It seems that a large share of bars/restaurants in Minnesota have pull tabs. Whether it's a person selling them out of several bins or sold from a machine, people love to play them and local organizations love them too as proceeds from sales benefit them.

My favorite place to hang out is in the Duluth area and while they used to have pull tab machines, they now have a person who sells them. For pull tab players in Minnesota, every bin includes a poster showing how many winners of each larger denomination have been paid out and how many are still in the box. That is different from Wisconsin, where there is no requirement to show if there is even a single winner left in the box.

Of course, anyone who plays at all in Minnesota 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, some 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. An incident happened in the Duluth area recently and I'm curious what public opinion is.

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. 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 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 remaining pull tabs containing the top payout of $500.


They were down a fairly large amount of money but knew if they pulled a couple of big winners, they'd turn it around. They took a few-minute break to eat a little and order more drinks before deciding 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. They had, in essence, taken over the bin as the bar wasn't busy.

Now, as they were playing a customer was 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. Of course, he was very 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. This confrontation nearly escalated to the point of becoming physical before the group shouted a few more choice words to the winner and stormed out.

DD TSM Duluth
DD TSM Duluth

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 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 in his favor.

On the other hand, 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 it goes sometimes when you're gambling. Is it worth a physical fight? I think everyone can agree that it's not worth getting that upset over.

Is this a situation where pull tab etiquette may come into play? 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 exactly how long do you wait in this situation to jump into the box they're playing?

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 playing 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 everyone needs to tip whoever it is that sells and/or pays out the winners. They certainly appreciate it and it's good karma.

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