By MARY TOBIA

tneditor@tnonline.com

Each year my husband and I plan an evening out and go to an area casino.

Before we were married some 40 years ago, my husband enjoyed going to the racetrack and betting on horses. Being a single fella, living at home with a full time job, and gas prices being a mere 36 cents a gallon; he would drive to Pocono Downs and bet on the horses. Sometimes up to three times a week.

After we got married there came a house mortgage and car payments. So ultimately raising a family soon became his top money propriety. Paying the sewage bill, the waste bill and the water bill became his new trifecta.

Through the years we have always tried to make going to the racetrack/casino a yearly event.

Gambling for us is entertainment. We go with a set amount of cash in our pockets and when that is all gone we know it is time to call it a night. We predetermine that exact amount before we actually even leave the house.

As we always so, we enjoyed the drive on the turnpike because it is always so pretty this time of year.

When we arrived the parking lot was so full, we had to park a mile away. We took a shuttle bus to the front door. No signs of a slumping economy or a high jobless rate could be found inside these doors. The casino was packed with fun-loving people on slot machines and poker players or black jack gamblers at the card tables.

We enjoyed a leisurely meal at the buffet, we strolled around the novelty stores, placed a few bets on our favorite horses and of course tried our luck on some slot machines.

Who can resist those one arm bandits? The flashing lights, catchy music, bright numbers or cherries, bars, coins and plums spinning around. And not to mention, the sound of cash being won; well sometimes. There are many themed machines like TV shows, movies and celebrities.

You can play penny machines all the way up to the larger denomination machines. After you place your bet amount you can pull the handle down, reminiscent of generations ago, or just be hip and press the play button. Symbols or numbers will spin and each reel will stop automatically; hopefully all in one winning row.

My favorite machines are the quarter ones and I usually look for red, white and blue symbols. I like to find ones that have a symbol of the liberty bell. The liberty bell was the symbol used in 1895 when slots machines were first invented.

I place my betting money in my right pocket. Then I take any winnings and place that in my left pocket. I am always in hopes that the left pocket fills ups faster than the right pocket goes down.

I go to a casino to lose money instead of win, so maybe a more positive attitude could help.

I usually walk around until I get good vibrations from a machine that "talks to me." But I guess we don't speak the same language because I hear "Please, sit down I will give you money" but really it is "Sit down I will TAKE your money!"

I have read that you should try to sit at the end of the row. More machines pay off closer to the isle, so more people notice if you win. This little tip hasn't worked for me so far!

It never fails someone around me always wins and last Saturday night was no different.

As I sat playing my one quarter bet at a time, a lady sitting near me screams "I won!" The lights to her machine flash brightly, a siren whistles and loud bells start to clang. I do take notice that it is a dollar machine and I see the payout continually rising from $50 to $100 to $200 to $300 and up! It doesn't stop till it reaches $ 1,056. The winning lady stands up, raises her hands over her head, kisses the slot machine three times and sits back down to wait for an attendant for the pay out. I look at my slot machine with its staggered 7's. I decide to cash out my meager five dollar winnings and go find my better half, hoping he has had more luck than I.

My husband is usually a little luckier than I am at the slots and the card tables. We are not heavy gamblers, so our description of a perfect evening at the casino is one where we can walk out the door to go home and leave with the same amount of money we walked in with.

Odds are favorable that we will plan a night out at the casino next year. Will we come home with a jackpot? Don't bet on it!