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    Isaiah
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    Compulsive gambler purchases $200,000 term life insurance policy naming wife beneficiery. Plans to kill himself at end of one year if he doesn't post a profit. Anyone here care to do the same?

    Steve will gamble on anything - poker, the horses, and any crazy spread bet the bookies will take - and it's not just costing him money. If he carries on lying to his wife about where the holiday money went and why the mortagage repayments aren't up to date, it could cost him his marriage and his kids too. So it's time for one last bet. Steve's going to keep a tally of his gambling over the next twelve months and if he's in the red at the end of it he's going to kill himself - leaving his wife the two hundred grand insurance. Only one thing's for sure - it's going to be a rollercoaster ride through a dark and desperate world. Mitchell Symon has brilliantly created a novel in diary format in which the narrative is couched.

    MONDAY, DECEMBER 28 I've had enough. I've had enough of not having enough. Of not being able to cope. Of dodging bills. Of Maggie's questions. Of my lies. Of the children's nagging. Of Dad and his misplaced pride in me. Of work. Of the fear of losing my job. Of stewards' inquiries. Of prices shortening when I don't take a price or lengthening when I do. Of feeling bad about gambling. Of hiding my gambling from Maggie. Of losing. Of winning even (why didn't I have more on?). Of the thought of stopping. Of not wanting to stop. So if this year turns out to be yet another losing year then that's it, I'm checking out. I'm going to make a note of how much I'm worth on January 1. Then I'm going to keep a record of all my wins and losses over the next twelve months and if I'm worth _more_on December 31 next year, then I'm going to live. If I've lost money over the year, then I'm going to kill myself and the family will win. The £200,000 life insurance policy I took out before I went to work in Saudi in 1980 expires on January 14. If I die before that date - even (and I've checked the small print) by my own hand - my family will get £200,000. But what if I win? One year's success won't entirely purge years of losing but it will draw a line underneath it all. And if it does, if I win, then I'm going to get a life. A real life. I'll quit my job and travel or study (this time something _I_want to study, not what Dad wants me to study). I'll stay with Maggie and the kids but they'll have to accept me on my terms. That's the least they can do when I'm prepared to die for their financial security. I've lost so much in the past few years: money, respect, self-respect, that I can't take any more beatings. But if I can win over the period of a year, then I will have achieved something extraordinary: I will have beaten the odds. Otherwise, what's it all been for? I haven't exactly achieved anything. This isn't self-pity, just cold hard fact. Eight Os, 3 As, a 2.2 from Bristol, (approx) forty lays, one wife, two children, seven jobs (excluding temporary jobs), one breakdown, eight cars (nine if I include Mum's Allegro), two driving bans, one hospital operation, any number of foreign holidays And, if my sums are right, about £150,000 down the swanee. Not that I regret a single penny. It's the greatest thrill there is, the only thrill there is. When your train fare home is riding on a maiden running in a bumper at Fakenham, when more money than you can afford to lose is on a ball ricocheting around a roulette wheel, when everything you have is being loaded into a trap at Monmore, then you know what excitement is, what fear is. Then you know that you're alive. It reminds me of the time when I tried to take up golf and I was having these lessons. Before a putt, I said for a laugh, "and it's Steve Ross with this shot for the U.S. Masters". And the pro - a nice guy - said, "if you really want to put pressure on yourself, say that you need this putt to get your playing card for next year otherwise you'll be working in a fish and chip restaurant". That's pressure.

    THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31 I really can't wait to start. The annoying thing is I won £150 at the bookies yesterday but it doesn't count towards the bet. Actually, it doesn't matter, I'll add it to my stake money. I've worked out to the precise penny (all right, pound) my entire net worth and here it goes: ASSETS The House: worth £160,000 Salary: £3,700 per month after tax (given average bonuses) I'm not going to count the value of Maggie's car or her Halifax shares (though I wish she'd bloody sell them) and I'm not even going to _think_about the kids' savings accounts. LESS Mortgage on the house: £90,000 Finance company loan (i.e. second charge): £40,000 (I hope Maggie doesn't find this diary! I'm being stupid: she can't possibly find it. I'm hiding it in the secret drawer - which Maggie doesn't know about - of Gran's old desk to which I have the only key. Besides, Maggie's not exactly over-burdened with curiosity which is what makes her the sort of person she is.) ************: Approx £8,000 owing at any one time Bank overdraft: £10,000 Amount owing to Dad: £10,000 So if I don't count my salary which I need to live on and gamble with, I am worth precisely £2,000. Given that interest on my loans is increasing at a higher rate than the value of my house, I'm entitled to start this gamble at par - that's to say at zero. So if by next December 31 I'm worth more than zero, I'll live; if not then....

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 1 11.00am: I'm getting old. This was the first time since 1969 that I've slept through New Year's Eve. Even the children stayed up. But I was so cream-crackered that I fell asleep watching a vid. in bed. Maggie says she tried to wake me up but I was dead to the world. She tells me that I let out a huge fart on the stroke of midnight. Sounds about right. I need my sleep though. I feel like a boxer in training for the big fight. I know thatspielingis never far from my thoughts but 'the bet' has really concentrated them. I feel so intensely aware of the stakes involved. Tonight's the first round. I'm sure that I'm going to do really well. I've resolved not to tell anyone about this bet - even Douglas. I don't want anyone gifting me hands or, worse, taking advantage of me in a big pot. 4.00pm: penetrate, penetrate, penetrate, penetrate. Tonight's game is off. That's the first Friday night poker sesh we've lost since October and I'm completely ****** off. Nik phoned to say that his kid's not well and his wife's expecting any day (fair enough). Douglas says he's completely wasted from last night (sort of fair enough). I rang Ben to check he was still on but he thought that there wasn't a game because it was a bank holiday (as if) and Tanya has arranged for them to see friends. He's on a three-line whip. When I rang Jake to tell him, he said that he wouldn't play three-handed with me and Gerard - there had to be at least four players. He was absolutely implacable (the oyster). I tried to get hold of some of the other guys, the non-regulars, but, needless to say, they'd all made alternative arrangements - even Kerry the Rat whose wife refuses to let him out even though they're doing nothing tonight just because it's a penetrating bank holiday. And she never stops going on about how much she hates him. I'm sure Moulinex (so called because he shakes like a blender every time he's got a good hand) would be free, but I've only got his work number. Rain Man (so called because he can work out the precise total of the pot just by looking at it) is on holiday. Worst of all, I just can't get hold of Gerard. How can a guy have six numbers like the bad man (Gerard) has and still not be contactable? There's a jealous husband or, much more likely, a conned 'client' on the warpath. All of which doesn't help me. I feel like topping myself now and saving on a year's agony if this is how it's going to be for the next twelve months. Don't the guys know what's at stake? No, of course they don't. But even so. If Friday night poker isn't precious, what is? I played the day after Jonathan was born. I've played with a 103 degree temperature. I once even played standing up when I'd put my back out. If only the other guys had my penetrating dedication. 7.00pm The bad man called! He's completely up for it. So I'm going round to his place (which is now in Earl's Court) to play backgammon and maybe some two-handed poker which can be surprisingly exciting - except when the bad man suggests high-low which more often than not ends up with the two of us splitting the pot!

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 2 It was a great night. I won £400. These two sentences might just be connected. Gerard's place was even more grotty than I expected. It's a one-bed (just) ground-floor flat with a prostitute (he showed me her card - BEAUTIFUL, NEW 18-YEAR OLD' - which he says is wrong on all three counts) beneath him and a drug dealer (or so he says) above him. The decor is minimalist as the bad man hasn't yet got round to conning a catalogue company out of any furniture but he had proper poker food (tortilla chips, peanuts, Maltesers) and drink (cold Buds) so I wasn't complaining. We started off with some backgammon. Just £1 a point but with Gerard going mad with the doubling dice, we were playing for £32 - £64 - £128 a game. By the time we switched to blackjack, I was a clear £300 up. We took it in turns to be the house and Gerard ended up about £1200 down! Needless to say, I hadn't actually seen any _money_. I paid cash for my chips while Gerard just helped himself ("if I agree to cover the chips you win, how can you complain?"). I don't mind Gerard ripping me off (well, I do) but I wish he didn't always sound so aggrieved when I point it out. Then we played poker. Gerard plays poker manicly when he's winning and even more manicly when he's losing and here he was losing big time. So he was making incredibly outrageous bets: one pot got up to £500 before I backed out holding trips (three nines) in a game of seven-card stud (nothing wild). He had a pair of fours - in the hole! Actually, that was one of the few seven-card games we played without wild cards. The bad man does like his wild cards. The truth is that I do too. We even played that "willy-wanky-woo" game where _all_the spades are wild and _all_the diamonds are worthless. As I recall, his five queens beat my four aces. I wonder why it is that gamblers like wild cards so much when it's the same for all the players: i.e. it's just a form of poker inflation. Maybe it's our constant need for excitement; maybe by the time that 'ordinary' nothing-wild-poker doesn't thrill us enough, we're beyond redemption. We finished at four in the morning (I think: my brain isn't functioning too well after four hours sleep. Bloody Jonathan woke me up by firing his toy gun in the bedroom next door. And I was having such a wonderful dream about Cathy). I won £400. Gerard gave me £80 and an IOU for £320. True, the chances of him honouring his marker are slimmer than Kate Moss on a 48-hour fast but how many people leave Gerard's with money? Especially his money. MONDAY, JANUARY 4 First day back at work after (the best part of) two weeks off and I have to say I'm not in the mood. I was at Head Office and said as much to Jayne, Phil's secretary. "Welcome to the world, Steve, wake up and smell the coffee." I fancy Jayne - not big time - but enough. She's got fantastic and sparkling eyes which always seem to be challenging you (the eyes, not the ). Trouble is she's got a bit of a spotty boat and just the hint of a 'tache. And if there's one thing I can't stand on a girl, it's a 'tache. I take the (not unreasonable) view that if I can be bothered to shave, why can't they? I remember Bob who used to grade girls' moustaches on the scale of G1-G7 (based on the Gillette G2) with G7 as the most hirsute. On that basis, Jayne is maybe only a G1, but it's enough to put me offreallytrying. I think we're talking a soapy tit wank and nothing more. I did my paper work (boring), flirted with Jayne and a couple of other bits of office crumpet and then sneaked out, on the pretext of meeting a supplier, to a betting-shop. There were three races starting within five minutes of each other at the sort of courses that even the people who live near them have never heard of. Each race had an even money - or thereabouts - favourite. Last year, I'd have done a fifty quid treble on the three favourites and watched at least one of them fail to come in. Not now. I'm no longer interested in multiple bets. Multiple bets are mug bets. That's why bookies often offer tax-free yankees. Sure they're great when they come in but how often do they come in? I think I've had maybe four yankees come off at anything better than odds against for each of the four selections in the past 25 years. Every mug punter - i.e. every punter - has his successful yankee story (mine was over £1200 for a £33 stake) but, for every success, there are a thousand failures. It's a bit like that time Frankie Dettori went through the card at Ascot. Bookies moaned that they lost a fortune from punters who backed Frankie for a seven-timer. What those lying bastards didn't say was that there are punters backing their favourite jockeys through the card every day of the week, every week of the year without ever seeing a return on their investments. That's why they call them accumulators: the bookies accumulate the punters' money. But not mine because, from now on, I'm only going to do single bets. So I backed each horse for £50 and two of them duly obliged. Typically, the only one I paid the tax on (because it was the shortest price) lost. Even so, I finished about £50 up and where I would once have simply ploughed it all on to the next horse, I walked out taking my profit.

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6 What I won on Monday, I managed to lose (and more) yesterday. I got a call from Jim (in accounts) who gets some serious information from time to time. He told me that he'd heard a whisper for Treetops in the 2.30 at Wincanton. I was going to phone Hill's with my *********** but then I thought, "no, the stake money and the winnings will appear on the bank statement and Maggie might get to see it" which was totally illogical because she _never_opens my bank statements but that's Stevie Fuckwit. By the time I got to a bookies, the race had already started but that was OK because it was a chase and they take bets after the off. What I hadn't reckoned on was the sodding pen not working. Why it is that betting shop pens only work if you're not in a hurry? And how could I, as a veteran of 25 years' punting, rely on a betting shop pen? So I missed out on a penetrating 5-1 winner on which I'd planned to punt £250 (i.e. as much cash as I could get my hands on). Instead, I frittered it away on a string of dumb bets. I found myself backing horses on the basis that their sequence of races seemed to be improving (e.g. F432, rather than 234F). Obviously it's good to back a genuinely improving horse but these are just the headline results and don't take into account the proper form. For example F432 might actually indicate a horse with its best form _behind_it. It might have fallen at the last fence when in the lead, and then finished fourth, third and second in fields of, respectively, twenty, nine and three runners. To use a criterion like that is plain suicide - perhaps literally in my case. I'd have been better off just handing the money straight over to the bookie and telling him to keep it and saved myself the torture of watching animals even dumber than me losing it.

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 8 Tonight sees the first _proper_poker game of the year and I just can't wait. Maggie made some (very mildly) threatening noises about me not staying out too late but I merely gave her my "breakdown" face and she backed down instantly. The (only) great thing about the breakdown is that it was so genuinely horrific that just the thought of a relapse sends Maggie (and Dad) running for cover. It's been eleven years now and they're still terrified of me going doolally again. This of course gives me a license to do pretty much as I please. I love them and I try not to take advantage of their good will but sometimes it's hard not to. It was Mum's death that made Dad so indulgent. I still feel bad about borrowing that ten grand off him for my 'business idea'. He must _know_that I haven't got a big business idea. I'm not a businessman, for penetrate's sake. I'm a sales rep. And why am I sales rep? Because I failed as a teacher. No, that's not fair. I didn't fail as a teacher. I was a good teacher: I failed as a human being. I just couldn't hack it in front of the kids. I couldn't stand having all those eyes looking at _me_. I could feel them boring into my soul. I had to get away from them. I took all the (generous) sick leave they gave me but I knew I was never going to go back. They didn't believe me until I actually had my breakdown. And now all I can do is sell. I'm a good sales rep - I meet my targets with ease - but I'll never be anything more than a rep because there's no way that I could ever stand up again in front of a group of people and speak. So that's it. I'm a sales rep for the next twenty years or until December 31 this year. No golden watch for me, not even a silver bullet. Just a jump or a swallow. Actually, I wonder how I'll do it if I lose the bet. I think it would have to be pills as the alternatives are just too horrible to contemplate. Or I could start winning some dosh.

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 9 I hate it when non-Irish people use the word 'crack' to describe a great time but last night was a great crack, begorrah. We played at Nik's place as his wife and kid are out of the country at the moment - in Venezuela visiting her folks, which led to more than a few Caracas/crackers jokes. Cue Douglas who's got a new expression which he trots out every time someone comes out with a joke that falls flat. "That's a bit like a joke - without that funny bit at the end that makes people laugh". Very quickly we all adopt it and adapt it so that it becomes the phrase of the night. "That's a bit like a bet, Jake, without that putting your money into the pot bit that makes other people put their chips in". "That's a bit like a spread, Nik," said Ben to our host who had neglected to provide for his guests' inner needs, "without the food and drink bits that people eat and drink". I didn't win last night but I lost less than any of the other losers did. I think I did about £60, which is nothing for a good evening out. The trouble is it's so very hard to establish who won or lost what. The winners are pretty reliable but all the losers will say is "I'm about even". Gerard couldn't honour (funny word to use in connection with the bad man) any of his debt to me because he had prior commitments to Douglas and Ben. "This is a bit like an IOU," I said to Gerard holding up his marker, "without the O and U bits at the end". SUNDAY JANUARY 10 I was eating breakfast. "Why don't you do something with Jonathan today?" Maggie asked me just a tad reproachfully. "What do you suggest?" "Take him to mini-rugby training. Other fathers do." "He doesn't like rugby," I replied keeping cool in the face of her provocative questioning though I was finding it harder than holding in a fart. "How do you know?" "He came into the lounge yesterday while I was watching the rugby international and I told him he could stay if he wanted but he just left the room." "Why don't you take him to the zoo?" "Because I'm not divorced." "All right," she said starting to look flustered, "what about a car boot sale?" "I _hate_car boot sales. You know I hate car boot sales. Do we really need more junk?" "OK, Steve, do whatever you want. He's your son." How dare _she_accuse _me_of being a lousy father? I love my kids - absolutely dote on them. It's true that I don't have as much time for them as I'd like but that's how it goes. Better for them to have a busy Dad who they know loves them than a Dad who tries to live his life through his kids. Like my Dad does, Godammit. I'm not a bad Dad. I spent a fortune on Christmas presents just a couple of weeks ago. I'm not afraid to give my kids a cuddle and I never hit them (well, not Melanie at any rate). The truth is I'm not really cut out for this fatherhood lark. I'm a free spirit. Putting me in the straitjacket of 'FAMILY MAN' would just send me stark raving mad. So, no, I don't know the name of my children's teachers or friends - as Maggie found out when she quizzed me last summer - and I don't take them out as often as I should. But I love them and what other Dad would make the sacrifice that I'm prepared to make at the end of the year?

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13 I've settled back into the groove at work. I'm not only meeting my targets, I'm actually exceeding them which should mean some welcome extra dosh. Phil told me - strictly in private - that for the month of February they're going to run a special promotion in which we can either opt for a lower target and get a flat rate extra bonus for every machine sold above target or opt for the higher target and double all bonuses for the whole month. The downside of the higher bonus is that if you don't meet it - even if you exceed the lower target - you don't get an extra penny. Obviously, I'm going for the higher target as it sounds like a good punt to me. ***** I had a few bets on Monday and Tuesday without really troubling the scorers. I really can't be bothered to record _every_bet if the end result of a day'sspielingis plus/minus less than fifty quid. To go into the minutiae any more than keeping a note of the figures for the bottom line figure at the end of the month (which I intend to do) is a bit like counting your stools after a crap. ***** It's Maggie's birthday tomorrow. ****** if I know what to buy her. To be fair to her, she's the least acquisitive person I know. I think that's what attracted me to her in the first place. Especially after Cathy, after Saudi. I know I'll never be as wealthy again as I was then with that double whammy of no tax and no living expenses. And Cathy was so unselfish in helping me to spend it all. But it wasn't just Maggie's lack of materialism that attracted me; it was also her innate decency. For as much as she pisses me off sometimes, I have to admit that she's genuinely _good_: like a person who has sweet breath without ever brushing their teeth. Proximity was also a big factor. When I first started teaching at St Margaret's, she was one of only two or three eligible women there (discounting the girls of course - though some of the fifth-formers were unbelievably ripe and luscious, especially Mandy Crichton. I wonder whatever happened to her?) so we gravitated towards each other. And then when I had my breakdown, she was so incredibly supportive that marriage became inevitable - notwithstanding her mother's dire warnings. Now, ten years and two kids on, I wouldn't exchange her for the world and I know that whatever I buy for her for tomorrow, she'll accept with grace and gratitude. So I think I'll have a bit of fun. I'd earmarked thirty quid for her present. Instead, I'll put aside ten pounds and gamble the other twenty (besides any other bets I might have today). So she'll get a present worth anything from £10 to, say, £100.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 14 Maggie's birthday. Cards, tea in bed, presents from the kids (organised by her mum) and then my offering. A beautiful necklace. Sure, it was just costume jewellery but it still cost me eighty quid. Which means, of course, that I managed to turn Maggie's twenty quid into eighty. All thanks to an obliging horse named Rumandraisin which crucified the rest of the field over a mile on the all-weather at Southwell. It also helped me turn in a profit for the day of £90. I don't really know what made me back the nag - sorry, did I say 'nag' when I meant to say 'thoroughbred' - in the first place. Actually, I do. In the bookie's, they have the racing press plastered over the walls. For each meeting, there is a table of selections which lists the newspaper tipsters' selections for all the races. Rumandraisin won the last race of the day. By that time, I could see how well each tipster had fared. My starting point is that no tipster is going to selecteverywinner at a meeting - that's to say, go through the card (well not more than once in a lifetime). Similarly, on an average afternoon with, say two favourites, three horses priced between 3-1 and 6-1 and one outsider winning the six races, a tipster might reasonably expect _one_winner. By the last race, four favourites out of five plus one outsider had won. Eight of the fourteen (or so) tipsters had picked three or more winners. Five tipsters had selected two winners. One tipster, however, hadn't had a single winner all afternoon and he alone of all of them had selected Rumandraisin. So I piled in and cleaned up.

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 15 7.00pm Last night should have been really good. I took Maggie out for dinner to this wonderful new Chinese restaurant. Everything was going fine when, out of the blue, Maggie asked me if there was anything she should know. Shit. "No," I said, feeling the chicken and cashewnuts in a yellow bean sauce rising in my gorge, "should there be?" "It's just that the building society wrote saying that we haven't paid the mortgage for three months." Double shit. "I phoned them to query it because I thought that we - or you - paid it by direct debit but they said no, you've been paying by cheque for the past six months and that this isn't the first time you've fallen behind with the payments..." She let the sentence drift and then went silent awaiting my reply. Maggie does that sort of thing. I played for time by calling the waiter over and asking for some more egg fried rice. "It's an oversight, darling, nothing more sinister than that. I'm sure I told you that I was dropping the direct debit because I didn't like the idea of anyone being able to help themselves to my money." "You didn't, Steve," she said quietly but confidently. "Didn't I? I'm sure I did. Well, anyway, that's the way it is. I pay them by cheque once a month. Sometimes I forget but it's no problem, I'll just send them a cheque for three months' worth." I thought she was going to say something but she did something worse and more effective: she stared at me with her head cocked to one side as though she was sizing me up. Once again, it was up to me to break the silence. "Look, sweetie, you work for the education authority not the building society so what's with the third degree? I made a mistake. I'm sorry. I'll rectify it in the morning. Now can we get on with our meal?" "I've eaten enough," she said in such a way that it was impossible for me to tell whether she was genuinely full or just (in her own quiet way) angry with me. We did talk - chit-chat really - some more in the restaurant and on the way home but there was definitely a chill in the air and we didn't, as we'd intended, 'get it on'. She knows though, doesn't she. She _knows_that there's something wrong. She _knows_that on our joint incomes, we should be pissing on such a small mortgage. She _knows_that I'm spending money - our money - on things I shouldn't be spending it on. She _thinks_that it might be another woman; she _fears_it might be drugs; she _suspects_it's gambling. ***** I phoned the building society this morning and apologised for the delay which was due to bollocks...Christ knows...****** if I give a damn. They told me I owed them £1800 + change. I told them they'd get a cheque on Monday. ***** I endeared myself further to Maggie tonight by going to poker. Usually, she doesn't object but Melanie's poorly - very poorly, in fact, with a temperature of 104 - and Maggie's mum, who she'd ordinarily phone for support on such occasions, is out tonight (atStarlight Express, God help me). I felt torn, I have to confess, but I told myself that although little Mellie has a high temperature, it can go down again in the time it takes her to digest a spoonful of Calpol and, also, I'm at the end of a mobile if anything goes seriously wrong. For Christ's sake, there's any number of single mothers who'ddiefor that sort of support. Midnight. Came home early. Maggie really grateful and thanks me for being thoughtful. Didn't tell her the truth which is that I was the victim of a real Sketchley's job - i.e. they took me to the cleaners. I lost £300 in cash, I used up _all_the money the bad man owed me and I borrowed a further £300 off Ben which I also lost. I can't believe how unlucky I was. It was four gigantic pots which did for me. Two high-low where I went low with a seven and lost both times, a four card Omaha where I had the nut flush until the full house appeared on the final card and a five-card stud where, incredibly, Douglas's unbelievably well-concealed trips beat my aggressively bid two pair. Melanie's much better but I'm feeling as sick as a bulimic after a visit to a chocolate factory.

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 16 Maggie has thawed a little. She's obviously very relieved about Melanie (who's woken up feeling fit and fine) but she also thinks she might have over-reacted towards me. Here's a laugh, though. She told me she's misjudged me and that it's clear that I'm not an 'inveterate gambler' (her words). No, I didn't lie to her about last night's losses: she doesn't ask and I don't tell. _She_wanted to have a bet and _I_talked her out of it. We were going to my father's for tea but needed to get some petrol on the way. When Maggie spotted the National Lottery till, she asked whether we should buy some tickets. I reminded her that we have a standing entry into every draw, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Ah yes, says she, but that's just one ticket - why don't we buy some more tickets and increase our chances? At this point I pulled rank as a mathematician and explained the odds to her. If you buy one ticket for the Lottery, you have an approximate one chance in fifteen million of winning. If you buy two tickets, you don't halve the odds to one in seven and a half million as so many people think, you merely give yourself _two_chances in fifteen million. Similarly, if we did as Maggie wanted and bought ten tickets, we wouldn't have one chance in one and a half million but, merely, ten chances in fifteen million. What this means, as I explained to Maggie, is that instead of having 14,999,999 chances of losing, you reduce that to 14,999,990 chances of losing. It's the statistical equivalent of jumping from the 119th floor instead of the 120th: it's meaningless. Maggie now thinks she's married to Captain Sensible and who am I disabuse her? Especially, when the reality is that I lost a grand total of £400 today on the football fixed odds (bloody Liverpool - if they'd penetrating won, I'd have made £3,000). N.B. Wish I didn't have to get up early _every_day of the week just to be able to get to the post first so that Maggie doesn't see all the red bills.

    SUNDAY, JANUARY 17 A weekend of best behaviour enabled me to slip out late this evening on the pretext of "just going out for a drink". Lucky Maggie doesn't check my car's speedo. I went to the casino. It's one I joined a couple of years ago when Maggie and I were taken there by Nicky Thompson and his wife. It's OK. Bad taste has been lavished everywhere, so it's as gaudy as a pimp's bedroom but it's discreet, anonymous, functional. The punters are the sort of international trash one finds in casinos. And like all casinos, there isn't a clock or a window in sight so punters have no idea of the time. I did what I usually do in casinos when I'm on my own. I decided to play for one hour or until I'd lost £300, whichever came first. That way, I protect the upside. I started off playing blackjack. I play properly - that's to say if the dealer's hole card is two, three, four, five or six, then I 'stick' on twelve and above. If the dealer has a seven or above (including the ace), then I draw on sixteen and below. That's it, not a difficult concept to grasp, and yet it's amazing how many people refuse to draw on, say, fourteen when the dealer's showing an eight. I was actually two hundred quid or so up until such a civilian pitched up at the empty chair next to mine. Within a dozen hands, he helped to halve my stash by drawing when he shouldn't have done and, more importantly, _not_drawing when he should have done, thereby diverting cards which would have busted the dealer. Worse still, he actually split a pair of jacks! I went from there to the casino poker game. This isn't a poker game against other players but against the house. You put up an ante and then decide after seeing your cards whether to bet (double the stake of the ante) or fold. Your bet only applies if the dealer's hand 'qualifies' (with Ace-King high or better). If the dealer's hand qualifies, ordinary poker rules apply (although you get more for two pairs or better); if the dealer's hand doesn't qualify, you win but only get paid up for your ante. It's a vicious game which, unlike blackjack, is heavily stacked in the house's favour. Only a complete wally would even _think_of playing. Or, indeed, a stevie. Some players bet on nothing (which means they're paying three times the ante to win even money on the ante). I'd rather sacrifice my ante and only play on a pair of sixes or better, so there's a chance that if the dealer qualifies, I might still win. I frittered away about a hundred and fifty quid before being dealt a straight which DIDN'T penetrating count because the dealer's hand didn't qualify. That did me in and I retreated to the roulette table with just ten minutes or a hundred quid to go. It looked like it was going to be a tight-run thing. In the event, I turned that hundred into _five_hundred by betting on 26 and all the possible chevals, splits, streets, corners around it. On the very second spin, 26 itself came up. It was a wonderful moment. Nevertheless, I dutifully left after ten minutes (all right, fifteen minutes) and returned home feeling very pleased with myself. The trouble is, at this time of night, who can I tell? Not bloody Maggie, that's who I can't tell. There's no time of day or night when I can tell her. Why can't she be like other wives and be happy for her husband and support him?

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20 We were sitting on the sofa watching TV when Maggie snuggled up to me. "Darling," she said, "have you always been faithful to me?" "Yes, Maggie," I answered nervously. "On the children's lives?" Shit. I couldn't cross my fingers because she was holding my hands. "Yes, I've always been faithful to you." "On the children's lives?" "On the children's lives." But as I said those words I quickly redefined the word 'faithful' to mean that I've never 'betrayed' her to another woman - that's to say that, unlike my mate Rick, when I go with other women, I never slag off my own wife. Maybe that's loyalty rather than fidelity but there's no doubt in my mind that it's better to have a one-off screw but always talk well of your wife than it is to never have sex with anyone else but to always go around slagging off your wife. "Are you sure, on the children's lives, you've never made love to another woman?" Easy one that. I've screwed other women but I've never made love to them. "On the children's lives, I've never made love to another woman." "On the children's lives, have you ever been given a blow job since we've been married by anyone other than me?" I don't recall too many marital blow jobs but I didn't think that now was the best time to mention it as I was still on the back foot, so to speak. "One hundred percent," I replied. "On the children's lives?" I pulled away from her and sat bolt upright. "Look, Maggie, I really don't like these games. I've given you my word - on the children's lives - and that should be good enough for you. I'm off to bed. To read." And, with that, I stormed off. Better to have a tantrum than a divorce.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 21 I'm in a bookie's in Guildford and there's this punter - shabby bloke, smoking roll-ups - just behind me at the counter. It turns out that we're both betting on the same dog race. I got on just as they said "the hare's running" but he was too late. I managed to sneak a look at his betting slip as he shouted and swore at the girl and he wanted to bet £200 on Trap 3. Trap 3 lost. So was this bloke relieved at having saved £200? No he was not. He was still furious. Not furious at the girl who hadn't taken his bet but furious with himself for not having got on sooner. He genuinely regretted the fact that he hadn't put his two hundred quid on a losing dog. Does that make him a nutter? And yet haven't I felt precisely the same when I haven't managed to get a bet on in time. Sure I feel relief on a rational level but I still feel a sense of loss. Somehow, if I'd have had my money on, the race would have/might have turned out differently. I guess it's existential: the real race only exists if I'm involved with it. Meanwhile, I lost £260 in half-an-hour. ***** While waiting for an appointment, I phoned the insurance company which sold me my term insurance just to check - absolutely-for-certain-no-penetrating-about-honest-injun - that they pay out in the event of suicide. After much umming and ahing they confirmed that they did and when they started to ask me nervously about why I was calling, I told them that the mobile was cracking up and cut myself off.

    FRIDAY, JANUARY 22 11.00am It'sreallyannoying. We're due to be playing poker at Ben's tonight. Douglas phones me on my mobile to say we'll have to find another venue because Tanya won't let Ben have the game at their place. Or rather she will let Ben have the game at her place but not if Gerard attends. Apparently, she hates Gerard. And the extraordinary thing is, SHE'S NEVER MET HIM. Gerard made just this point when he phoned up for a wail. "How can she hate me," asked the bad man, showing off his well-honed sense of injustice (though he has absolutely no sense of justice), "when she hasn't even met me?" "It saves time, bad man, it saves time."

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 23 3.00am: Too tired to write an account of the night. Game eventually took place at Douglas's. Ben was big winner (£400). I lost about £200 (all right, £240). Not bad. Fun time. Wish Jake didn't smoke. Wish I hadn't eaten so many tortilla chips. Wish I hadn't drunk that last lager. Wish I hadn't drunk that last but one lager. Wish I didn't have any responsibilities. Wish Maggie didn't put cream on at night. Wish Cathy was here. Wish I'd never been born. Man of The World. Peter Green. Genius. He's a genius and I'm a oyster.

    MONDAY, JANUARY 25 It wasn't a great weekend. Maggie's bothering me about money again. She wants to know how much we've got in our savings. I sort of deflected her questions but there's no getting away from the fact that we haven't got any savings. I closed the savings account two years ago although it's entirely possible that I neglected to tell her. "We've got a few bob, darling, why do you want to know?" "Oh, I was thinking about buying some new carpets." I thought on my feet and, answering only the substantive question, told her that there was absolutely no need as she keeps the house so beautifully that even the carpets (which are, I admit, a little threadbare) look magnificent. Like Basil Fawlty with the Germans and the War, I think I got away with it.

    WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27 I had to go to Chiswick to check on a dealer when who should I spot sitting in the window of a Cafe Rouge but Gerard. I went in to say hello. He was lunching with this rather dodgy looking character with a pony-tail and dark glasses. Both of them had their mobile phones on the table. Reluctantly, Gerard introduced me to his lunchtime companion. "This is Mike. He's come down from Norwich and we're having lunch. It's not just because we're doing a computer deal." Gerard is the Billy Bunterde nos jours("No, Mr Quelch, I didn't snaffle Coker's tuck and I didn't eat the delicious strawberry jam tarts"). Mike scowled and buried his head in the menu. "I bet both of those phones will go off when the bill arrives," I said.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 28 Phil has let me know - off the record - that I might be given Reading as part of my patch in the spring. I can't stop thinking about her, I really can't. There aren't many nights I don't dream of her. And then there are the things that never fail to remind me of her: Bob Seger records, Georgette Heyer books, sunsets, whist, Paris, spare ribs, shaggy dog stories,Rive Gaucheperfume, long scarfs, dimples and Maltesers because she loved them. And cricket because she hated it. In fact, there isn't much that doesn't remind me of Cathy. I can see her now, blowing upwards to take her fringe out of her eyes. And that great body. A three-ply wet dream, Dave Simpson called her. I would giveanythingto be with her but even if she could forgive me for '83, I know she would never forgive me for '87. ***** I did one of my speciality bets at the bookie's. This involved backing the three outsiders in a forecast combination in each dog race through the card at one meeting (Bristol) . This means twelve races multiplied by six bets in each race or a total of 72 bets. I did a unit stake of £5 so it cost me £360. If only two out of twelve forecasts come off at odds of, say 6-1 twice, I'd be in profit but not _one_single penetrating forecast came in.

    SATURDAY, JANUARY 30 11.00 am A funny thing happened last night. The game was at Douglas's and - wrongly, because he hadn't checked it with Douglas - Gerard brought this kid Toby along. No harm done except this kid doesn't call Gerard 'Gerard', he calls him 'Marcel'. "What's this, bad man," says I, "why is this youth calling you 'Marcel'?" "Because that's my name." "But your name's Gerard," says Nik. "Or 'Bad Man'," adds Ben. "Marcel is my middle name and sometimes I use it as my first name." "But why, bad man?" "It's a business matter," said Gerard, as though that explained everything. ***** Fade to black: fade up again. I was telling the assembled company about my encounter with Gerard - sorry, Marcel - in Chiswick and this inspired Gerard to unburden his conscience (as if...) about his 'business deal'. "Mike, my business associate," says the bad man without a trace of irony (the bad man doesn't do irony: where other single blokes get someone in to do the ironing, Gerard has to have help with the irony), "and, as such, is able to let me have a consignment of brand new computers at an amazing price." He then goes on to list the computers' amazing spec. and then asks us to guess the price. £500. "That's right," says Gerard triumphantly, "these computers retail for £2,000 each but I can get them for £500." My cries of "but they must be hot" are drowned out by the other guys clamouring to be allowed to buy them. Oh well, if you can't beat them... ***** It was a successful night for me. Apart from all the laughs, I turned in a profit of £80. Douglas won £600, Ben won £100, Toby lost £40, Jake lost £50, Nik lost £250, Gerard lost £400. I know it doesn't add up so someone's lying. Gerard, obviously. ***** 8.00pm This afternoon, I went to Henry's. I really like Henry: he's the only bookie I know who takes no longer to pay out than he did to accept your bet. There were the usual suspects littering the premises. The Asian bloke with the skin complaint who always wears his motorcycle crash helmet; the hospital sister who smiles whether she's winning or losing; Nigel, the ex-squaddie, who insists on telling you after each race how you should have known all along that the winning horse was going to win: betting shop wisdom is alwaysafterthe event. Then there is any number of sad old gits for whom betting shops are homes, refuges, therapy and misery all rolled into one. There's also my mate Tim. I call him my mate but we only ever see each other at the bookie's. For all I know, he lives there; for all he knows, I live there. Tim is an exception to the rule that only losers go to betting shops. Notwithstanding the tracksuit and trainers he always wears, Tim's a successful lad. He's the only bloke I know who probably wins more than he loses. Or at least he breaks even. This afternoon, Tim had a tip. The horse's name was Fireman Nick and, needless to say, the whole shop was on it. With Henry's help (i.e. credit), I had my biggest ever bet on a single horse race: £300 to win. Fireman Nick went off as 11-10 favourite in a nine-horse race. The only other horse in the betting was the 6-5 shot, Constantinou. Constantinou beat Fireman Nick by a length. The whole shop was devastated. No one said anything to Tim. Betting folk are far too used to losing to blame one of their own - they'll scream at the TV screen, they'll shout at the cashiers, they'll tell each other that a trainer's bent, a jockey's lazy and a horse deserves to become pet food but they'll understand that a man who passes on (passes on, not sells) a tip has only done his best. Besides, they knew that Tim had lost more than any of them and, despite the bad tip, they didn't want him not to share his next piece of information with them. If you're in the desert, you'll accept any water so long as it's wet. After the shock waves had died down, I took Tim to one side and asked him about the provenance of his tip. "I don't understand," said he, "for the last six weeks, they've given me the winners of six races." "Who's given you these tips?" "This bloke. I don't know his name. For three weeks, he gave me these winners for no cost at all. Then, he sold me one tip a week for £100. I paid him by cheque. An outfit called Top Man Racing or something. They were always evens - or thereabouts - but I thought it was still good value." "Tell me, Tim, were all the races like this one? Basically two-horse races. One horse at evens, another at 6-4 and the rest of the horses at 10-1 or more?" "Now you mention it, Steve, they were. Why." "Because, my son," I said putting a hand on his shoulder, "you and I have been done up like a kipper. We've been stung. As a mathematician, I know how they've done it. Do you want me to explain?" The scam's simple. The con man always chooses races with only two possible (to all intent and purpose) winners. He then sends out, say eight thousand letters on spec to known punters (bookmakers' clients, racing newsletter subscribers etc.). For the first race, four thousand letters tip Horse A and four thousand letters tip Horse B. If Horse B wins, he forgets about the four thousand people he wrote to tipping Horse A. Next week, he writes to the four thousand people who were on Horse B. To two thousand of them, he tips Horse C, to the other two thousand, he tips Horse D. If Horse C wins, he then concentrates on those people to whom he sent the correct tip. And so on. By the time he gets to charging for his tips, he's likely to get a nearly full take up from about four hundred salivating punters (half of whom will get the winning horse), then two hundred and then one hundred people. At this point, he'll probably give it up having made over £70,000. Nice work if you can get it. "You see, Tim, this guy didn't know anything about racing: he just understood maths."

    SUNDAY, JANUARY 31 I'm 1,700 down on the month. About what I expected.

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2 Last night I was having sex with/penetrating/making love to Maggie. Just before we got right down to it, I decided to stake today's betting money on how long it took me. I was going to spend £250 today but wagered with myself to take off £10 for every minute I took. That's to say, if I took ten minutes, I'd take off ten x £10 off today's stake money, fourteen minutes, £140 etc., more than 25 minutes, I wouldn't have a bet today. In the event, I came in _eight_minutes which meant that I had £170 to bet with today. I did the lot in just twenty minutes: a ton on a horse called Maggie's Dream (it seemed indicated) and I got no return on a ten quid win patent on three favourites across three meetings. So much for no more multiple bets. Wish I'd taken twenty-six minutes now.

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3 Douglas took me along to this casino where he's a member to play poker. I've never played poker - against other punters - in a casino before and it was quite an education. We were playing in a Hold 'Em tournament. £20 to play with unlimited buy-ins. I sat down with six other guys and I disliked each of them. The guy immediately on my left was quite possibly the most unfriendly man I've ever met. I tried introducing myself - like you do - but he just didn't want to know. The only time he did talk to me was to tell me off for not putting in my ante. To his left was a bloke I nicknamed (to myself) Art because of his resemblance (physical, not vocal) to Art Garfunkel. I don't think he smiled once the whole evening. Next to him was a bloke who I initially thought was friendly until I realised that he couldn't stop smiling because that's the way his jaw had been set - a bit like The Joker. Next to The Joker sat some sort of Iranian/Greek/Turkish man who was forever shouting across the room at his 'friends' - as if anyone could ever make friends in such a godforsaken place. When he wasn't chit-chatting, he was making a nuisance of himself with the waitresses. "Tina," he would bellow, "fill my glass!" And 'Tina' would duly scamper off to obey her master's booming voice. And he smoked the whole time. Little cigarillos like the baddie in a spaghetti western. On his left was a young guy I came to think of as 'Bandwagon' as he just wanted to agree with everything everyone said - which was fine when it was non-contentious but penetrating annoying when it wasn't. For example, when the bastard on my left told me off for the non-putting-in-of-ante crime, he was the first to support him, piping up, "he's right, you know, that's not the first time someone's had to tell you". The oyster. Finally, there was Mr Poker Pro who'd been there, done that and split the pot. He simply couldn't resist telling us all about his gambling acumen and all the tragic poker tournaments in which he'd reached the final table ("and now, the end is here, and so I reach the final table") as though this were an achievement comparable to splitting the penetrating atom. Physically, he was repulsive: I've nothing against men with nasal hair but do they have to pick it at the poker table? Also, if there's one thing worse than someone using the arm of their glasses as a cotton bud to forage for ear wax, it's that person going on to eat what they've collected. The thing is that for me, poker has always been about fun. That's why we talk about _playing_cards. Our Friday night poker sessions are the absolute highlight of my week, of mylife. Stripping away the fun from the game - as these creeps were doing - takes away the point of it. I could have won the poxy tournament - I really could - but I just wanted to get away from there, so I gifted a couple of hands to Art (who wasn't such a bad bloke if truth be told), said goodbye to Douglas and buggered off. I could have played in a cash game but I could feel a wave of panic coming over me just at the thought of staying with those creeps.

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5 Tonight's game was at Douglas's poky poker pad. "Where are our computers, Gerard?" we asked the bad man. "Ah, I'm glad you asked me that," he replied sounding very much like he wasn't glad that we'd asked him that. "My supplier's let me down." "What do you mean by 'let you down'?" asked Jake. "What do you mean by 'supplier'?" asked Ben. I said, "he means 'Mike' but he isn't a 'supplier', is he, Gerard? At least not in the sense of legitimate computer supplier? He's a thief and my guess is he's ripped you off too." Gerard looked peeved. Whether it was because I was suggesting - heaven forbid - that he would deal with anyone who wasn't kosher or whether it was because I was calling him a con man's mark, I couldn't tell but he wasn't about to go down in our estimation. "Don't worry, boys," he said pulling out a roll of fifties, "you'll all get your deposits back and we'll say no more about it. Now I can't say fairer than that." Just before we found out whether, indeed, hecouldsay fairer than that, his mobile rang. It was one of the mothers of one of his many children. From the two-minute screamfest which ensued, it was possible to discern that a) Gerard had not been paying his child's maintenance and b) He wasn't going to be allowed to see his child until he did so. In as much as you can slam down a mobile phone, Gerard did so with the valediction 'penetrate off, you bitch' . Being hidebound chaps rather than touchy-feely chicks, we didn't refer to this extraordinary interruption - although Douglas was heard to mutter - to no one in particular - "you shouldn't internalise your feelings so much, Gerard" (Douglas is, of course, also divorced or separated - one doesn't like to enquire too deeply). The call came at an opportune time for Gerard as it allowed him to switch from the embarrassing topic of conned man to the (for him at least) fascinating subject of his love life. "Look at this little beauty, boys," he said pulling out a picture of a (nearly) naked Scandinavian lovely. She looked impossibly gorgeous and I said so, stressing the word 'impossibly'. Once again, Gerard looked peeved. "Steve, how can you _imply_that Sylvie" - apparently the name of hisinamorata- "doesn't exist?" "Oh, I'm sure she exists, bad man. It's not her existence I'm doubting. It's her existence in your life I'm doubting." Gerard grinned in that (one has to say) engaging, boyish just-been-found-out way of his which actually made me wonder if I'd wronged him. The thing is with the bad man that some of his claims really are true: indeed, the more extraordinary the story, the more likely it is to be true. For instance: Gerard told us that he served with the French Foreign Legion. Obviously, none of us believed him. "But I'm _telling_you that I was in the French Foreign Legion," he would wail. "That'swhy we don't believe you," we would retort. And then, blow me down, he produces a magazine which has a photograph - with his name - of him in French Foreign Legion kit. So you never know with the bad man. We were six this evening. The usual five plus Roger, a fellow-American Douglas met through work. I think Douglas's pitching to him. Douglas owns an advertising agency called The Kennedy Agency (as in Douglas Kennedy). I once berated him for this: "I thought all ad agencies were named after their partners, not just one guy?" "Well, so's mine," drawled Douglas, "but I bought out Mr The and Mr Agency a few years back." I don't mind Douglas inviting who he wants to his flat (big of me) but I immediately took a deep dislike to Roger. For a start, he had a big bushy moustache and was wearing a lumberjack's shirt. Non-indictable crimes, I know, but coupled with his attitude, they set my teeth on edge. He was just so cocksure in that infuriating way that Americans overseas can be (see also Korea and Vietnam). I found everything about him loathsome, from the way he tucked his cards right into his chest (as though we're a bunch of cheats), to the way he called queens 'bitches', to the way he kept accusing Gerard of not having put in the right money. The fact that he was invariably correct was neither here nor there: Gerard may be a bit of a rogue but he's _our_rogue. Having said that, I seem to be the only one - even including the bad man - who doesn't like him. When he went out the room to go to the loo, I hissed 'creep' and the others all looked surprised. The main thing that wound me up about him - and the others did at least concede this when he'd gone (he was the first to go) - was the way he crowed every time he won a pot. In our crowd, the form is to sympathise with the losers (up to a point: then we tell them that we have no interest in their lives and they should find someone who has). Roger not only took our money but he also told us - in no uncertain ungracious terms - what we'd done wrong. When he did it to me, I chucked in a quid chip and told him I was grateful for the lesson. The oyster kept it and the others, damn them, laughed. I lost £300 but Douglas "I'm bleeding from every orifice" Kennedy lost nearly £500. What lovely guests we all are.

    SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6 I wish I could be like Sue. She pays every bill the day it arrives - even if the money's not due for a month. What's clever about Sue is that she's realised that if you do as I do and only pay on red (or worse), you only appreciate the benefits of it once: the rest of your life you're playing catch-up. Sue, meanwhile, has always got that safety net of a month in hand plus who knows how much goodwill. So here I am juggling bills, deciding who is going to get paid. Gas can wait. Water - run by penetrating-snouts-in-the-trough-fat-cats - canreallywait. Telephone can't wait and nor, it seems, can electricity and the *********** complanies will have to be sent the bare minimum which seems to be pure interest anyway. I have actually got the money but I was earmarking it for my latest master plan: spread betting. I think I've got a handle on this spread betting lark. Basically, the s.b. firm gives its prediction, in the form of a spread, on a particular sporting (or, indeed, non-sporting) event. I, as a punter, can either 'buy' or 'sell'. So if, say, Man. Utd. are playing Arsenal, the s.b. firm might predict that the first goal will be scored between the 29th and the 32nd minute. If you think that the first goal will be scored _before_the 29th minute then you 'sell' and if you think that the first goal will be scored _after_the 32nd minute then you 'buy'. You nominate your stake - e.g. £10 a minute - and wait to see what happens. So if I 'bought' the first goal at £10 a minute and the first goal was scored in the 53rd minute, I'd make 21 X my £10 stake: £210. If, on the other hand, the first goal was scored in the 20th minute, I'd lose 12 X £10: £120. Presumably, the firm makes their profit on the spread (i.e. between 29 and 32 minutes). What I like about spread betting is that, unlike 'traditional' betting, you have much more control. If I've bought the first goal - i.e. predicted that it won't be scored till much later in the match - but there's suddenly a lot of goalmouth activity at the end of the first half, I can always 'close' my bet by accepting the 'sell' side of the current spread which will of course have moved upwards to, say, 68-71 - meaning that I would 'close' at 68 and win 36 times (i.e. 68-32) my £10 stake. It looked complicated at first - even for a mathematician - but actually it's piss simple. I've been doing it with myself ('fnarr fnarr') for the past few days and I've made some good 'profits'. I'm sending in £1,000 I've been saving for just such an occasion and I can't wait to get started - especially as I managed to blow the best part of four hundred quid this afternoon at Henry's.

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8 I went to the races today. I had to see a client in Arundel at midday and another in Worthing at 4.30. With the best part of three hours to kill, I had intended to find a bookie's but when I looked at the racing pages, I noticed that there was a meeting at Fontwell. I have to say I enjoyed myself. The weather was unseasonably mild, Fontwell's a fine course and there's something rather wonderful about a busy racecourse on a midweek day: it shows that there are a lot of people with the right priorities in life. I lost the first three races but during the third, I got talking to a bloke who advised me to back a horse in the next each-way, which I did at 16-1. It finished second and I was back to even money for the day. Then in the next race (my last as I had to get to Worthing), something extraordinary happened. For the only race that day, I decided to stand by the finishing line (waiting till the steward wasn't watching as I didn't have the appropriate badge). I don't know what made me do it but I was glad I did because there was an incredibly close photo finish between Rosie's Pride and Kernel Tom (neither of which I'd backed). The thing is, as the only person actually _on_the line, I _knew_that Kernel Tom had won. I mean, I _knew_it in the same way that I know that Maggie's eyes are green. No, I'm not a zillion per cent certain that Maggie's eyes are green but I was that certain that Kernel Tom was the winner. All the bookie's were betting on the photo. Unfortunately, all of them were offering Rosie's Pride, which was utterly useless to me. All of them, that is, except this little old geezer who looked a lot like Albert Steptoe. He was calling 1-2 Kernel Tom. It was the chance of a lifetime. I didn't blow it by biting his hand off. I merely placed £440 (my total stash) in his mitt and waited to hear the result that I - and I alone - already _knew_. Kernel Tom was the winner and I'd made the easiest £220 of my life, giving me a total profit of £260 for the day.

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9 As usual, I was stuck in the office today because Tuesday is office day where they can check that you're not working for anyone else or whatever. I also wanted to find out whether there's any chance of switching over to the 'slow track' on the February bonus promotion as there's no way that I'm going to reach target (answer: no). Trevor, who's spotted me down at the local bookie's on more than one occasion beckoned me over to the little alcove which he insists on calling an office. "Listen, Steve, I've been given something fabulous for the Derby." "But that's not until June." "That's why we can get an incredibly good price. This horse is the donkey's bollocks. It did absolutely nothing as a two-year-old but my mate who knows the trainer says it's a penetrating wonder-horse over the gallops. Reckons it's the next Shergar." "What, pet food?" "Don't be a oyster, Steve, this is pay day." I hope it is. By the law of averages alone, I'm due a little luck. Trevor says that he backed the horse at fifties. I went straight down to the bookies and put on two hundred quid at 33-1 and I fully intend to keep on backing it all the way down to twenties.

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10 I never take a day off sick (unless I'm genuinely sick) as I'm superstitious enough to believe that if I do, I'll be genuinely ill the next day but I woke up feeling so can't-be-arsed that I phoned in sick. I told Maggie (who wasn't working) that I was staying home and she was less than thrilled. "I've got Julia coming over for lunch and we were planning to have a really good goss." "Oh I'm so sorry to interrupt your dyke scene," I said childishly. "You're pathetic, Steve," she said and walked out of the room, giving me no chance to start the row I really needed. "This is my house too, " I shouted after her. Then, full ofl'esprit d'escalier, I added, "who was it who was moaning at me just the other day that I ought to spend more time at home?" Silence: the sound of winning a one-person row. ***** Goaded by her offishness, I went out at midday. After a pint and a half, a pie and twenty quid in the one armed bandits at the pub, I went to the bookie's. I think I've only ever been to Henry's on a Saturday and it's always been pretty crowded. Now, at lunchtime on a wet Wednesday in winter, I saw the place in a new light. Racing had already started but there were only four people in the shop besides me, Henry and Maureen, his cashier. I had a light bet of £20 on a horse I chose because it was the only one holding its opening price while all the others were going wildly in or out. I went up to the counter to place my bet to find myself in a queue behind my fellow punters and I was struck by how small their stakes were. Twenty pee each way, fifty pee win, and even, God help us, 'two bob each way'. It's not exactly Vegas, is it? I suggested to Henry he ought to get a grant for his care in the community work. "Tell me about it," he sighed. "If it wasn't for my account customers, I wouldn't bother opening during the week." He turned to look at the door as though he could see right through the plastic tassles that are the bookie's equivalent of the barber's red and white pole or the pawnbroker's three balls. His voice went quieter and he sounded wistful. "You know, Steve, it's not much more than ten years ago that Mecca offered me fifty thousand for this shop. Fifty thousand and I don't even own the freehold! Now, I couldn't even give it away. I tried last year. I asked the freeholder if I could surrender the lease but he told me that I'd have to find a new person to take it on _and_indemnify him if they didn't pay the rent. Well I asked the local estate agent to help me sell the lease and he told me that not only couldn't I sell it, I wouldn't even be able to give it away! Reckoned that I'd have to _pay_someone to take it off my hands. Called a reverse premium or some such. I don't know, I really don't." He shook his head in sorrow, perhaps pain. "And I thought there was no such thing as a poor bookie." "Don't you believe it, my son. There are independents going bust every day of the week. It's the lottery you see, we just can't compete. I wouldn't mind but we're not on a level playing field. And then there are the *********** betting services operated by the big boys. Yeah, I know that you use them too, Steve, and I don't blame you: so would I if I was you. Who needs to go to a bookmaker when they can bet without leaving the comfort of their armchair? "And then there's spread betting," he said looking at me with his head cocked to one side, causing me to go red. "Fantastic idea: all the fun of betting and no penetrating tax, pardon my French. Trouble is, it creams off all the wealthy punters and leaves me with this lot." He gestured towards his loyal congregants. They don't have Switch cards and, even if they did, which firm's going to take their dollar trebles?" "I've started spread betting," I confessed, "well, I've opened an account and I'm going to start as soon as it's set up." "Take care," he said avuncularly. "Spread betting looks innocent enough but it can clean you out in no time. You're not stupid but you do go a bit over the top." "Don't I know. Remember Fireman Nick?" "Of course I do, he won me a fortune." "What do you mean? Didn't you have money on him too?" "No, Steve, I'm a bookie, not a punter. I don't make decisions, I just accept yours. Look," he was warming to his subject, "if I toss this coin up in the air and invite you to call, you'll call. Eventually, you'll get it wrong and that's why I win." "But surely having a bet is an important part of being a bookie?" "No. Oh I'm not saying I'm not tempted and sometimes I suppose I don't lay off quite as much as I should do if it's good money from a useful punter, but I shouldn't think that happens more than once or twice a year." "So you didn't reckon Tim's source then? I mean, Tim's a regular winner." He was about to say something but decided on silence. "But, Henry, isn't gambling for a bookie as much of an occupational hazard as drinking is for a publican?" "That's right, my son, that's why I don't do it." "That must take a lot of self-discipline." "Oh no I don't think so." Then he addedsotto voce, "you see my Dad was a compulsive gambler: threw it all away at the bookie's and so I became one. I was determined that my kids were going to get the Christmas and birthday presents I never got." What sort of man does he think_I _am? What sort of man do_I _think I am?
    Last edited by Isaiah; 12-18-14 at 01:55 AM.

  2. #2
    Russian Rocket
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  3. #3
    Isaiah
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    Time? Not much time at all, I type over 100 words per minute.

    Reading books is a wonderful way to relax, you should try it some time.

  4. #4
    Russian Rocket
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaiah View Post

    Reading books is a wonderful way to relax, you should try it some time.

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    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by Russian Rocket View Post
    Obviously.

  6. #6
    Russian Rocket
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaiah View Post
    Obviously.
    I do however can tell you one thing - somewhere in that mess, the non-breaking spaces from the HTML template, where you are copying this article from, are encoding as ISO-8859-1 so that they show up incorrectly as an "" character.

    To eliminate this problem in the future - next time paste the entire article into Notepad and then into here.

    Have a good one!

  7. #7
    KVB
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    Name:  mj-laughing1.gif
Views: 218
Size:  1.99 MB

  8. #8
    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by Russian Rocket View Post
    I do however can tell you one thing - somewhere in that mess, the non-breaking spaces from the HTML template, where you are copying this article from, are encoding as ISO-8859-1 so that they show up incorrectly as an "" character.

    To eliminate this problem in the future - next time paste the entire article into Notepad and then into here.

    Have a good one!
    It is from a kindle reader...a real b*tch to copy and paste from. Did the notepad thing...you should have seen it before I edited out as much crap as I did! It wasn't even formatted into paragraphs! Oh the sacrifices I make for you people!!!

  9. #9
    ttrace35
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    Never fukkin heard of ya

  10. #10
    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttrace35 View Post
    Never fukkin heard of ya
    Well now you have. I've heard of you because I have faded your picks for quite sometime which has padded my bankroll nicely. No disrespect intended but you are one of the worst handicappers on the forum. Please keep posting.
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  11. #11
    ItsMeMrMattE
    puttin 2 cents in for 3 out
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    cliff notes anyone?

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    Dirty Sanchez
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  13. #13
    ttrace35
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    Clown

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    Ghenghis Kahn
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    TankHankerous
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    tl;dr

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    BadLuckSanta
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    anyone get the cliff notes?

  17. #17
    Seaweed
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsMeMrMattE View Post
    cliff notes anyone?
    Twenty pee each way, fifty pee win, and even, God help us, 'two bob each way'.

  18. #18
    Seaweed
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    Everybody is too lazy to read

  19. #19
    Rudeboy
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  20. #20
    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttrace35 View Post
    Clown
    Guy with 10,749 posts and 49 betpoints calling someone a clown.

  21. #21
    KVB
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rudeboy View Post

    AWESOME!!:




  22. #22
    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seaweed View Post
    Everybody is too lazy to read
    Indeed. That's unfortunate because it was posted with the intention of planting a seed in at least one of the numerous moron's minds that infest this site. If just one would follow the script and end up killing themselves it will make the world a better place. Hope springs eternal though because the dullards are keeping the thread alive.

    By the by, great avatar you have, love Peter Falk. I recently purchased the entire Columbo series on dvd. What a great show, writing, acting and plot development - absolutely outstanding!
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  23. #23
    KVB
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    The Mad Drummer made it to the thread...consider it a success.

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  24. #24
    Isaiah
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    Quote Originally Posted by KVB View Post
    The Mad Drummer made it to the thread...consider it a success.

    Touche'.

  25. #25
    Smoke
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    Did he win?

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    THam12
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