, “Have you bought yours?”)  Just this week my mother-in-law realized her winnings can be multiplied several times over if she’s willing to pay more.  That’s an important aspect of the game, Mom.  Not that I consider the woman a Powerball guru.  After all, she’s the one who holds up the convenience store line when she turns in her winning tickets… because she’s buying more tickets.  You have to wonder if she ever sees cash in hand, or if this drill is just an endless cycle of ping-pong balls.

Colorado wasn’t always a part of Powerball.  Our state came to the table late – in 2001 – almost a decade after the game began.  Before joining, I remember the “legendary” stories of Coloradans who would drive all the way to Kansas or Nebraska (hours) just to purchase Powerball tickets.  That mind-numbing trip to the east would cost you at least two tanks of gas, and the convenience stores at the borders would have hundreds of customers in line.  That’s a lot of effort for odds of 1 in 192,000,000.  A lot of gamble for a little game.  Too fortuitous a foray for me.

Speaking of “game”, Powerball really isn’t one, is it?  Yes, there’s a winner (and a whole lot of losers), but one can hardly claim to “play” Powerball.  There’s no rolling of the dice, no dealing of the cards, and no moving of the game pieces.  No strategy or rules.  Instead, it’s just plunk down a few dollars for a quick-pick ticket; then go home and watch the ping-pong balls roll.  “Fun”.

Admittedly (again), my wife and I play Powerball for those proverbial hopes and dreams.  We always start our conversation with, “What would you do if you won?”  That conversation alone is almost worth the cost of the ticket.  What would I do with $750,000,000? Well, let’s break it down.  The cash value of the jackpot (lump sum vs. 30 annual installments) is $477 million.  Federal/state taxes drop that number to an even $300 million.  Then I pay off the mortgage and any other debt.  Set up a fund to gift my three kids the maximum tax-free amount allowed.  Remodel the house and ranch.  Travel the world.  Give generously.  Orbit the earth in a SpaceX rocket.  The list does not go on and on.  That’s about all I can come up with, folks.

Roughly calculated, my fulfilled hopes and dreams leave me with about $250 million yet to spend.  This is exhausting.  I’d rather play ping-pong with the numbered balls.  Not that it matters – Powerball’s latest jackpot ticket was just purchased in Wisconsin.  (Called it – Colorado is now 0-184.)  That’s a lot of bread for a Cheesehead.

Tryst With a Twist

I’m leaving my wife for another woman. There, I said it.

I never thought it would come to this; I really didn’t. My wife and I have been together for thirty-one bliss-filled years – as smooth and as satisfying a marriage as one could hope for. And yet, tomorrow afternoon, I’ll catch a ride to the airport, kiss my beloved goodbye, and board a one-way flight to Las Vegas. All my worldly possessions stay behind, save for the overnight bag in my hand and the wad of cash in my pocket. When I get there, I’ll dress up, head over to one of the finer restaurants on the Strip and reunite with a woman over thirty years my junior. We’ll smile at each other and raise our glasses in anticipation. A new adventure will commence.

Now then, let’s shed a little more light on my tryst, shall we? Yes, I’m leaving my wife (but only for a day and half). Yes, I’m going to Sin City on a one-way ticket (but then I’ll turn around and drive back home the next day). And yes, I’m meeting up with a woman thirty years my junior. She also just happens to be my daughter.

Here’s the detail. After a year of living and working in Los Angeles, our youngest has decided to return to Colorado to give Denver a try (the “new adventure” I refer to above). The drive between those cities – if you’ve ever done it – is Las Vegas and a whole lot of nothing else. Imagine a twenty-hour jaunt in a lunar rover on the moon, only somewhere along the way you get thirty minutes in Disneyland. That’s LA to Denver: no people (at least, no sane ones) and a whole lot of cactus, dotted with a single oasis of slot machines and casino-hotels. Come to think of it, I’d wager big money the moon is more interesting than LA-Denver, especially the never-ending portion of the drive known as southern Utah.

Anyhoo, (to use a word from my daughter’s unique vocabulary), I’m sharing the Vegas-to-Denver drive with her – responsible father that I am – fully fourteen of the twenty hours it takes from Los Angeles. Somehow the idea of my daughter and her cat all alone in the desert doesn’t sit well with me.

The more I ponder this little adventure, the more I wonder if I shouldn’t be worried more about my time in Vegas. Think about it. I’ll show up at the hotel, and the front desk will undoubtedly eye my much-younger companion from head-to-toe. “Oh!”, I’ll say with a sheepish grin, “she’s my daughter.” Yeah, right pal, your ‘daughter’. When I arrive at the restaurant for dinner, the maitre d’ will say, “Sir, if you and your – uh – ‘niece’ will follow me, I’ll show you to your table.” Or let’s say I get my daughter to blow on the crap table dice for luck. Stink eyes all the way around. Hey big spender; who’s your prom date?

This is a no-win situation. Short of a blood test and a doctor’s proclamation, “Holy cow, they’re actually related!”, I’m destined to a jackpot’s worth of dirty-old-man looks in the next few days. At least I won’t be mistaken for a gigolo.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Sorry, I beg to differ. I’ll be pleased as punch to share the intimate details of my time with my “other woman” in Sin City. Heck, maybe I’ll even make it my next blog post. We checked into the hotel. We went to dinner. Dropped a few quarters into the slots. Went to bed early so we’d be rested up for the long drive head. Riveting reading, huh?