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    • #15062

      Let me preface by saying that I had thought about posting numerours times in the middle of the night or early morning hours, worn, tired and frazzled after a horrific binge.  Your mind racing, adrenaline and despair fighting an internal fight, and always, always asking to turn back the clock 1 hour, 3 hours, 8 hours, or why didn’t I just stay in and rent a movie instead.
      My mind is clear, there was no binge, no furious damage to the ATM leaving my debit card smoking.  This is a story about me.  A man in his mid thirties, chronicling the events that have lead to this point.
      I am a gambler, a liar by ommission and still one big win away.
      Its a long read and I don’t expect you to get through all of it.  I ask that you indulge me, I believe the written story will be cathartic for me.
      This is a story that has a beginning, a middle and an unfinished chapter.
      I guess it all started when I was 14.  Our family went to NJ and decided to do some sight seeing in Atlantic City.  You would think a 14 year old would not be allowed to enter the casino but I guess I was already 6 feet tall and with my Aunt on my arm, no one asked any questions.  I walked around and really the only game I was familar with was Black Jack.  I observed other table games and found myself infront of a Pai-Gow Poker Table with $20.  Again, no one asked for ID and I played (while asking for help from the dealer) $5 a hand and ran my total up to $75.  I walked away – which is easy to do while gambling for entertainment and having your family standing over your shoulder.  And that was the end of that.
      Years would pass, and the extent of gambling would be the occassional game of pool for $5 or a beer at the bar.  I was good, at least in a competitive environment and would frequently win – but playing pool for money was not all consuming.  By the time I was 18, the government introduced Sports Betting (called Pro-Line) in Canada.  You basically pick 3 or more winners from professional sports teams that play that night or week.  I was an avid sports fan, and my friends and I would put 2 or 3 bucks down on a few games.  I played for a few weeks, realized it was a total crap shoot, and could see compulsive behaviours developing in some of my friends.  I would continue to play pro-line once in a blue moon (2 or 3 times a year).  The interesting thing to note is that after narrowly losing a $3 bet that would have paid ~$200 (I chose 6 or 7 games correctly), I became disillusioned into believing that the game was beatable.  I placed $100 on 3 games (sure things), and of course I lost.  This was goodness, for if I had won, I can only imagine how quickly I would have spiraled out of control.  That was the end of my Pro-line experiment.
      To this point, gambling was not a big part of my life, occasionally I would place a friendly wager, but bigger life things deserved attention; friends, girls, girlfriends, – life was busy and life was good.
      Ah, the nature versus nuture argument.  Is a gambler born or bred?  I believe people can be genetically pre-disposed by compulsive behaviour, but opportunity must exist.  Sometimes the opportunity presents itself via a boat, slot machine at the bar or a nearby casino, but we all know a die-hard gambler creates their own opportunities.  Travelling 45 minutes to visit friends and family can be a burden but a 90 minute trip each way to get your fix – no problem.
      The story begins with the breakup with my highschool sweetheart.  We spent 4 years together through high school and university – grew apart and went our amicable ways.  We never gambled save the occasional ‘crown and anchor’ at the fair or blackjack at a stag and doe.  This was the first and last time that gambling would not factor into my relationships.
      At this point the nearest casino was 2 hours in either direction.  Not something I would intentially put on my agenda but if I was in the area – sure.  The opportunity for my friends and I presented itself in the form of a charity Black Jack.  These were roaming facilities that would set up shop for a weekend with proceeds going to charity.  My firends and I decided to try it out.  21 was easy to play.  So we grabbed $40 bucks, played $1 a hand, and a good time was had by all.  You might win some, or lose some but the damage was minimal.  The saving grace was these charity casinos only occured once a month or so.  The infrequency of these events added to the allure.  We would now having a standing engagement for this once a month night out.  Plans would revolve around when the ‘charity’ would be in town.  The frequency increased to weekly and we found ourselves going once every other week on Friday, to once a week on Friday, to both Friday and Saturday weekly.  The amount of our bets increased, because what was once fun for a few hours winning $5 or $10 became time consumming – so we wanted to justify the hours spent by winning at least $40 or $50.
      The Charity casinos became too crowded and the same faces could be seen weekly.  Saying hi, or giving a head nod to someone at a gaming establishment on a weekly basis is a good indication that you might have a problem.  We decided we would hold off on the ‘charities’ for a bit, put together some real money (which was like $150 at the time for 18-19 year olds) pile in a car and go to a big casino.  And away we went.  The first few times guys won some money (~$100 – $200) and it was easy to stop.  That was alot of money.  By now, it was no longer about fun, but moreso about an expectation of winning.  We would go for 8 -16 hours stints until our money ran out or we were too physically exhausted to play anymore.
      I was never a big Black Jack fan so I started playing other games such as Pai-gow poker.  I wouldn’t win alot, I wouldn’t lost a lot – it was game that went back and forth for hours.  I just enjoyed the feel of the cards in my hands, the thought of the next hand, the uncertainty.  So countless hours were wasted.  $$ = opportunity and since we were young and broke our casino trips tapered off.  I guess in retrospect, the fact that I would leave $15 in my car so we would have gas money was a good indication that the casino was a losing proposition.
      There was one fateful day when we assembled the ‘group’ went to the casino on a Friday night (2:30am), because we had to wait for one of friends to finish the late shift and everyone knows when you gamble alone you have a problem – but if others fall with you, then it seems less of a problem.  We went and stayed for 30 hours – the excitment of chips infront of you coupled with the fresh pumped in air energizing all of us.  We walked out at 7am on Sunday morning, the sun shining in our faces and smiles all around.  We went with about $200 a piece and after the marathon and swapping chips, lending $100 to one of friends that had a few bad hands, we all walked out big winners.  I turned my $200 into $1800 with the help of a friendly black jack table.  A pocket full of hundreds – breakfast was on me.
      The problem was I had a few days off in the middle of the week and my friends didn’t.  So I grabbed 5 of the crisp hundreds – hopped in my car and away I went.  What is the worst that could happen?  I lose $500 and I still would be up $1200.  So away I went, 24 hours and 2 comped meals later I returned – but not broke – actually up another $500.   made $500 in 1 day doing something I enjoyed.  Was I on to something?
      The next week – the same drill – this time I took a little more – intending to only spend $300 but I had some just in case money.  I lost all $700.  Not a big deal, I still had money at home.  When I got home and stared at the moeny remaining, I wasn’t content with the money in front of me, I started thinking about the money I left on the table.  $700 was a whole lot of money.  I could make it back – get to even – which in reality was way ahead of where I started and quit.
      1 week later – back to square one.  All of the money lost.  Lesson learned.  I had the urge to gamble but not the funds.  On to bigger and better things.
      So a number of years pass, the gambling was contained to the one or two times down the casino as an ‘event’ with friends.  Money was lost but nothing too extreme.  More entertainment than anything.  I had a great job, a more ‘hip’ lifestyle, travelling, meeting new people, dating.
      After a while, my great job turned sour.  The company started downsizing and offshoring.  I lost my manager and team and was left behind to hold everything together.  After grinding it out for another year, I asked for a package and recieved it.  $$ in my pocket and nothing but time – life was good, again.
      So travelling was on my agenda, did anything and everything I wanted – best times of my life.  My roomate, childhood friend and problem gambler had a job as an architect that necessitated him travelling all across the U.S. from city to city.  All of the travel gained him infinite travel points, free hotel stays, car rentals etc.  Depending on the location I would tag along, travel and stay for free and hang out. 
      And so we embark on a conference in Vegas.  So while my friend is off attending the conference I am sitting at the tables playing Pai-Gow Poker taking a two hundred dollars and playing for the day.  Over the course of 2 days I ended up winning $200 and playing for 20 hours.  Comps including dinner and free rooms abound.  We leave Vegas, but the itch is there.
      Another trip to vegas later in the year (come down, for a free weekend meals paid for) yields a different result.  Back and forth, up and down $3500 in the whole.  The trips ends and I can’t get out of Vegas fast enough.  By this time I started delving into Internet Poker.  Since I didn’t have a job and really didn’t want one, had money in the bank I started killing some time playing online.  I was good.  Not the disillusioned good whereby people think they can win all the time but I actually decided to give it go, track everything and regroup after a month to see how well i did.  It came out to $45/hr playing online.  I can do this.
      So another month passes and the novelty wears off.  Waiting for poker tournaments to start, other players to act boredom sets in.  So some of the sites allow you to play online blackjack while playing poker.  I decided to use a ‘MartinGale’ approach.  If i bet $1 and lost my next bet would be $2 and so forth.  Things went very well until I realized winning $100 in an hour could have been $500 if my initial bet was $5.  And so it started.  5,10,25,50,100,200,400,800.  Could I lose that many hands in a row?  Yes.  More than once.  All profit erased.
      So eventually I stopped playing poker, not because I was losing but because I didn’t have the resolve to stay away from the online black jack.  It would start small then escalate.
      I ran out of money and had to find a job.  I had a new semi-serious girlfriend (now my wife) and I didn’t gamble as much.  There would be the occasional poker tournament in my down time but not the 8-10 hours a day dedicated.
      So my girlfriend suggests Las Vegas for a long weekend since she had never been.  I say sure and check the offers the casinos still sent me.  I told her I could get a 4 nights free and all meals.  We’re going.  I managed to upgrade to a really nice suite by talking to a casino host.  We were living large.  By this time since I had been off work forever(by choice – since this was the only time in my life that I would actually be free) I was starting to become more frugal.  I wasn’t cheap but I would look for discounts etc.  In Vegas drinks are free if you are playing table games or slots.  So we down there with the intent to drink top shelf booze for free.  The service was super slow so I needed to change my approach.  I scoped out the closest slot machine to the servers entrance and put in $5.  Within seconds the waitress was getting us drinks.  And the drinks didn’t stop.  But something magical happened.  My $5 playing penny slots turned into $20 after 20 minutes, then we hit a jackpot for $500.  The lights, the bells, the fun – I had found a new drug.
      We spent most of the trip seeing shows, enjoying food and a bit of gambling.  We left Vegas unscathed.  But we went back again.  This time we spent more time gambling.  I found my friend Pai-Gow Poker and played and played while my girlfriend dabbled in Casino War and other easy games.  She ended up winning.  I lost a little.  And then a little more.  And when I reached my max for the day on the ATM – I went to the credit card.  Every bet getting bigger and bigger trying to chase the loss.  Just wanted to get back to even.  I lost a few thousand dollars – wouldn’t kill me but for a guy who was playing penny slots the last trip around for free drinks it wasn’t ideal.
      After leaving – I had to get a job.  There are bigger tradegies in life.  Got a really good job at a bank and away we went.  Life was good.  Built up some $$ again and lived life.  We went back to Vegas for a 3rd time.  My girlfriend had such a good time and it was so cheap (on the surface) since our room and food was paid for – it made for a pretty good 4 day weekend.  I told myself that I would not play too many table games – or if i did I would set a budget.  I did well, stayed in control and then started to dabble in the slots.  The slot machines gave me a few wins, a few bonus screens and ultimately killed my bank account.  I was ok losing money – knowing that once I left Vegas I wouldn’t return for a while.  So I left, a few thousand dollars in the whole – well actualy cash-advanced on my credit card. 
      So now sitting at home I had the itch while surfing the web and decided to play slots online for fun.  Oppportunity, convenience, this was methadone for my heroine addiction.  Online slots?  The graphics, the sound -oh to be a sucker.  I played for a little bit for entertainment – hit a big jackpot and thought – what if I was playing with real money?  So it started.  I chunked in $20 and played for an hour.  What’s $20?  This went on for a little while back and forth – losing my $20 and re depositing $40.  All of this happened when my wife was out of the house or sleeping.
      And that is how the gambling started.  Where am I now you ask?  Well a few years of slots here and there when I had disposal money turned into somewhere in the $100K loss range.  Retirement savings gone.  Credit cards maxed.  Line of Credit Maxed.  Bank account in the negative – I didn’t even know that was possible.  I find myself thinking about a few paychecks from now (because the next one is already gone) cutting back on small luxuries to scrape and save enough money to get my fix.
      I find myself living everyday and regretting everything I did that day.  I used to make 5 good decisions for every bad decision.  Every decision I seem to make now is the wrong one.  A gambling addiction does that to you.  Everyday that goes by I wish I had back for a do over.  If my wife goes to bed early I start up the laptop and play online.  Sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning and I get up to go to work at 7am.  Sometimes I play straight through – hop in the shower and go to work with no sleep.  My wife has no idea.  It is a lie by ommission.  We have a joint account to pay the mortgage and I manage to put money into it but apart from that charade my finances are in ruin.  I’m waiting for her to forget her purse one day and ask me to buy something.  I can only imagine the excuse I make up when my credit card is declined or my debit card doesn’t work.
      I don’t cheat.  I don’t steal.  I am in the process of ruining lives in a shady stealth manner. 
      I have skipped out of work in the middle of the day to gamble.  I have missed meal after meal if I am at home gambling.  I am constantly saying ‘if only’.  If only I hit that jackpot it would be enough.  If only I get back to even for the day it would be enough.  I have gone on the self-exclusion lists and did well, until the timeframe was up.  I found myself going through hypotheticals.  If I won the lottery (2.5 million dollars) how could I manage to give my wife 2.4 million while keeping $100K secret so I could gamble.
      I would frequently read stories from other CGs and think – well I can relate but I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.  That person is worse off than I am – so I must be ok.  I have a little boy who is 18 months old and the joy of our lives.  I told myself I would stop when my wife was pregnant.  I didn’t.  I told myself I would stop when he was born – I didn’t.  I told myself I would stop when…when comes and goes always.
      So this is my story.  I gambled last night.  And the night before.  And 3 of 4 nights last week including all day Friday when I ‘worked’ from home.  I’m sure some of the facts are familar, some of you have been there – can you help me write the ending?

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