Daniel, a gambling addict.

by B Thornton- Harwood

Addiction attacks people in a number of different ways, it can grab you by the balls and pull you in from the first taste, or it can just be a small vice that creeps up on you, gradually dragging you down without you even noticing it. Daniel has been a gambling addict for the past 4 years. And his case concerns the second stereotype, a clamp slowly crushing tighter and on his wallet, but having repercussions elsewhere in his personal life.

Sat across from me in a poorly lit booth of a dingy Portsmouth pub, Daniel, 23, sips a pint of fizzy lager and explains his first experience with gambling: “I was about 15 and working in staples, and my manager who played online poker introduced me to it. I gave him money which he’d put into my account and I’d just play small stakes, but at work that was all we spoke about.”

The small stakes poker progressed as Daniel grew older and it became legal for him to bet, while joining university was the next step up, he was free to visit the casino or bookies when he pleased and had larger disposable income to play with from his student loan.

Soon as I turned 18, and was a fresher at Portsmouth University I went to the casino about 20 metres away from my halls. I signed up and played in a poker tournament, during the break I lost at least 50 quid on the other tables just but remember absolutely loving it. Playing poker live is so much better than online. I was hooked from there.”

Dr Trisha Macnair stated in 2010 thatthere may be as many as 350,000 people in the UK who have some sort of significant problem with gambling.” And there are a number of reasons people get hooked, from the thrill of winning cash to a love for the sequences of numbers found within card games such as Blackjack and the statistics involved with roulette. For Daniel it was, simply put, everything:  “I love everything about it- there’s one hand and you can play it a million different ways, it’s never the same, you can win big money, but you can bluff someone with the shittest hand and just ride the thrill of it”

“You go to the bookies every Saturday and put your money on bets for the football, the odds are ridiculous, but you just put it on for the fun of it, for the thrill, it only costs you a pound and it makes your experience of Saturday watching the football so much better- cos’ everyone looks at their bets and goes ‘Ah I’m 3 matches away from a grand!’. Then everything comes down to the last 10 minutes and it just makes your day that much more exciting. But then obviously, while you’re putting your bets on, you put more money in the machines.”

But eventually like now I just have to go and do it, I don’t even care if I win- unless it’s substantial then there’s no point. Me putting £20 in a machine, I’m not going to leave unless it’s with £60.

But if I loose the 20 it’s gone and then I start thinking about what I could’ve spent it on- food, drink, rent, bills. But in the moment you don’t think about that at all you just play, and it just happens. And that bit is the problem.”

With gambling comes the ups and downs of winning and losing money, sometimes you get both rushes in the space of an evening. There have been loads of times when I’ve regretted what I’ve played. I turned £20 into £500 or £600 playing blackjack, just out of luck. By twenty minutes until the casino closed I’d racked up so much they turned my £25 chips into £100 chips and you don’t know what a £100 chip is until it’s in your hand. It’s just a bit of plastic. So I started, gambling stupid, betting £100 a hand and obviously just fucked myself over.

I lost the whole lot in 5 hands. So I’m only 20 down but I’m telling myself I’m £600 down- now that’s two months’ rent. I went and took out another ton from the cash machine, and told myself I have to do it. I turned it back into 600 and said to myself you lucky bastard.”

“In my first year of university I won a £1200 poker tournament, I’ve won over five grand while studying, playing poker, but lost way more playing blackjack and roulette. I’ve had really bad runs, six or seven nights a week and just getting unlucky and it’s ruined me. There’s nothing you can do about it except for come back the next day, but then in the same sense you get good luck and you have to ride that too.

It’s not just cards and the football Daniel puts money on, his gambling has overflowed into his personal life, he takes calculated risks almost every day: whether it be playing a friendly round of golf and putting a tenner into a kitty for the winner; womanising and pushing his luck with multiple girls just for the thrill and risk of getting caught, the ramifications of which could be greater than a huge monetary loss; and even his appearance, a bet gone awry leave him staring at me with multiple chunks of his eyebrow missing.

Daniel however claims that he doesn’t need to gamble: “When I have no money I don’t NEED to gamble, but when I’ve got cash I can’t not walk past and go in. It’s like tractor beams on me.”

Finding ways to stop gambling has also been a challenge for Daniel. “Ironically I’ve had bets with people not to gamble. ‘If I go in and gamble a penny you have control of my facebook…’ ‘If I gamble I owe you this much…’ and of course if I have a bet with someone I don’t want to lose that bet- because I’m a gambler!”

Daniel concludes “you always need good people around you; if friends aren’t with you to pull you out and stop you when you need them most then you’re completely fucked.”