Relapse

My name is Eric, and I am a gambler.

Gambling is kind of its own bag, but if I had to compare it to anything it would be like my addiction to cigarettes. I know, big fucking shocker. Unlike other vices I have indulged in over the last, I don’t know, ten years, gambling and cigarettes are the two that are separate from the rest of the um, shall we say, “pack.”

This is for one perfect reason: aside from the addiction, I just like to do them. Even if they didn’t make me feel some type of way, I would still do them because I like to.

With gambling I don’t care if it’s dice, a deck of cards, a sports book, whatever. I just like to be in action.

Before I sound like gambling is all I ever do, it’s really not. Until a week ago — when I happened to lose $600 playing blackjack, which is besides the point — it had been 7 months since I placed a single bet. If you want to be a fascist you can hold playing fantasy football or betting in a suicide NFL pool against me. But as far craps, blackjack, baccarat, Pai Gow, roulette, and against the spread, I had been clean. I would even be magnanimous to myself and say that I did not miss it.

Anyway, after my failed casino trip I had a couple days off, and felt like giving myself a show when the evening slate of sports popped up on the tube. At 4:00 on Monday Duke tipped off at home against Tennessee State, so I thought what the hell. Why not give it the old college try and use $50 to make the game a little more interesting.

The tilt started sluggishly. It had been a week since Duke’s last game, and it was to be the night their stud #1 freshman in the nation, Harry Giles, made his debut. It was also the week of Christmas, where 18 and 19 year-olds are more prone to losing focus and playing like dogshit. At the under-12:00 media timeout, Duke led TSU by a score of 10-8. On Bovada, the online sports book I use, the first half over/under was 57.5 total points. So I did the quick math in my head:

To make the over on 57.5 Duke and TSU would need to score 42 points in 11 minutes and 27 seconds. That’s an average of about 3.5 combined points per minute. Up until that point in the game, however, the two teams combined for 18 points in 8 minutes and 33 seconds. That’s an average of about 2.0 points per minute.

I took the under, and got minus-110 on my $50 bet (meaning I would only win $45). The score at the end of the half was Duke 27, Tennessee State 23 — good for a point total of 50 — so I won the bet.

But that was hardly enough. My original $50 turned into $95 after the win. To put that into context, at the casino I was actually up $600 at one point. My original $600 was at one point $1,200 and I could have walked. But I did not walk. Instead I just increased my bet to $150 or $200 per blackjack hand, and my ultimate demise followed shortly thereafter.

I had $95, so I could still be in action. According to my bet slip on Bovada, over the course of the next two days I placed a total of 42 bets — ranging from $4 (on long-shots) to $150 (on “sure” things) — on five different sports: NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA Basketball, and Euro League Basketball. I do not follow the NHL, NBA, or Euro League.

Of those 42 bets, which kept my original $50 in action the entire time, which was cool, I went exactly 21-21. A 50% success rate. That figure is distorted in both directions, however, as I placed small bets on some long-shots that didn’t come through, and some larger wagers on safer bets. I’d like to believe I could pick straight winners and losers at a better than average clip — which 50% is — but I was focused almost exclusively on proposition, or “prop,” bets. And those are harder to predict.

But this, in a nutshell, is why I should not be gambling. Because once I get that taste, and feel that rush of adrenaline that can’t be replicated, I’m stuck with it. I sometimes joke with my best friend Trey, albeit a small joke, that one day I’m going to get on a monster roll on the craps table and take $30,000 from the house. That is going to happen someday. And when it does, I won’t have any reason to gamble anymore, because I will have accomplished that goal I have in my head.

Short of that, what amount of money is really going to satisfy me? Winning $600 at blackjack the other night wasn’t enough because I wanted to win $2,000. In the same vein winning $250 on Bovada, which was the height of my original $50 buy-in, didn’t even come into sniffing distance. It was really just cheap entertainment to pass the time.

I know what my deeper issue is: money is not real to me. It doesn’t feel real to me.

There was a time when Trey and I were 21, and we did get legitimately excited about hitting a blackjack on a $50 bet. That was at the beginning. But when that happened on enough occasions, the floor had to be raised. We couldn’t get the same excitement off of $50; it needed to be more. And that snowball got bigger and bigger and bigger until there was only one thing left to do. And that was to stop going to the casino.

My problem has only been amplified since I became a dealer a few years back. I’ve crippled $100,000 bankrolls in less than a half hour. I’ve also given away $50,000 in the same amount of time. At some juncture, the chip values lost their meaning. A $500 chip was just like a $5 chip.

In five years worth of gambling, and three years worth of dealing, the best idea I’ve come up with is if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen; if it isn’t going to happen, it isn’t going to happen. Some real Confucius shit right there. As such, it’s in my best interests to play as aggressively as possible. Because while I may crash and burn with abnormal frequency, there will be a time, or multiple times, where I will get on a run at just the right moment and beat the house for thousands of dollars. It has happened before. And it happened at a time when Trey and I were much more conservative with our betting strategy.

That is all I’ve got. My best idea is to be as aggressive as possible. And in the meantime, not to gamble at all. My one real victory of 2016 was the fact that I gambled a ridiculous amount less than any of the other years since I turned 21. And that’s important. Trey and I were once in a cycle of going to the casino seven days a week. We didn’t even go seven times, total, this year.

I wasn’t lying earlier when I said I didn’t miss gambling. I doubt I’ll ever get tired of it, but it’s a love that’s separated from a problem. I’m not gambling away my rent, or my car payment, or my phone bill. I’m gambling excess money, money I can afford to lose if it comes down to it.

But if last week was any proof, this is not a high I can consistently live on. There are cheaper habits and I am a bit more fragile than I expected to be. So I don’t have any plans on going back to that well any time in the near future. I think we can agree that’s the safest of all the bets.

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