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The mesmerism of slots

By Frank Scoblete


It was April 2 in the mid-1990s (or thereabouts) and this was at Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, near the jingling Treasure Island slot machines, and she came up to my wife the Beautiful AP and me and asked, “Do you know what day this is?”

“It’s April second,” we said.

She looked confused. Then she said, “April second? What happened to April first?” Now I guess that we looked confused. “Yesterday was April first,”

I said. “Yesterday was April first.”

“I lost April first,” she said. “I lost it.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Beautiful AP.

“I started playing on March 31 after dinner,” she said. “We come to Vegas twice a year. It’s a great vacation. I love the slots but I never lost a day. I play maybe five hours a day and that’s about it. I save my money during the year to play. I don’t drink either.”

She wandered off. I assumed she was going to her room. Did she have a husband or friend waiting for her or worried about her? My word, she lost a whole day.

That’s the last we saw of her for our trip. She lost a whole day!

Slot players probably all have tales of sessions that got out of hand or were weird or thrilling. These sessions usually deal with money lost or money won or some strange man or woman being highly noticeable or a truly interesting event, perhaps someone nearby who won a fortune.

But losing a day tells me something else. Slot machines can be mesmerizing. People can actually get lost as they play. Time slows down even as it speeds up in the real world. That is a form of Einstein’s special relativity in consciousness terms.

Some players actually play slots because they enjoy that floating feeling of being in another state of consciousness, an altered state. I am thinking that is what happened to this lady.

Since she wasn’t a drinker, she didn’t have alcohol to thank (or blame) for her departure from normal reality. I am guessing she and the machine became one and the same in some mysterious gestalt way.

This was a period of time when coins went in and came out occasionally. Credit slips really weren’t around. The actual sound of the slot machines were real coins going in and real coins coming out. Slot players carried buckets with them to hold their coins. My mother thought slot play was an attempt to get a bigger bucket.

That process could become routine, just as meditation could be routine, smoothly easing a person into the somewhere else; a whole day in the somewhere else. That was possible.

What did you have to really think about as you drifted off? Some people might have thought of absolutely nothing. An altered state of consciousness was consuming the player. It had to be that. She didn’t seem as if she were sick or anything. She had experienced the elsewhere. If she were a man she might have been like a monk for April first.

My wife and I really didn’t know much about this woman. Actually, we didn’t know anything. Had she won? Had she lost? Had she cashed in her coins? I actually don’t remember if she was carrying her bucket with her when we spoke to her. For us it was a weird conversation (to say the least!).

And I wondered, I seriously wondered, how many slot players experience something or other like this woman experienced? Could that be one of the reasons slot machines had taken over the casinos and now dominated them?

I do not remember slot players or craps players going into altered states of consciousness. Blackjack players had to worry about their strategies for playing their hands. Craps players had to keep themselves aware of their bets and when they were shooting the dice they had to concentrate. Going into an altered state of consciousness would be out of the question.

I am guessing that in table games you had to deal with other people and the dealers. That would keep you grounded. Maybe drink could put someone over the top at a table game but being drunk would probably cause such players to ultimately hit their head on the table or the floor.

The drunk’s altered state of consciousness would be to pass out. If they lost a day they would be sleeping through it and wake up with a hangover.

The Beautiful AP and I were staying for a couple of weeks and we rarely talked about this woman. We had a busy schedule. I had two television shows to do and some book signings and a couple of talks. Yes, I was busy.

The woman came into my consciousness now and again but truly not all that often.

At the airport we boarded our plane and took our seats. As the plane taxied onto the runway, I turned to my wife and said, “She lost a whole day.”

“Slot machines can be mesmerizing. People can actually get lost as they play. Time slows down even as it speeds up in the real world. That is a form of Einstein’s special relativity in consciousness terms.”

She nodded, “A whole day.”

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Frank Scoblete’s website is His books are available from, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.

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