Thursday, July 24, 2008

Would You Put $500 On A Coin Flip?

Well then, you may have a gambling problem, as I do. I've always acknowledged a very unhealthy obsession with winning, and gambling became a part of that obsession when I was around 21 and started betting sports over the internet and playing the ponies with "Ronnie." Since then I have racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt due to my bad bets. But I've always had a plan--I'd get better at sports betting, thanks to websites that allow me to predict games for free and therefore keep up with when I'm having a hot streak or when I'm doing very well predicting a particular team's fortunes. I would then jump on a gambling site when I felt the time was right and knock out a few big wins in a row until my streak stopped, then I'd wait for my next hot streak before I played for money again. I even started a blog called The Road To Redemption, and I planned to keep track of my winnings as I slowly brought my credit card balances back to zero. Predictably, the first game I bet after starting this blog last year was the Pistons to beat the Bulls, and they didn't; I promptly deleted the blog and went back to the drawing board.

But make no mistake, my thought process has always been that one day I will make back the money I lost in my 20s, and I will make it back the way I lost it--internet gambling. After all, how else am I going to pay down my credit cards? Not with cash, not with my shitty salary. Well, I was trying to explain all this to my girlfriend on the phone last night, and she wasn't hearing it. She's never been a fan of my gambling, mostly because of the large sums of money I bet, but also because I usually don't win. As she put it, it would be different if I came to her with the occasional tale of victory, but every time I have told her that I bet a game and watch for the results and wish me luck, I have come up a loser. I can't tell you how frustrating that is because I call myself being careful and waiting for just the right game that I feel "can't lose." I mean, I used to play four and five-team parlays (where each team has to win for me to win any money) every night just because I felt like I could hit one of those and make a boatload of cash in one night, and every now and then I did hit it, but usually I failed miserably. Now I bet on average three or four times a year, and only single games. Anyhow, I was trying to explain to my girlfriend how much better this strategy is, because instead of four games having to win, I just need one game, and since one of two teams is going to win every game, I'm just looking for a coin flip, a 50% shot, and I'm convinced that this strategy will work for me once I get on that hot streak. It then dawned on me right in the middle of the argument that I've been plopping down hundreds of dollars on a coin flip for over ten years. I almost had to lay down from my head spinning.

It's come to the point now where my girlfriend is telling me that before she moves her life to Chicago and becomes my wife, she needs to know that I'm not going to take our hard-earned money and put fistfuls of cash on the line in what essentially amounts to a series of coin flips that last three hours, three gut-wrenching back-and-forth hours, in some misguided attempt to "redeem" myself. She says that I have to stop tying my self-esteem to how good of a gambler I am because it's a game that I can't win, and that I have to mentally and emotionally let go of the notion that I will one day gamble my way back to the break-even point because of how much I might lose trying to get there. And it makes me think of something that I figured out a while back when I was rebuilding my self-respect after all the drama that I went through a few years ago. I realized that as much as I like to jump on all of my ex-girlfriends for whatever vices they had, from "Karen's" drinking to "Torrie's" smoking to "Sarah's" need to be dominated, we ALL have some vice. Because mine isn't one of those things, I held myself in higher position than them. But mine are food and gambling, and those aren't any better than drinking or smoking. Karen even expressed concern about my gambling one day, and she never showed any emotion. To deal with the everyday pressures of just living, everyone has something that they fall back on, that makes them feel good, that takes their minds off their troubles. Just because I don't gamble every day doesn't mean that my vice isn't still gambling. Every single day I wake up wondering if I should bet that White Sox game today, or the football game, or the basketball game, whatever season it happens to be. And it was always with an eye toward making back the thousands of dollars I've gambled away so far. It's obvious that I need to do away with my vice, for myself and for my future marriage. I always figured that I'd one day have to choose between my girlfriend and gambling, and I was very scared because I really didn't want to give up gambling. But coming to the realization that I'm putting $500 on a coin flip is going to be what makes me give it up. Because the more I think about it, the more I realize that putting $500 on a coin flip is very, very, very retarded.

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