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"Does it hurt badly?" asked my wife as we drove along.

"I'll be okay."

Less than two weeks before, I underwent major surgery for cancer. The scar left by the surgery extended from my breastbone almost to my legs.

Several hours later, we pulled into Reno, Nevada and checked in at a local motel for the night.

"Hon, would you mind if we went to a casino and gambled just a little bit?" I asked my wife.

"Just for a little while," she said.

We got everything settled, locked the door to our room and walked several blocks to one of the casinos. I sat down at one of the tables and placed $100 on the table. The dealer immediately took the money and gave back $100 in chips. No matter what I did, I just could not win a hand at poker. Within 30 minutes, I had lost my stake.

"Let's go back to the motel," said my wife.

"I really want to play. I really do," I told her.

Again, I lost another $100. I rose from my chair and smiled at my wife. She handed me two rolls of quarters, which I stuck into my pocket.

As we reached the motel, we started up the stairs to the second floor. I looked across the parking lot and saw an old man looking in a dumpster. I stood there for a moment watching him.

"OH, MY GOD! He's eating out of the dumpster," I yelled to my wife.

As quickly as I could, I walked back down the stairs and over to the man, who was leaning over the trash container. When I approached, I could see that he was eating the leftovers from a Kentucky Fried Chicken box.

"Please do not do that. Please don't," I said.

I reached in my pocket and took out the two rolls of quarters.

"Here. Please take this and get yourself something to eat."

"Thank you, Mr. Lucky," he said in a soft tone.

"Please don't buy anything to drink. Get yourself something to eat," I said.

He said not a word. I turned around and walked back to the motel where my wife was standing. When I turned to look back at the old man, he was gone.

My wife and I went up to the room where I tried to rest as best I could. After about 30 minutes, I looked over at my wife and said, "I really would like to play cards."

We put on our coats and back to the casino we went. Once again, I sat down at the card table. I took out another $100 and laid it on the table.

"LOW-BALL!" yelled the dealer as he dealt out five cards to each player. When I looked at my cards, I had an ace, a two, a three, a four and a five. It is the lowest possible hand you can get when playing low-ball.

All of a sudden the betting started. Within one round, my entire $100 was in the pot. When the hand ended, I had won $800. When the cards were dealt again, I looked. Again, I had an ace, a two, a three, a four and a five.

"Fifty dollars to you," said this one man as he threw his chips into the pot.

Carefully, I separated my chips into $50 piles.

"Your fifty and fifty more," I said.

The table became quiet. All eight men threw in the wager.

"And a hundred more to you," said the first man.

"And another two hundred to you," said another player.

I threw in the wager and sat there quietly.

"Let's see the cards gentlemen," said the dealer.

Once again, I won - this time almost $2,000.

"Take the money, Clay," yelled the man as he pushed his cards off the table and onto the floor.

I sat there for six hours winning nearly eight out of 10 hands. When the game was finally over, the casino stacked, trayed and cashed in my chips for me. In the end, I won more than $16,000. That was more money than I had seen in my entire lifetime.

With pockets full, my wife and I started to leave the casino. Standing by the front door out in the cold was the same old man who had earlier been eating out of the trash dumpster.

"Can I buy you a mixed drink?" I asked.

The old man reached out and touched me gently on the forehead. A very strange and warm feeling came over my entire body; it was calmness like I had never known. All the pain from my surgery seemed to disappear in an instant.

"I don't drink, Mr. Lucky," said the old man as he smiled at me.

I held out several $100 bills, but he would not take anything.

"Mr. Lucky," he said again, shaking his head and then patting me on the back. Then he turned around and walked away into the night.

That was almost 25 years ago this November. Considering the doctor had given me less than six months to live, I now know what the old gentleman meant when he called me, "MR. LUCKY."

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