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The Voices in My Head

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

It’s Vegas Week! About half of our ESPN Honolulu team is in Las Vegas for Saturday’s Hawaii-UNLV football game and all its surrounding festivities. Be sure to listen to “The Bobby Curran Show” and “The Sports Animals” live from “Sin City” as they bring you game previews, team updates and interviews with some very special guests.

Of course, another common nickname for Las Vegas is “The Gambling Capital of the World,” and for good reason. Las Vegas casinos generated $2.1 billion in gambling revenues in the last quarter alone.

Once upon a time, I was a frequent, umm, “contributor” to the city’s economy. I loved to gamble, although I wasn’t very good at it. Thus, yet another appropriate nickname: “The City of Lost Wages.”

I originally wrote the following piece in the summer of 1996 – 25 years ago! – back when I served as the editor for a magazine called Hawaii’s Guide to Nevada. I’ve altered a few parts to make things less dated, but the basic premise of the feature remains the same.

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“You know, you should stop right now, cash out and leave a winner.”

“You can’t quit now! The machine is hot! Your royal flush could be right around the corner!”

“Stop. Cash out. Leave a winner. That’s what smart players do.”

”Are you here to nickel and dime or go for the big one? Besides, who says you’re smart? Keep playing!”

Help me. Please. Anybody.

I’m playing 25¢ video poker at the California Hotel & Casino. It’s past midnight and, yes, I am winning. I’m up to 565 credits, which I somehow manage to figure out is $141.25. Considering I started out with one solitary roll of quarters, I’d say I should be pretty happy.

Instead, I’m miserable.

They’re back. Again.

The voices in my head.

“Quit, stupid, before you lose it all!”

”Don’t listen to that imbecile, you idiot! Keep playing. That’s what you’re here for!”

Their names are TweedleDumb and TweedleDweeb, although sometimes I forget which is which. They bicker and yell and fight and argue. They live inside my head, and they come out every time I’m in Las Vegas.

A frail and elderly Japanese lady from Hawaii sitting next to me gives me a friendly smile. “How are you doing?” I ask her. (What I really want to ask is, “Do you hear voices in your head, too?”

”Oh, not so good,” she says. “How about you?” She looks over to my machine and gasps. “You should stop already. Keep your winnings.”

TweedleDumb (TweedleDweeb?) snickers. “See?”

Yes, I should stop. That’s good advice. My finger is on the “Cash Out” button when TweedleDweeb lets out a snort. “That lady’s just saying that to get you off the machine, you rube! The second you leave, she’s going to hop on your machine and steal your royal flush!”

I stare at the frail elderly lady. She’s smiling so sweetly at me.

That bitch.

An hour later, feeling brain dead, I finally cash out my credits – 400 of them. “Not bad, but…

“If you stopped when I told you to stop, you would have won $40 more,” says TweedleDeeb.

”Yeah,” I reply out loud. (And that starts to scare me.)

TweedleDumb sighs. “Your ‘royal’ was just one more play away.”

I tried everything. I’ve read all the books that tell you what to do in this or that situation. In craps, don’t play the field bets. In blackjack, always split a pair of aces and hit on “15” if the dealer is showing an eight, nine or 10 – except on rainy days or if the player on your left looks like Bu La‘ia. I bought a casino video game last year just so I could practice. Heck, I’ve even tried to be like Luke Skywalker. You know what I mean. I, like, “use The Force…”

But none of it works. As soon as I arrive at McCarron Airport, they return.

”Viva, Las Vegas! Hey, let’s play those slot machines over there!”

”No way. Have you ever seen someone get a jackpot at the airport?”

”It happens all the time, chump. You’re just never there…”

The voices in my head.

It’s 10:40 a.m., and another Las Vegas adventure is coming to an end. The shuttle is picking us up at eleven, and I’m back at the quarter machines, my carry-on bag at my feet.

“Why are you still playing? Give it up. There’s always a next time.”

I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s TweedleDeeb.

”You know, since time’s running out, you gotta go for it. Play the dollar machines. Better yet, play the $5 machines! Or better yet…”

Yeah, that’s definitely TweedleDumb.

I yawn. Big mistake.

”Tired? You shouldn’t be playing. Tired players make mistakes!”

“You can sleep on the plane, moron. Keep playing!”

Help me. Please. Anybody?

”You should stop already. Hey, keep that 10 of clubs!”

”Keep playing! And get rid of that 10 of clubs!”

“Yeah, that’s it. Go for it.”

”You never listen to me anymore…”

Five more credits. Clinkk-Clinkk-Clinkk-Clinkk-Clinkk. I see a 10 of hearts, a king of hearts, rubbish, rubbish and an ace of hearts. I discard the rubbish.

Beep-Beep. And it happens. In place of the rubbish, there’s a jack and queen of hearts. Royal Flush. Just like that.

”Told you,” sniffs TweedleDumb.

A question appears on the screen. The machine is asking me if I want to go for double or nothing. High card wins.

“Don’t be stupid, dude!”

”We’ll, hey now. Let’s think about this…”

I bury my head in my hands.

Somebody, make them stop.

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