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Punching Out

Trust me. That slot machine doesn’t feel a thing.

by Frank Legato


Time for a little reminder to all of you disgruntled slot players out there who may have had a losing session:

The slot machine does not care that you are mad. In fact, you can swear you’ll never talk to that slot machine again, and the slot will just ignore you, and go on happily, giving jackpots to other players, and maybe even to you if you come back—even though you may have called it nasty names, or even if your rage was such that you considered physical violence your only recourse.

I say this because of the following story, taken from the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Express-Times:

“An Emmaus man punched a slot machine on Friday afternoon at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, causing $1,610 in damage.”

According to the article, the 40-year-old man (they named him, but I won’t, because I feel his pain) left the casino “immediately after the attack on the machine.” He was sent a summons for criminal mischief by District Judge Elmo Frey. (Yes. “Elmo Frey.”)

Wow. An “attack on the machine.” Doesn’t that tell you enough about the folly of the activity? Attacks on machines seldom result in real satisfaction. I slapped my toaster upside its dial once, and it still burned my toast. It was like the machine was mocking me. Another time, I punched a gumball machine, and it actually punched me back.

Not really, but you get my point. In fact, the very reality that machines cannot punch you back is no doubt part of the appeal of what is widely known as electro-mechanical abuse, or EMA. The scourge of EMA, moreover, is not restricted to people who punch slot machines. An even more common form of EMA is what I like to call “button abuse.” I was playing a video poker machine at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas last week, and the woman next to me apparently was having a bad evening.

She was muttering as the machine kept churning out losing hands, and with every losing hand, she slapped the buttons harder. Deal. Discard. Draw. Deal! Discard! Draw! ! DEAL! DISCARD! DRAW! SLAP! BANG! BOOM! (Sound effects courtesy of Marvel Comics. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.)

By contrast, I was playing my own video poker buttons as if they were a piano, gracefully and gently touching the controls for each hand. Deal… discard… draw; life is good. Deal… discard… draw; oh well, better luck next time, old bean.

The whole time, she’s slammin’ and bangin’ and I’m touching and playing, and you know what? We both ended up with the same result. The credits on each machine dropped to zero.

But while she crashed and boomed and cursed and walked off in a huff, I simply removed my player’s club card and calmly walked away, took the elevator to my room, walked quietly inside, and threw the television set out the window.

It made a much larger sound than punching the machine.

Oh, of course I didn’t throw a TV out the window. (For one thing, the windows don’t open, and Sam’s Town has that indoor park on the other side of the window, so I could have hurt someone.) But my point is, I ended up having a lot better of a time than the button-abuser had, because I have learned machine forgiveness over the years. I know that the machine does not make me lose. It is an inanimate object. A computer. With an evil spirit inside.

No, as I’ve said many times over my career of wisecracking slot-column writing, what makes you win or lose is a random sequence of numbers generated by the electronic device you are operating. The machine did not look at you and say, “I don’t like this guy’s shirt—he loses,” or, “This woman makes annoying mouth noises—four to the royal, then… two of clubs. HAH!”

No, the reason you win or lose is simply that well-known intangible, luck. And of course, if you have bad luck, it’s not the machine’s fault. It is simply because you are a bad person.

Oh, I’m kidding. You’re aces with me. And with that slot machine in front of you.

So, the next time you get frustrated with a machine after hours upon hours of losing and feeding more cash and losing more and more, don’t punch the machine. Punch the player next to you instead. Just make sure he’s not District Judge Elmo Frey.

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