Elton John cured his boredom and despondency with the immortal lines of ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’. Here, Jesse Roberts explains his relationship with the world of gambling. It’s a growing fascination for young people and students, that seems fairly tame when compared to the violence and hedonism of previous generations.
‘My old man’s drunker than a barrel full of monkeys, and my old lady, she don’t care.’
As a student you’ll no doubt be accustomed with the Friday night ritual of getting so inebriated that you can stomach that atrocity that calls itself a doner kebab at the end of the night. The feeling of being woken, the next morning, in a sun-dappled haze – because you still haven’t hounded the landlord about the inadequacy of your curtains – is second to none: in that it sucks. Like, it really sucks. This morose and toxic storm cloud does have a silver lining: the possibility of a decent greasy fry-up.
Quickly, though, you discover not a single appetising item in your kitchen; your world tumbling down around you with this unpleasant realisation. But you’re up now, and ready to start the day, following the consumption of cardboard-esque Wheatabix, seasoned with milk that is, fundamentally, off. What to do now? You could sink your teeth into the steadily gathering mountain of work that’s looming over you. You could ‘work off’ that hangover with strenuous exercise – a big session in the gym maybe? Or you could just have a kickabout. Who in their right mind fancies that though? Especially if it’s raining – which it invariably is by now.
It’s much better to relax; safe in the knowledge that the beautiful game is probably (it’s a Saturday, after all) being played – somewhere – by professionals who are far, far better than you. But how to take advantage of that (probable) fact? I find that watching the games (all of them!) is usually not enough. So I’ve sought consolation in the welcoming embraces of various book-keepers and – barring a few sulky outbursts – haven’t looked back.
If you’re anything like me then you too will be suffering from a chronic lack of wi-fi in your flat. This is largely down to the apathy that I have towards doing anything remotely constructive (right now I should be knee-deep in an essay on gender politics…); and so I brave the weather on the short walk to the library. From here I liberally plunder my housemate’s Sky Go account and wager my loan with reckless abandon.
That’s the only explanation I have for the spectacular shift in emotion I displayed following the second goal in United’s 2-1 victory over Everton a couple of weeks ago. My fist-pumping grin was induced by the pleasure I felt in the foresight I’d had to put ‘over 1.5 goals’ on my bet-slip. The subsequent shock, denial and frustration came from a gut-wrenching realisation that I had, in fact, clicked ‘under 1.5 goals’, by accident. Heartbreak.
I could bore you for hours on end with anecdotes displaying similar stupidity; or miscalculation, or just over-confidence. Few will compare, however, with the collapse of my first foray into the world of rolling accumulators. For those not as pathetic as I: this means a continuing series of increasing bets, often with a final monetary target in mind. You begin by placing a safe bet with your initial stake (say £10), and use this stake, as well as the winnings you pick up, on the next bet. It takes a while to get the ball rolling, but your pot grows exponentially and soon you’ve got a healthy sum – while only risking what you first put down.
Safe bets usually come in, but when you string a load of them together something’s bound to go wrong. With this in mind, it sounds relatively harmless – a bit of fun that usually results in the loss of a small sum of cash. The problem is that as each successive bet comes in, and your pot builds and builds, the more real your target (£10,000 for me!) seems – regardless of how ridiculous it still is. I was on Auto-Trader trying to work out if I’d be able to afford a Range Rover and a few years of insurance. Your elation and optimism mix with the inevitability of failure to make a sure recipe for disaster.
Such was the case at the back-end of last season, on a momentous (for me) afternoon at St. Mary’s Stadium. An online tipster/charlatan/goblin advised me to stake my entire pot on the overwhelming likelihood of struggling Cardiff (away) to concede at least one goal against a Southampton side that were, quite frankly flying. I did so, with a confidence spurred by my ‘knowledge’ of both teams, gained through extensive Football Manager careers at their respective helms. I ‘knew’ that the Welshmen were simply allergic to retaining possession and were hopeless away from home; additionally, no result in this game could save them from the drop – so why would they bother?
Southampton, on the other hand, had served me well. They might have been a little leaky at the back under my ‘free-flowing, attacking’ management – but you could count on them to net a goal or two. Besides, they really were flying and Cardiff’s new owner had caused nothing but problems for the club. It was an easy bet – the easiest! And yet I watched aghast as the hosts were frustrated by a sublime side that drove home with a 1-0 victory. I couldn’t understand how the Saints could let me down like this!
Many a rolling acca, and many misguided bets on Southampton later, and I still haven’t learnt my lesson. That’s why I’m in the library every Saturday. That grimace on my face has something to do with the constant depletion of my account. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
‘Don’t give us none of your aggravation – we’ve had it with your discipline.’