It seems that a large share of bar/restaurants in the Duluth area have pull tabs. It used to be a person sitting over several bins filled with them, with proceeds going to charity. Now, there many pull tab machines where customers like you and I can buy them for a buck or two apiece.

I know that in my favorite places to hang out in the Duluth area, they have the pull tab machines and behind the bar you can see what cash prizes have been paid out and what is still available to win. Of course, anyone who plays at all knows that if there are a lot of winners still available, but not an overwhelming amount of pull tabs left to buy, you have the best chance to get lucky. That is the strategy anyway and while some play for fun, there are those who take it pretty seriously, especially if they've spent a lot of money trying to win.

That's where pull tab etiquette comes to mind as I've experienced some pretty interesting moments and I have heard how playing pull tabs has even led to heated confrontations among those playing.

Here is a real incident that happened in the area recently, which directly led me to see what everyone thinks. There was a pull tab machine that had recently been filled. That means there were a lot of pull tabs in there, but there were also a lot of winners to be claimed.

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With that in mind, a group of several people who were out together on a 'Sunday-Funday' started pooling their money to buy the pull tabs. Over the course of a few hours, they spent over $2,000 and while they pulled a few small cash winners, they had yet to claim any of the several tabs containing the top payout of $500. They were down a fairly large amount, but knew if they hit a couple big winners, they'd turn it around. They took a few minute break to eat a little and order more drinks, but had decided they would take one last shot at buying pull tabs that day. Keep in mind they were being vocal throughout and were the only ones playing this particular machine.

Now, as they were playing there was a customer observing the entire time. He was a bar 'regular' who was drinking and watching them spend all that money without a significant payout. When they took a brief break, he decided to walk up and put $20 into that same machine. That $20 turned into a $500 winner on the first pull tab he opened and then he scored a $200 winner before he was done.  He was obviously happy with his $20 investment, but the 'Sunday-Funday' group was livid.

They felt he had, in essence, stolen that money from them because he had witnessed their efforts to win and likely knew they were going back in for another round of pull tabs. He said it's simply luck of the draw, it is gambling after all, and he was just lucky. Now, this nearly escalated into a fight before the group shouted a few choice words to the winner and stormed out.

 

So, who is right here? In my mind, I can see how it may seem like an opportunistic move for this guy as the place wasn't busy and this group was really the only ones playing. It would've been different had he been playing all afternoon as they had been, rather than waiting until they spent all that money. Perhaps he did have some 'insider information' and while he ultimately got lucky, he knew the odds were shifting to his favor.

However, it is called gambling for a reason, right? That group has a right to be mad they didn't win, but that's the way life goes sometimes. Is it worth a physical fight? Absolutely not.

I think that is where etiquette may come into play. Do you feel he did anything wrong? If you were in his position, would you have waited until they were done for the day before putting money into that exact machine or how long do you wait? I know I would've waited until they were officially done and gone.

Recently, I was at this same place late in the day and it was empty besides me, the bartender and a waitress serving her last table. I decided to put $20 into the pull tab machine before I left and, amazingly, I won $500. Now, there was likely a lot of money put into that machine throughout the day, but I wasn't there to witness it. To me, that's the big difference.

Life is filled with unwritten rules of etiquette. In baseball, for example, you don't bunt late in the game to break up a no-hitter. When it comes to pull tabs, should players adhere to some basic rules of etiquette? I'm curious to read what you think and what the overall consensus is.

One thing I hope we all agree on is that we need to tip whoever it is that pays out the winners, whether it be a bartender or person tasked with selling the pull tabs. They certainly appreciate it and it's good karma.

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