19: The Winner

19: The Winner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Winner

The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.

~Douglas MacArthur

I put on my best shirt, finest jeans, and favorite cowboy hat. I want to look sharp when I win twenty thousand dollars at the casino. It probably won’t happen, though, because last night I didn’t dream that I won.

I’ve had two dreams about winning a lot of money. The first was on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago. My wife Debbie and I planned to go to the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, New York, on Christmas day. The night before, I dreamt that I sat down at a video slot machine — one of thousands at Seneca Niagara — and I bet $2.50. I never bet that much in real life. Fifty cents is my usual bet; a dollar is my absolute limit. But in my dream, I bet $2.50. I pushed the button, and the virtual reels spun. The next thing I knew, “X 27” came up at the bottom of the screen because I had twenty-seven matching lines. The machine said I won $500 X 27, which added up to $13,500!

When I woke up on Christmas morning, I remembered my dream and laughed. Thirteen thousand dollars! What a present that would be! Too bad it was only a dream. I was getting close to retirement, and after raising four kids, my savings could have used a boost.

Later that day, while driving to the casino, I told Debbie what I’d dreamt and how I specifically remembered “$500 X 27.” I didn’t think about it again until we arrived and saw some slot machines exactly like the one in my dream. People were busy playing on them, so I looked over someone’s shoulder. Below the title, “Wicked Winnings II,” was an illustration of a woman with horns. She was lying on a purple couch, and around her, cloth bags with dollar signs written on them sat in front of several fireplaces. I remembered those bulging bags of money from my dream. The way they were sitting in front of the fireplaces, they seemed to be saying a winner would have money to burn.

“That’s the one I dreamed about,” I said, pointing.

Debbie nodded, but she didn’t take it seriously. After all, it was just a dream.

We moved on to “Prowling Panther,” “Siberian Storm,” and “Kingdom of the Titans.” An hour and a half passed, and I forgot all about my silly dream. When we returned to where we’d started, a seat was empty at “Wicked Winnings II.” Debbie walked ahead of me and sat down. She bet fifty cents and pushed the spin button. Letters, numbers and characters spun around. Witches were wild, and ravens paid the most. If one raven appeared in each column all the way across, she’d win $50. The matching lines didn’t have to be straight; they could connect in any direction, even in zigzags.

Debbie squealed when the reels stopped turning. Witches and ravens lined up in twenty-seven different directions! It might have been any number, but it was 27, exactly like my dream! The screen said “$50 X 27,” and with her fifty-cent wager, she won $1,350! My dream had been off by only a zero. What were the odds of me dreaming those same numbers? Was it just a strange coincidence? If only I’d sat down first and bet $2.50!

Debbie and I started going to the Seneca Niagara Casino every Saturday night for our “date night.” It was more fun than bowling or seeing a movie. We wore our cowboy hats to help us find each other when we got separated. We always decided ahead how much we’d spend, and when it was gone we’d leave.

A few months ago, Debbie and I saw a crowd around a row of new slots. There were four of them, each called “Winner’s Choice, Cleopatra.” On the screen, the name “Cleopatra” covered the lower part of a woman’s face like a veil. All you could see were her green eyes and the jewels on her forehead.

Everyone wanted a turn because these machines had a lot of “specials.” If the Egyptian symbols lined up a certain way, a jackpot wheel popped up. You could win free spins, or you could hit one of the jackpots. The silver jackpot might be worth hundreds, while the gold one often reached thousands. The machines were linked progressives, which meant every time someone played on any of the linked machines, more money went into the jackpot until a lucky gambler won it all. My wife and I watched others play for a little while, and then walked away.

The following Friday night, I dreamt that I won the jackpot at “Winner’s Choice, Cleopatra.” This time when I woke up, I tried to remember every detail. Whenever I go to Seneca Niagara, I always get a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons before I start playing. Then I walk around the game floor with it while I check out the machines. But in my dream, I didn’t stop for coffee. I went right to “Cleopatra.”

On Saturday at the casino, I wanted to make sure I did everything the way it happened in my dream the night before. When we came to Tim Hortons, I passed by without stopping. Debbie asked, “Aren’t you going to get coffee?”

“No,” I said. “In my dream, I went straight to the machine. I have to do it the way my dream told me to!”

Without waiting for Debbie, I hurried to “Winner’s Choice, Cleopatra.” The second seat was open, and I sat down. I hadn’t realized the maximum bet on this one was $3.00, much higher than my usual bet. But because my first dream was so prophetic, I played the max bet. My first two spins weren’t spectacular. Then on my third, the jackpot wheel came up on the screen. I hit the spin button and held my breath.

When the wheel stopped, a light on top of the machine started flashing. “You’ve won the gold progressive,” the screen said. “An attendant will be there soon.” My heart raced when I saw the amount: $3,005! I couldn’t believe it.

I waited for someone to come. A tall, muscular man approached me, wrote down my name and social security number, and then left. A few minutes later, he returned and counted cash into my open hand. He placed a card on the machine that said, “Congratulations, Jerry! You’re a jackpot winner of $3,005.”

I wanted to tell my wife, but I’d lost track of her. I looked around and spotted her cowboy hat a few sections over. “Can I take this card with me?” I asked the man.

“Sure,” he said.

I caught up to Debbie and showed her the sign the employee had given me. She shook her head. “You’re kidding!” she said. I had the cash in my wallet to prove it.

Those were the only two dreams I’ve had about winning at the casino. Now, the night before we go, I always hope to have a dream. I’m waiting to see winning lottery numbers, too. If I do, you can bet I’ll buy a lottery ticket!

~Jerry Penfold

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