Fun and Games leads to the pull of a lifetime

(Special TT Direct Sneak Peek From Our August Cover Issue)

By Scott Fragale

Meet Jason Rininger. He’s a 30-year-old newlywed residing in Atlanta, and he’s an addict.
There’s no pills, pipes or powdery white substances involved here. And there’s no Russian vodka that comes calling for him on a daily basis, and no 12-step recovery program associated with the addiction, either.
Rininger’s addiction stems from a restaurant featuring video games as far as the eye can see.

“I went to six different Dave & Busters in two weeks while in Texas,” Rininger said. “Not only am I addicted to it, I got my associates addicted to it, too.”

But unlike other addictions that can leave a man out on the street, out of luck and eventually out of money, Rininger’s habit has actually been full of good fortune and financial gain.

The old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good doesn’t seem to apply to Rininger. The reason? Rininger has been blessed with both.

The veteran sports card collector parlayed a newfound skill into a once-in-a-lifetime prize with a recently discovered physical gift and a large helping of good fortune both playing a major role in the acquisition.

A little more than three years ago, Rininger was introduced to Dave & Busters by his girlfriend, and he was instantly hooked. If you’re not familiar with the popular nationwide chain, think Chuck E. Cheese for adults, with better games, a better menu and perhaps most importantly, better prizes.

Like most who attend the popular venue, Rininger tried his hand at several of the video game offerings. But unlike most who pump dollars continually into the machines only to recoup enough winning tickets to lay claim to a shiny new Pez dispenser, Rininger was winning tickets at a record pace and cashing in big-time.

“I have unusual hand-eye coordination, and so the timing games that are difficult to most people, I can go in and win right away. I sat down and played the timing game and never knew that I had hand-eye coordination like that. They said I’m the only one that they know of that can play every game and win every game. So I can go in with a little bit of money and win a boat load of tickets.”

The Spin Streak game (a rapidly moving flashing light timing game that requires you to calculate when to stop the light and win the corresponding amount of tickets) quickly became his go-to game. Rininger and his amazing hand-eye coordination could regularly enter the establishment with $100 in his pocket and walk out with more than $800 worth of prizes after cashing out at D&B’s Winner’s Circle. And that’s not considering his improved profit margin when he attends  “Half-Off Wednesdays” when games can be played at 50 percent of their normal cost.
The Winner’s Circle is the redemption center for coupons won from many of the  games. A variety of prizes are available, including stuffed animals, clothing, small electronic items, large electronic items and  numerous sports memorabilia offerings.

“It’s cheaper for me to play for the stuff than it is for me to go buy the stuff. We literally have everything from inside their Winner’s Circle. So after I had everything from them, that’s when I started getting into the baseball card stuff” Rininger said.

During his numerous visits to what became his home away from home, Rininger won enough tickets to purchase three Playstation 3 systems, two Wii Game systems, two XBox systems, a Blue-Ray disc player  and basically one of everything they had available.

Being a collector since he was 5 years old, Rininger later started cashing in his winning tickets in exchange for Tristar’s popular Hidden Treasures “World’s Greatest Card Chase” offerings.

“I used to go in with $100 and walk out with about 120,000 tickets which would be enough to buy like two PlayStation 3s. So I can go in with $100 and come out with $800 of merchandise. It’s a hobby of mine.”

Initially intrigued by the graded-card editions of the Tristar’s “World’s Greatest” collectible boxes, Rininger opened up literally hundreds of the boxes he won before finally being rewarded.

After playing and winning enough tickets at D&B’s to claim hundreds more boxes, Rininger’s persistence finally paid off. His incredible run also forced D&B’s to re-evaluate its prize system, making it more expensive to play and more difficult for players to accumulate tickets. But despite the changes and despite just a 1-in-6,000 chance at landing the promotion’s then-top prize, he pulled a redemption card for a graded Satchel Paige card valued at more than $1,500.  

“I was in Houston for Hurricane Ike, because I’m part of a disaster relief team also. I lived in the hotels that were closed down to the public that were basically falling apart. The area was basically devastated and there wasn’t much to do there at the time, so to get away from things for a little bit, one weekend I rented a car and me and a group of friends went to Dave & Busters. I won so many boxes and because we didn’t have anything to do and because conditions were pretty bad, we had a box-opening party back at the hotel room, and that’s when I found the redemption card for the Satchel Paige card. That was in October 2008.”

Because he had never experienced the excitement of pull like that before, Rininger  will be keeping his first big find in his collection, but his latest prize, well that’s another story.

To read about the rest of Rininger’s amazing story, see the August issue of Tuff Stuff or check back here after July 1.

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