Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Confessions of a Degenerate Gambler

Don't tell anybody, because it's a secret, and I've been meaning to tell you chaps for years: I'm an honest-to-goodness compulsive gambler. A compulsive gambler with a compulsive spending habit. Really, I'm a degenerate gambler who has done some bad, crazy things, but I'm getting better, and can look back and (almost) laugh.

Two compulsions for the price of one. Talk about great value, eh?

I don't admit this because I spend every minute of the day in Bet Fred putting my last 50p on some nag at 200-1, but because a teenage gambling habit turned into an adult spending habit that left me with no money and a very impressive CD collection.

A CD collection I then sold to pay off the interest on my debts, because compulsive spending's like that. You end up with all the financial woe and none of the possessions you spent it on.

Rewind to my first meeting:

"So," said the now former wife, "How did you get on at G*mbl*rs An*nym*us?"

"Well... I went sort of expecting a cross between a church group and Fight Club"

"Are was it?"

"First rule. I'm not allowed to talk about Fight Club."

"And the second rule?"

"Bring cake."

I was a gambler at the age of 11, and I remember the futility of MY WORST EVER BET as if it were yesterday.

I was in my late teens, and went to Northern Ireland for a holiday, staying with my grandparents. I took myself into Bangor one afternoon, and with a pocketful of blunt, made straight for the amusement arcade to have a go on the fruit machines.

When I got there, I found that the local council had withdrawn the arcade's gaming licence. To get round this, they had fixed the machines so they wouldn't pay out, with big signs saying they were "For Amusement Only". That's right - you put your money in, and the only thing you could win was extra credit, which you then spent.

I must have got through at least half of my holiday spends, feeding in pound after pound, KNOWING that I was literally throwing my money at the leery camel-coated bastard who owned the place, who sat with an evil grin on his face in the change booth.

In my little gambling bubble, I glanced across at a middle-aged woman who was doing exactly the same thing. She had exactly the same look of grim despair on her face that I sported: "HELP!"

As her money ran out, she sagged like Ann Widdecombe's tits, said "Aye, there goes the rent" and left, presumably to jump into the harbour.

I left, minutes later, only to commit further crimes against my wallet: The purchase of Tenpole Tudor's current single "Wunderbar", which was, and still is, the second worst record I ever bought.

I've done loads of other things that I'm not proud of, but there's the root of it, and you'll be amazed to learn that I'm not actually opposed to other people gambling like some bug-eyed evangelical type. Go right ahead, it's your pile of match sticks to do as you please.

I'm not going back. It destroyed a marriage. I can't be bothered to do it again.

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