“Come on, red sevens,” I scream at the machine, but the reels don’t land in a line and I lose. I push the spin button over and over again, praying that I will hit a jackpot. “Come on, big money,” I say out loud to no one in particular.
If I pretend to look away, or squeeze my eyes shut -- maybe that will start a hot winning streak. I press my fingers to the screen where the third red seven should be as if to magically draw it to that spot. Next time. It’s silly, but I will do anything that might help me win.
I’m in denial that I have a gambling problem since I’m not feeding dollars or quarters into a machine in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Instead I’m seated at my dining-room table playing a free slot machine on Facebook. But I’m still wasting time and money that I can’t afford to lose.
When my boyfriend Andy, and I moved in together, we would sometimes go to the local Indian casinos. It was something we could do together. We called it “getting a hot dog” as if we were simply going out to lunch, not blowing our paychecks on video poker or Blazing Sevens.
But when he lost his job, and we were in danger of losing our house, it became clear that our gambling days had to be put behind us. We stopped our twice-yearly Las Vegas trips, and for a while I thought I had kicked my gambling addiction.
Then we discovered one of the free casino sites on Facebook.
Andy encouraged me to try one of these social media slot machines. He was missing our Las Vegas trips, and convinced me that no-risk gaming could be fun too. I didn’t think it would be very exciting for me. I didn’t see the point of winning tons of free chips that I couldn’t buy anything with.
Then I discovered the Brady Bunch Slot Machine and I was hooked. Alice is wild and there are special Alice bonuses! I could gamble and be completely entertained at the same time.
Doubledown Casino on Facebook is not like the Internet gaming sites that cost real money. On Doubledown, you bet chips. Every day you get more free chips just for signing on. Then if you have Facebook friends who are also enjoying this app, they can send you a free gift spin for more chips as well. I usually went through my daily spins very quickly and found myself needing more chips.
I made a fake profile “Chris Margaret” just so that I could get an extra gift spin from her. But that was just one extra spin, and soon I was searching the Internet and joining other Facebook groups trying to get codes for more free chips.
I would play first thing in the morning and after work -- sometimes skipping going out, or doing anything other than fake slot machine gambling. I’d turn the sound off on my computer and play while talking on the phone. If I did go out to dinner or a show, I couldn’t wait to get home, and get back on the Internet and play my game.
I played so much and got so little exercise that my hands would get numb. When I would finally end for the night, and get up from the chair that my butt had been plastered on for hours, my joints would be stiff.
My bills were piling up, creditors were calling, but the next spin of the reel might be the winning one. I could win a large amount of chips whose only benefit would be to allow me to play longer and help me to ignore my life. I was as desperate as any poker player who has just pawned their belongings to get into another game.
I don’t just love winning, I get a weird thrill from losing, too. If all I did was win, it wouldn’t mean as much.
Oh don’t get me wrong, winning is great, but winning after a losing streak is better than chocolate. Once after getting an especially rare win, I said with a straight face “I really feel like I achieved something today” and yet I hadn’t done anything all day long except tap my mouse and yell at my computer.
Sometimes I would run out run out of chips early on. If I was desperate enough I’d purchase chips to tide me over. For $3.00 I could get $150,000 in chips, and for $8.00 for $750,000 in chips, and so on. Yes, I know those amounts by heart.
Unfortunately when I was doing a max bet of $40,000 and losing, I could go through my stake pretty quickly. I knew it was crazy to pay for free chips, but I didn’t want to stop playing.
One day after a banking card mix-up, I had to go into the bank and talk to someone about getting a replacement card.
“Wow there are a lot of three dollar charges,” the customer service guy said reviewing my account for fraudulent activity.
“Oh, that’s my Paypal, I have to pay a lot of postage,” I lied.
I felt ashamed of the dozens and dozens of $3.00 charges from chip buying. Paying for porn would have been less embarrassing.
A few times I’ve become overdrawn and have had to pay overdraft charges on the last $3.00 chip purchase I made. When I’m in the “bad” zone, I’m not exactly a careful bookkeeper, I always figure I will have enough to cover it, but sometimes my gamble is off and I start raking up the fees. I’m overdrawn hundreds of dollars but have nothing to show for it.
I’m not one of those people like Andy who can budget out what they are willing to lose and then quit when they get to that point. When I’m losing I take it personally, as if the game is disrespecting me. I keep playing until I get that respect or I’m completely tapped out.
But trying to get respect from a slot machine is crazy and I have to get help before I lose everything on a free social media game.
I knew that was out of control again and needed to wean myself off the machines. I began stopping when I ran out of chips which seems easy enough, but was incredibly difficult. I also played other casino apps that weren’t as fun or as addicting. I’ve added in legitimately free games on my phone so when I have the itch to play I just do one of those or a jigsaw puzzle. When I actually get out of the house, that works too.
I still have the craving and when I go on to Facebook to update my status or get information on an event, I’m tempted to click on Doubledown, but I know once I start, it will be almost impossible to stop.