Susie and I were very sad to learn late last Tuesday evening, that our friend Paula had died of a massive heart attack. We learned the sad news, when I read a post from another friend on Facebook just before heading to bed.
Paula was a gambler, with Video Poker being her game of choice, and that was how we met her. About 10 or 12 years ago, I asked a question at an online message board about Video Poker. Paula answered that question for me, and then we started to go back and forth as Susie and I asked other questions, and she graciously answered. She was very good at Video Poker, and anytime she made a weekend trip to Atlantic City, or a trip to Vegas, she always left with multiple “Hand Pays”. (When a single win on a slot machine or a video poker machine is $1,200 or over, it has to be reported to the IRS, so a “hand pay” involves a casino employee actually giving you your money, after they’ve filled out forms for the IRS and given you a W-2G slip.) She was very knowledgeable, and happy to share her understanding of the game.
So, for several months, we were “Internet Friends,” until we discovered that on one particular weekend, she would be at Harrahs in AC the same weekend Susie and I were planning on being there. At that point, she was a Seven Stars player (the highest level on Harrahs gambling rewards), and invited us to meet her and her friend Judy in the Seven Stars Lounge! The Seven Stars Lounge at Harrahs, was in the back of the High Roller slot area, and as you walked up to the door, it opened automatically. This was the pinnacle of rewards clubs, and Susie and I were like kids in a candy store, as we were ushered in and escorted to Paula’s table. Even though we’d never met, and had only exchanged messages on the internet, it was almost like we were old friends who’d not seen each other in some time. We got along wonderfully with Paula and her friend Judy. We talked, and drank (and ate shrimp the size of your fist), and gambled that night. We were no longer internet friends, but were now real friends!
We learned that Paula and her husband Jim were lawyers in Northern Jersey, and although Paula loved gambling, Jim was not a big fan. He came with her occasionally, but mostly she came with girlfriends like Judy. She loved traveling to New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City, and enjoyed several “Girl Trips” a year. We also discovered that she and Jim had a beach house down in Cape May at the bottom of our county, so we were kind of neighbors too!
Over the years, we’d meet up with her if we were all in AC for a weekend, and on one occasion even met Jim, but our favorite Paula Story happened 7 or 8 years ago. We told her we were going to be at Harrahs in AC with our kids, and she was going to be staying at Harrahs and meeting Judy and some other friends who were staying at the Borgota. We agreed that we’d meet up if our schedules coincided. On Saturday night, our family was at the Sapphire Bar in the Eden Lounge, having a pre-dinner drink, and I texted Paula. She said she’d stop by on her way to the Borgota. When she did, we introduced her to the kids, and to our favorite AC Bartender, Ralph. Perhaps, because I was having one, Paula had Ralph make her a Grey Goose Martini. It was cold, and it was good, and it was large (Harrahs martini glasses were very big back then), and went down way too easily, so she ordered a second. About halfway through the drink, she realized that she had to get to the Borgota, where she and her girlfriends had a dinner reservation at the Old Homestead.
Later on, we heard that after her time with us at the bar, she had a hell of a night. She bounced off the wall going down the hall to get the Jitney to Borgota, didn’t remember much of dinner, and had no idea how she got back to Harrahs. Sunday morning, she woke up in her bed, still dressed as she was when we saw her before dinner, and sleeping with her Old Homestead leftovers!
Sadly, we always talked about getting together either at their house in Cape May, or ours in Ocean City. Sometimes things just never get done because you have all the time in the world…sadly, we did not.
We’re thinking about her husband Jim, and all the family and friends she leaves behind, and know that she’s up in heaven with her beloved son Ryan, making up for lost time with him. Paula, you were one of a kind, and Susie and I will always fondly remember our times with you! Hope there’s nothing but hand pays up in God’s Casino!