When you turn 16 you get to drive.

When you turn 21 you get to drink.

And when you turn 18 in Minnesota, you’re legal to gamble at Tribal casinos. So, the day I turned 18, I drove up Grand Casino Hinckley with my dad.

He gave me $40 and set me free. When I wasn’t busy getting carded (back then I had a bad mop top and a baby face to boot), I was stumbling my way around the casino, trying to figure out how everything worked. I had no idea what anything was, and it was all a blur. I felt like a kid in an adult arcade.

As I went from machine to machine, I watched in awe as my money was converted into abstract credits, and the colorful reels spun. The vivid colors, frequent animations, and hypnotic sounds put me in a trance.

I still don’t really know what I was doing, but at one point I was up to $100 on a nickel machine. Of course I didn’t realize it (or know when to stop… some things never change!), so I found myself as so many gamblers do with only a couple bucks left.

I found my dad and we headed to the high limit room. I put my last two dollars into a $1 machine, and hit the MAX BET button. I was going to go out with a bang.

The reels started spinning, and the first one stopped on a red 7.

The second reel kept spinning, and landed on a red 7.

The third reel spun for what felt like an eternity, until it landed on – you guessed it – a RED 7!

7… 7… 7!

Holy shit!

I watched in amazement as the credits ticked up to 40, happily cashed out my $40, and skipped out of the casino feeling like I’d won far more than my initial stake.

I was hooked.

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