On 7 October 2012, I was sat in my university halls in my usual midweek routine. Already fed, and ready to watch that night’s Premier League fixture. Around the perimeter of my dodgy online stream was an advert for Skybet, ‘free £10 bet, no deposit required’. A wise man once said, 'if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’. However, this was amazing – free money!
Of course, I jumped at the offer, and shortly before the match kicked off, put the free bet on an away win. Within 15 minutes, I was confident, Newcastle was 2-0 down – I thought this is easy!
As the final few minutes dragged on before the referee blew to the end of a dismal performance by Newcastle, I was prowling the web to find out exactly what I would win. I was clueless. I didn’t understand the odds. Were 1/3 good odds? I had no idea. But I won. £10 on at 1/3 should return me £13.33. Bingo!
I was devastated to find out that my returns would only be £3.33.
These were very innocent and naive beginnings in a world of gambling which has since caused so much turmoil in my life. I am writing this piece as a recovering gambling addict, as when I looked for help with my problem gambling online, I found very little in the way of stories and experiences of gambling addiction. Like any other mental health issue, gambling addiction's adverse effects can be nullified a lot if they are identified early.
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I will focus on three critical points in my gambling journey, which I should have known were tell-tale signs that my gambling was becoming out of control.
Naturally, anybody who gambles will have started with smaller stakes and will eventually increase their stakes over time. For example, you may bet with £1 or £2 when you are 18, and be more adventurous by staking £5 a few years later when you are more experienced with money, and you have more of it.
All gamblers must be aware that this increase of stakes must be controlled. Because by increasing your stakes, you are inadvertently lowering the thrill of winning with small stakes, meaning you will only ever be satisfied with big wins from big stakes in future.
This is fine if you win, but the fact is that nobody always wins. In fact, it is quite the opposite. There are countless betting companies in the world, and none of them financially struggle. The reason is that the odds are always in their favour.
I would suggest that when betting with increased stakes, think about your cash stakes. Rather than just clicking some buttons and placing a bet, think about what that amount of money would look like in front of you. Would you then be as willing to put that much on that bet?
There is a poisonous attitude in gambling which has been amplified by the increase in ‘tipsters’ online. These ‘tipsters’ tell gamblers how best to bet, implying there is a skill to gambling. A lot of these people charge money for the services they provide.
I am not arguing that all of these people are scamming their customers, I’m sure some win. It may be true that you can increase your chances of winning a bet through research or knowledge, but it is labelling this as ‘skill’ which frightens me.
On the flip-side, the very same tipsters will blame lousy luck if one of their bets is unsuccessful. This breeds a mindset amongst gamblers that when they win, they have exercised skill. When they lose, they have been unlucky. The problem is that skill is deemed more powerful than luck. It allows gamblers to think that they can go again and win based on their skill despite their' bad luck'. What gamblers must know is that all bets rely on luck and not skill.
The golden rule of ‘how not to gamble’ is do not chase losses. Almost all gamblers will have heard this. I had heard it many times before I hit proverbial rock bottom in my issue, but ultimately it never stopped me chasing losses.
For those who don’t understand what ‘chasing losses’ means, it is a phrase that refers to gambling more to get back what you have already lost. For example, if I had placed a bet of £5 and lost, I might put a further £5 bet to try and get back the original £5. If that bet loses again, I am now £10 down and must seek higher odds or more bets to get that money back.
It becomes unattainable. It is the reason gamblers are advised to only bet what they can afford to lose. You should never expect to win, and should never rely on gambling to make money.
Chasing losses increases the amount of risk taken in bets and makes people make rash bets. Rather than stepping back, they immediately want to avenge that loss with a bet. It might be on a market they know about. It might be on a league in a country they have never heard of.
Whichever it is, it should be avoided. You should think carefully about all bets. I would go as far as to urge any readers who resonate with any of the above to quit gambling now. The above practices are all indicative of problem gambling and should be seriously thought about.
I hope this article will be the trigger that helps at least one person address their problem gambling. There is an incredible amount of help out there. My email is below, and I will be happy to answer any queries. And I have also left some links to some of the sites which helped me.