Today was the day of the Grand National, and as usual I didn’t place a bet. The last time I did was about seven years ago. Now, this isn’t going to be a story about how I’m a lapsed gambler – I’ve simply never been into sports betting of any kind. Horse racing? I have no idea what’s good, bad or Ruud Van Nistlerooy. Football? The odds have always seemed too bloody awful to really be worth a flutter.
But while I’ve never been into betting, there are a couple of good reasons behind it. Firstly, I’m not too keen on losing money when chance is pretty much the only variable. I mean, sure, you can argue that if you extensively study the form guide for racing or have an encyclopedic knowledge of footballers’ stats, then you might stand much more chance of winning, but I don’t have the inclination to delve into either of those things. The randomness factor of being ignorant over the likely result doesn’t really appeal. Secondly, I fear that I have the kind of addictive personality that would lead to me being unable to stop gambling once I’d started, if it became part of a normal routine.
I do like gambling, but only when playing one game in one place: Texas Hold ‘Em in Las Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas three times now, including a stay in a lake view room at The Bellagio as part of my honeymoon last year. I’ve never been to a UK casino, instead preferring the occasional poker night at home with friends for bragging rights, and that’s linked to the point I made above – I’m worried that playing for money could easily become a (very expensive) habit. On holiday it’s a special case, and I can divorce (ha! Marriage! Divorce!) it from my ordinary life.
Texas Hold ‘Em is a magical game, full of heart-thumping tension. There is some luck involved, yes, but when playing in a casino, you’re playing the other players themselves almost as much as their cards. Knowing exactly when to bet, raise or bluff is an art in itself, and the sense of achievement when winning a hand with a comparatively mediocre set of cards, simply by using strong betting to make those with better hands fold, is brilliantly satisfying. On the flipside, folding before the flop and then seeing your cards come up is horribly depressing. I have a nasty habit of laying down hands that could have won, and then in subsequent deals going too far the other way by playing something that’s utterly bollocks as a reactionary bit of ineptitude.
I wish that I had the opportunity to play Texas Hold ‘Em a lot more, but given that it would necessitate playing for money regularly, I’m glad that I’m able to hold off. After all, if I became a gambler then my cats’ prospects of getting sliced chicken in an evening would be on a knife-edge, and I couldn’t have that. All that being said, if “stuff” works out over the next few weeks and months then I might treat myself and the wife to another Vegas jaunt. The idea of going there not worrying so much about money appeals – though if the tension’s not there, the game might lose something in translation and become that little bit less compelling. What a terrible price to pay, eh?