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Place Your Bets: Six Stories About Gambling

Emily Perper | Longreads | January 17, 2016 | words
Posted inFeatured, Nonfiction, Reading List

Place Your Bets: Six Stories About Gambling

Six stories about bets, luck, and playing the odds.
Photo: fitzsean

We pulled into a gas station in rural North Carolina. My friend’s car took diesel; my boyfriend and I needed snacks. The man at the pump across from us looked toward the convenience store and shook his head. “Line’s an hour long,” he said. This was the evening the Powerball would be announced, and folks traveling from all over were lining up to buy last-minute tickets. During the six-hour car ride, we discussed what we’d do if we won. We weren’t going to win. But what if we did? My boyfriend said he’d give each of his coworkers a grand. I wanted to pay off my students’ loans and my parents’ mortgage, nary a dent in the hundreds of millions the Powerball promised after taxes. Wide-eyed, we three walked in. By the time I left the bathroom, the line had dwindled. We restocked on junk food. My boyfriend found a five-dollar bill in his jacket and bought two Powerball tickets. “Playing” the Powerball was passive. We exchanged money for goods; it didn’t feel like a game. But it did make us feel like a part of something bigger—until the winners were announced. I closed Twitter and sighed, and all we Powerballers went back to dreaming.

1. “Heartbreak and Joy in a ‘MasterChef Junior’ Betting Pool.” (Jaya Saxena, The Daily Dot, February 2015)

It’s all fun and games until—nah, it’s still fun and games. “MasterChef Junior” is earnest, heartwarming and suspenseful. It might be the best reality show on TV.

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