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All our Yesterdays
My half-arsed attempt at in-play betting
By Martin "not exactly Minnesota Fats" Kelner
May 2, 2013 - 9:37:59 PM

Forgive my presumption but I'm guessing some of you may like a bet.   I do.   I like to describe myself as a social gambler; although I also describe myself as a social drinker, and anybody watching me settle down for the Newcastle-Sunderland match on my own with a large glass of red and a saucer of dry-roasted peanuts might be tempted to ask, what's social about that?


I have been gambling a little more since I joined these pages - in the cause of empathy, I tell myself.   I like to be at one with my readers.   When I wrote for The Guardian, for instance, I not only took the moral high ground on more or less any issue, but made sure any bread, rice, or sugar I consumed was incontrovertibly brown (first chap to come up with brown salt will make a fortune down Islington way).   So in that spirit, I am now testing my judgement against the bookmakers' rather more than I used to, and am grateful to the Racing Post for that.


This is not because I have seen any great financial benefit, but because my gambling is revealing deep truths about me, saving a fortune in therapy.   If you could brush the toast crumbs from that couch, I'll lie down and expand.  


On Saturday evening I tuned into the second half of the Castleford - Widnes Super League match, with Castleford 10 points down and 2-1 to win the match on Sky Bet (just checking odds out of casual interest, doctor).    As a rugby league follower of some vintage, and based on the first few moments of the half, I was convinced Castleford could hit back and win, so decided to filch a twenty out of Rupert Murdoch's pocket.  


But instead of diving straight in on my pre-prepared investment-ready super fast internet connection, I had a few more peanuts, scrabbled round under the cushions for my 'phone, waited for the wretched thing to connect, and tapped in my bet.


Unfortunately, while all this was going on, one of Rupe's henchmen had the same thought as me, and shortened my boys to 15-8 (the Sky boss, I believe, sits in a hollowed-out volcano during these matches changing the odds, possibly while stroking a white cat) which I tapped to accept, during which process Castleford launched a promising attack, shortening the odds once more to 7-4, which again I was trying to grab, as Castleford scored a try and I thought - pardon me, but honesty is important here - bollocks to it, went and made a cup of tea, and hoped Widnes would hold on to their lead.   They didn't.


This, I'm afraid, speaks of a fatal lack of commitment that has blighted my life.   All the stuff about preparing to fail if you fail to prepare that headmasters and motivational speakers dribble on about could have been written for me.  


Doing the minimum possible to just about get away with it has long been my credo - from dropping out at University to a lifetime failure to sleep with anyone who could help my career in any way whatsoever - and it is only through contact with the acuity and sheer hard work needed to gamble effectively that I have fully grasped the kind of half-assed way I operate.  Thank you, Racing Post.


My half-assedness is also exposed by the way I pick horses.   Because of this column and my Twitter account, I find I am now being tweeted by tipping services, one of which recommended a horse called Lily's Run, competing at Kempton Park on Saturday.   My mother's name was Lily, but clearly a university-educated (limited period only), intelligent, naturally sceptical soul like me would never do anything as crass as back a horse because of its name.    


Quite apart from the fact I have children called David, Anna, Martha, and Ruth, and late parents called Alan and Lily, and to follow their equine name matches would mean fiscal carnage on an epic scale, I have long poured scorn on all sorts of superstitions.    The list of things I don't believe in is long, from black cats and lucky lottery numbers to all the major religions of the world.  


I belong to nothing, and subscribe to very little, apart from the British Film Institute and Private Eye.    But yes, I backed Lily's Run, my reasoning being that if it has the right name and I have a tip, it's worth backing.   See, I can't even commit to my lack of commitment.  


As it happens, the animal came in at 5-2, leaving me with a dilemma: do I continue to bet in my ineffective, dreamy, disengaged, disorganised way, or do I put in more of the hard yards needed to do it properly?   Watch this space.


One thing I do know is that gambling does not make me sexy, despite what, the latest betting firm to saturate our screens with ads, seem to suggest.   Their latest is reminiscent of the old Gold Blend coffee commercial; a man and a woman giving each other suggestive looks, he loosening his tie, close up of her face, pupils all dilated, as the pair recline on the sofa where, instead of enjoying impromptu congress - or a cup of instant coffee - she gets her tablet out (not a euphemism), and he whips out his 'phone.  


This does not look terribly sexy to me, but I grant you is possibly a mite smoother than having to ring your own number to locate your device to get a damned in-play bet on.  








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