COLUMN: Banking on luck is quite the gamble
For a few hours Saturday morning, I was a millionaire.
I was sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, when I flipped open my laptop and checked Facebook. There, amid pictures of people’s kids, re-posted conspiracy theories and other inane chatter, was the lottery rumour:
That the winning ticket for the Lotto Max $50-million jackpot had been sold in Langley – where I live – and had yet to be claimed.
Now, I didn’t buy a ticket to last week’s draw, but I knew my brother – who, it turns out, had two tickets – and my dad were frequent ticket-buyers.
My first call went to my brother, and he’d already heard the news.
“Did you win?” I asked.
He hadn’t checked his ticket yet. Refused to, in fact. But that had not deterred him from assuming the money was already his.
When I called, he was online, shopping for a boat.
“The ticket got sold in Langley. I bought my ticket in Langley, so the odds are pretty good,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Of course I won. Why wouldn’t I?”
Forgetting for a second, that even with the city narrowed down, the odds were still thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, to one, I was reminded of a story I once heard about an American man who won one of those massive state lotteries.
The story went that he’d been playing for decades, but never had a sniff of victory. When asked why he’d kept playing in the face of such astronomical odds, he replied that the way he saw it, the odds were in fact quite good.
“The odds are 50-50,” he said. “I either win, or I don’t.”
So it was with that positive thought that I left my brother to his shopping, and called my dad, a much more reasonable man.
“You check your ticket?”
“No, I can’t do it. I’m too nervous.”
The lottery gods – or the patron saint of faint hope – had gotten to him, too.
And though he wasn’t quite as confident as his youngest son – he had spent his morning making waffles, not deciding which Hawaiian island he planned to buy – he too, remained positive.
He promised to share his winnings with me.
So, there I sat, in millionaire limbo.
I admit, I did let my mind wander a little bit, too. To a life without mortgage payments or the grind of a 9-to-5 job, and to a new life where my biggest decision is deciding which sports car I want to drive that particular day.
Usually, the only time I really entertain such ideas is when I go to Las Vegas. The flight south is filled with dreams of hitting a jackpot on a slot machine, or going on a big-money heater at the blackjack table.
I have a running joke with my brother where, the day before I leave for Vegas, I tell him to pack a bag just in case, because if I hit it big I’ll send a jet for him.
That plane has remained grounded.
So while I waited for confirmation of my family’s new wealth, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and logged into my long-forgotten online poker account. I had received an email a day earlier reminding me I had $5.87 left.
Sure, it would take time to turn five bucks into a fortune, but I’ve never been afraid of a little hard work.
Less than 15 minutes later, my account was whittled down to a dime, my last game ended when my three Queens lost to a full house.
Seconds later, my phone buzzed. A text from my brother.
“Didn’t win” was all it said. (Well, it wasn’t all it said, but this is a family newspaper.)
Then, half an hour later, my dad called to say his numbers didn’t match, either.
And just like that, three dreams were dead.
Cancel the yachts.
Nick Greenizan is a sports reporter at the Peace Arch News, and unless his luck changes, he will be for a long, long, long time.