The Gambler in me….

Of course gambling isn’t always about winning. Along with the wins come losses. Lots of them. We don’t like to talk about the losses. Losing is not fun. Winning is fun. Losing makes you sad. Winning makes you happy. I like to be happy….let’s keep winning.

Two flies crawling up a wall….if there’s a prize to be won….then hell yeah, I’ll bet on ’em!

I have no interest in playing “for fun”. What’s the point? If there is a prize to be won, a trophy, a ribbon or money, then I’m going to try my hardest to win it. If there is no prize….then I won’t even bother trying, what a waste of time. It’s not about the participating for me….it’s the constant need to win. Winning is fun.

As a kid I loved “picking a horse”. My mum would have a bet on the races on a Saturday morning and once in a while she’d let us kids pick a horse and throw a dollar on it for us. Now, when my first horse won….I was hooked. Of course I didn’t know back then that it was called gambling….I also didn’t know that it would become a part of who I am for the rest of my life.

Back in Melbourne, Australia, when I became of legal gambling age, the really big day out at the races was saved for The Melbourne Cup. Held the first Tuesday in November, it is the race that literally stops a nation. The whole country comes to a standstill, really, everything stops for the race.

Need a heart transplant? Yeah, no worries mate, just give me 10 mins, the race is on!

Australians love their Melbourne Cup….put it this way, you’d struggle to find anyone in Australia who doesn’t know who “Phar Lap” was.

Getting all dressed up, slapping on some make-up, blow-drying the hair all pretty then throwing on a hat, filling the purse with a few hundies is all part of the process, the preparation for a day out, gambling, on the horses and I LOVE it, all of it.

We’re off and racing! The smell of the horses, the buzz around the bookmakers, placing the bet, the roar of people cheering on their horse….throw some bubbly into that mix and you have all that is required of a perfect day out.

Have you ever heard of tombola? It’s like a raffle but all the prizes are right there in front of you. 3 is my lucky number. Most things I win, have the number 3 in there somewhere.  I won $3,333 at Bingo once. Horse number 3 wins more often than not for me. I have 3 in my lottery numbers. I’ll insist on having the number 3 in any raffle tickets I buy. I’m a 3 kind of girl.

Anyhow, the church up the road was having their annual fair. I stumble across this tombola….instantly I was excited. Look at all the prizes I could win! For each quid, you get to pick 3 tickets. So I hand over my £3….this gave me 9 tickets. (3’s or multiples of 3 would surely fetch me a prize, right?). I stick my hand in the barrel, select my tickets and carefully start opening them. The number on the ticket must end in zero or five to win a prize.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing…WINNER number 35….nothing, nothing and nothing. So I head up to the lady and hand over my one winning ticket….she congratulates me and hands me back my prize, a cook book….The Hairy Bikers’  Best-Loved Recipes. I was so happy. Now sure, I probably could have gone to WHSmith and bought the book for 9 quid….but what fun would that be? Winning it, made having it, that much more special.

I love poker. I’m not very good at it, but I’ve won a few tournaments here and there. There’s a really big thrill that comes with winning a hand. It’s not even the size of the pot that is important (though the big pots do get the heart pounding)….it’s more about beating whoever I am playing against. Knowing that I have outplayed an opponent is an amazing thrill. The heart starts thumping, the palms start to sweat, the fingers shake as I rake in the pot and stack up my chips. It’s absolute magic. Then, I want to do it all over again….and again, and again.

Similar feelings overcome me when I play the slot machines, or as they call them in Australia, the pokies. There’s a real science to picking a winning machine, or you would think there was the way slot machine addicts carry on. Gamblers by nature are a pretty superstitious bunch of people, but the slot machine fans are in a different world of crazy. I too have been guilty of some weird behaviours….rubbing the machine for luck, placing good luck charms on my machine of choice, nearly always choosing a machine on the end of a row, playing the machine next to mine too, (a precautionary measure to stop anyone else from playing it and winning….no way I’m going to allow that to happen)!

I understand RNG. I understand odds and percentages. I understand it’s all luck. I also understand that I probably won’t win….but there in lies the glimmer of hope. Probably….it doesn’t mean that I won’t win….but it does mean that I might win. Right? Yeah, I’m right.

So, sat at a slot machine and I am in bliss. I can sit for hours watching the reels spin around and around. Hitting the bonus spin is real cause for celebration, light a cigarette, order a drink, check out the prize table….what do I need? Ok….initiate bonus spins, push….and we are off. Most times, the bonus spin feature will let us down by not performing to our expectations, we, as gamblers, are used to this….all a crappy bonus round means is that the next one will be much better. Right? I know I am right.

When I was on my cruise last Christmas….all must have been good in the world and the Gambling Gawds saw fit to hand me, on a silver platter, the perfect bonus round. I was playing around for a bit on a machine called Pompeii, then wouldn’t you know it….Veni, Vidi, Vici. I got the bonus round followed by the magical and ever elusive winning combination of a dolphin thingy, a volcano, a dolphin thingy, a volcano then another dolphin thingy. Boom-shaka-laka! Time for the happy dance. There’s nothing like it and the joy can’t be explained to a non gambler, they just don’t get it….but to a degenerate like myself, well it just made my whole day perfect. That win paid for our end of cruise bill, all the drinks, tours and extras….and there was still cash left over. Perfect!

All said and done, if I were diagnosed with a terminal illness and won the lottery all in the same week, I could think of no better way to “go out” than sitting at a slot machine with a bottle of Jack Daniels, a carton of Marlboro Lights and a big fat stack of $100 bills. Should I fall off the stool, stone cold dead, just cremate me and scatter my ashes down the Las Vegas Strip….I’ll be perfectly happy. Honestly.

Here’s two thumbs up to winning….gambling as it should be.

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