A BIGGER BUCKET REDUX
Why some gamblers love the slots
By Frank Scoblete
In 1991 (or thereabouts) my wife the Beautiful AP wrote an article titled “A Bigger Bucket.” I thought it captured the real reason people played slots, at least symbolically.
Now, I know players all have various reasons for risking their hard-earned money on machines programmed to take that money and, strange as this might sound to a non-slot-player, get those very players to enjoy the process of actually losing their money.
But are the common threads we usually use to describe why people play the machines all that encompassing? AP didn’t think so. There had to be a simple explanation that could actually cover everyone; something more than just “to make money” or “have fun.” Was there a missing ingredient? Was there some way to phrase the play on those one-armed bandits?
The Beautiful AP was talking to Jo, the wife of Russ the Breather, one of the Captain’s crew. The late Captain was my mentor (I’ve written several books about him and his ideas) and his crew of 22 – all passed away now except for two of us, Satch and me – were famous Atlantic City players; most of the men played high-stakes craps, while the women (with two exceptions) played the slot machines.
So AP was interested in why people played the machines, machines over which there was no possibility of getting the edge. Why do that? What made those machines so appealing to players?
Jo gave what I consider to be the best answer the Beautiful AP ever heard; she said, “I play so that I can get a bigger bucket.”
Now remember what slot machines were like in those days, almost three decades ago. They were coin operated and when you won they spit out coins into the tray in front of the slot player. To put those coins in a bucket one had to dig into them and pour them from your hand into the bucket. Recall that many players had fingers of silver as the coins eventually left their metallic marks on the players. When slot play was over you had to wash your hands thoroughly or you would get metal on everything you touched.
I do recall individuals known as “silver miners” who would tour the casinos looking for leftover coins in the coin trays. These were early morning birds for the most part, scouring the various casinos looking for free coin. I doubt there are any of these folks around anymore unless there are “credit creatures” looking for credit slips they can cash in.
So, Jo said she played to get a bigger bucket? What did that actually mean?
It was quite simple really. If you were a quarter slot player, your coins usually rested neatly in a small or medium-sized bucket. But a big win could see a player have to shift to a larger bucket, perhaps the largest bucket the casino had. And that was the triumph to Jo. She thought that the bottom line of slot play was to count one’s play by the buckets – I guess you could call that another type of bucket list.
According to Jo, the real goal of the slot player was to try to increase the size of one’s bucket because the bucket you had couldn’t fit all the coins you had won. If Dame Fortune was in the wind you might be able to go to dollar slots and fill the biggest bucket of them all.
That was the dream according to Jo, the dream of moving up through the bucket world, from small to larger to still larger and then having the biggest one of all. Those buckets were almost like holders of one’s toys or baseball cards or whatever any child saved in his or her personal hideaways. (I couldn’t think of what girls in the past saved; I am sure for most of them it wasn’t baseball cards.)
The Beautiful AP was never a slot player but Jo had perked her interest and so AP asked other slot players what it was that caused them to play the machines. She would tell them about Jo’s idea of the bigger bucket; did they agree with that? Many did. Some didn’t; I am guessing those could not get the symbolic significance of the idea. Those in agreement could see that such a bucket was more than just the total amount of money in it but the accomplishment of reaching for the stars and actually grasping them – even if one time.
Certainly the bucket symbolized success, individual achievement, the conquering of something that was extremely hard to conquer.
Of course, today you’d be hard pressed to find any buckets in your favorite casinos. I am guessing most casino have few or none. Those days of coins in and coins out are mostly gone. We buy things with credit, including our gambling fun. I don’t know what the equivalent of the bucket would be today.
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter-All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.