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Powerball, slot machines and other ways to hit the jackpot

Photo Credit: AP / Charlie Riedel

We won!

Sure enough, our scratch-off New York State lottery ticket confirmed the good news.

We were two bucks richer, though, I suppose, not really, because all we did is cover our bet. Still, better than nothing, right?

For the record, I did not grab the card from my wife, Wink, and dash back into the convenience store for another round. For me, quitting while ahead is a way of life. Nowhere is my name listed among the great adventurers of the world. Columbus made four trips to America. After one, I would have been in Madrid sipping sangria with Queen Isabella.

On a business trip to Las Vegas, Wink and I stayed at a bargain casino-hotel and soon enough tested the slots. After one of the contraptions took us for maybe $1.50, bells rang, a siren went off and coins clattered into a metal cup — maybe 7 bucks worth. Gathering up the loot, Wink and I hotfooted away.

By contrast, we have friends who gamble big time. For years, they got comped in Vegas and Atlantic City — free room, cheap eats.

“After all this time, did you come out ahead?” I once asked.

Our pals looked at me as though I needed a quick competency exam.

“Ahead?” they said in unison. “No one comes out ahead.”

As the unwealthy father of four who, well into midlife, was so budget conscious that HBO seemed an imperial indulgence, gambling is not among my frequent pastimes. Occasional $2 scratch-offs for fun, sure, and, OK, one Powerball ticket if the pot grows stratospheric, but that’s about it. No Aqueduct, Texas Hold ’em, OTB or office Super Bowl pool.

That doesn’t mean I am free of jackpot fantasies. Doesn’t everyone wonder: What would I do?

Oh, sure, there’s the usual stuff — a condo in Key West, a sleeper car train ride through the Canadian Rockies, season tickets to the Mets, a raid on the Sears hardware department — but then what? After you dole out gifts to the kids and grandkids and take everybody on the Christmas card list out to dinner, then what?

An exemplary answer may come from a family in New Hampshire who recently hit it big — $487 million, after taxes.

Preferring anonymity, the winners sent a lawyer to pick up the Powerball payoff. “There couldn’t have been two better people or a better family to win this money,” attorney William Shaheen said. “They’re going to do great things with it.” Already, lawyers said, charitable donations of $100,000 were in the works and more planned.

Generosity is a noble instinct and the lucky New Hampshire family sounds like the real deal. Yes, it’s possible they are loaded already and can afford to part with the jackpot dough, no sweat, but probably not. Probably, they are just good folks. Here’s to them, I say — three cheers, at least.

And while we’re at it, let’s have another round of applause for a big-hearted Long Islander named Amy Hagedorn, who died recently at 79.

Hagedorn’s second husband, Horace, now deceased, was the founder of Miracle-Gro gardening products and made a bundle. Together, the Hagedorns established a foundation that has distributed $50 million since 2005, according to a Newsday obituary. On the foundation website, Amy Hagedorn noted the couple’s guiding philosophy: “Find a need and fill it.”

Of course, you don’t have to be a Powerball winner or plant fertilizer potentate to show grace and goodwill.

When, nearing 90, my mother, Winnie, needed round-the-clock help, an angel by the name of Marva appeared.

On the first night in Mom’s little Brooklyn apartment, Marva opened the pullout couch for herself, and said, “C’mon, Winnie, I’ll help you to the bedroom.”

Mom said, “What are you talking about?”

“I’ll help you to bed, and then I’ll sleep here,” said Marva.

“Don’t be silly,” said Mom, sitting emphatically on the pullout. “Guests get the bed.”

During the middle of the night, Mom got up from the couch to use the bathroom and this time, Marva prevailed. Mom surrendered but tried every bedtime thereafter to guide Marva toward her top-tier accommodations.

I think of that sometimes when Wink scratches off the occasional lottery ticket or I play Power Ball, two, maybe, three times a year. If lightning strikes and we get crazy rich, I hope we find our inner Hagedorns, and summon the spirit of Winnie.

But why wait? Wealth is nice but not necessary. There’s always a need, always opportunity to help, always a stranger worth treating like a guest. Whatever the odds, that’s how to come out ahead.


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