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Everything’s Gone Green 

By Shaun Smith 

 

God knows why, but it’s a colour combination that’s always appealed to me. From the classic hoops of Glasgow Celtic, lime green adidas Gazelles, Benetton’s corporate colour scheme and Kevin Sheedy’s Republic of Ireland shirt to Boston Celtics leisurewear, pool tables, goalkeepers shirts and Saint Etienne kits, green and white has always drawn me in like a moth to a 40 watt light bulb. And none more so than the number zero on a roulette wheel. A nice, white, round 0 on an emerald green background, all defiant in a sea of red and black – or between 26 black and 32 red on the wheel if you want to be precise. This green manalishi has been the cause of more joy and heartache to me in casinos and bookmakers down the years than women and Everton Football Club combined. But just as with the latter two, I still come back for more like the mug punter I am and remain to this day an addicted zero backer. On only my second visit to a casino, I walked away £675 up - mainly thanks to hits on 0 and 29. The first one had ended in a £16 loss - Shirley Bassey would have been suitably unimpressed I imagine. There are a few other numbers that have also held sway with me – 14 (Johan Cruyff’s shirt number), 6 (Peter Reid’s and Mikel Arteta’s), 7 (Pat Nevin’s), 20 (next to 14 on the wheel) but, as Sinead O’Connor’s wayward sister might have crooned, nothing compares to 0. Whether it’s 20p paying £7.20, a pound paying out £36 or you’re having a Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt day on the wheel of fortune and your £14 maximum stake gives you the £500 one-spin limit back, the buzz of seeing that white ball resting against the green background is just the same. And right up there with your team winning a local derby, shouting home a bet-winning horse on-course, great sex with a woman who loves the arse off you or the finest mind-bending substances known to mankind …..

 

The rise and rise of gaming machines in the bookmakers is nothing short of a modern day phenomenon. No need to worry about the day’s racing and your profits being wiped out due to bad weather when the virtual unarmed robbers are in constant use by your clientele. Statistics quoted on a Channel Four documentary earlier this year revealed that 96% of plays on a gaming machine in your local branch of William Hills, Ladbrokes, Corals or BetTed will put the punter in front (ie- in profit) at some point, yet the average weekly profit for the UK cyberturf accountants on just one machine is £595. But day in, day out people are prepared to take on the gambling equivalent of crack cocaine at odds of, for example,  35/1 on roulette. As a mate sagely said to me, would you stake £20, £40 or £50 on a first goalscorer bet at that price? There is no logic to it if you were to sit down and really think about it, just as there is no logic in placing a £1 stake on the 14,000,000/1 shot that is the National Lottery pov tax. With gaming machines, it’s the instant hit that appeals to the gambler and the fact that you can play and win (or lose) straight away, No waiting for getting them under starters orders at Market Rasen, no 90 minutes cold turkey in the hope of a 2-2 draw at 14/1 or Phil Neville notching the first or last goal at 50/1. Unlike the other den of desperation that is the casino, no dress-code in the bookies means you can wander in and play these machines anytime during opening hours, whether in your work gear, shorts and trainers or even your pyjamas and slippers (“… go home and get changed Dad, for fucks sake …”). No signing in or being vetted by the bouncers on entry, no having to dress like a Sean Connery Bond out on the lash in Monte Carlo and no five minute wait between spins if number 8 black comes in and the staff outing from the local Cantonese restaurant have a pile of chips on it so high that the croupier requires the aid of Chris Bonnington and oxygen to calculate the payout. No sitting at a table with drunken gobshites spilling their colour-at-25p chips all over the table or plastic gangsters giving it loads to the tidy female croupiers who are simply trying to eek out a living on not much above the minimum wage. Who the fuck needs Super Casinos in a country where the bookies are now fuller than the pubs? Gaming machines are the Serie A of no-armed bandits, offering an alternative of immediate adrenalin high within seconds of the previous one – the betting industry equivalent of a Big Mac or KFC Zinger Tower liberally sprinkled with a speed and ketamine dressing

 

I recently called in my local Corals one night after work to place an interest bet on a Euro 2008 match. In the corner, a machine was surrounded by three young likely lads – ubiquitous grey hooded sweatshirts, neck tattoos and Nike Air Max to a man. The one playing the machine was circa £2600 in credit, playing just short of the maximum £100 spin with 0 and 30 maxed at £14, £27 on the 8/11 split and various other numbers covered with £3 and £4 stakes. He’d fed £800 into the machine and I ended up unintentionally watching him play for the best part of an hour. As one of his mates stated, it was better entertainment than being at the cinema. The machine took Terry Ramsden junior down to £1600 at one point but with several hits on 30, 8 and my ever-faithful 0 he proceeded to rack up a credit of £5200 within 40 minutes. At this juncture, I told him that he’d surpassed the shop’s record £5000 payout on a machine (to a well-known local high-roller who’d put £2000 in to achieve said result) and his mates tried to persuade him to walk. But he was so totally hooked and locked-in, there might just as well have been an intravenous drip running between his brain stem and the “Bet Now” button. I “walked”, unable to bear the tension and foreseeing what looked like the inevitable, when it had taken him all the way back down to £3600. It wasn’t even my money and I was sweating like an Ajax fan lost outside Utrecht’s Galgenwaard. Thankfully he must have finally seen or listened to sense not long after. When I saw one of the lads back in the same bookies the following Saturday lunchtime and enquired how his mate had gone on, he told me he’d finally opted to print a payout receipt and walk away at £3000  

 

Over the years, I’ve had my own fair share of wins and losses – losing is of course an occupational hazard if you choose to gamble on a regular basis as I have done since starting work at sixteen. Gambling is undoubtedly in my genes. I inherited my passion for it, along with football and drink, from my Dad, a man who has always enjoyed a punt on the nags and playing the fruit machines (I have my Mum to thank for my other loves of clothes and footwear, music to dance to and an uncanny skill for gift-wrapping). My excesses have been mainly limited to the roulette wheel and football betting. Social gambling is sound if you can keep the lid on it and only gamble what you can afford to lose. I openly admit to having been something of an anti-social gambler in certain respects and have had to sledgehammer the lid back down after playing in a manner Stan Bowles or Paul Merson would have been proud or even ashamed of on certain occasions. Even more anti-social is the fact that I discovered that playing with a Walkman or i-Pod on serves not only as a useful concentration aid, it also means that you don’t have to listen to the advice of the expert who seems to hold residence in any bookmakers in the country you care to walk into, and who will happily stand behind you and proffering the benefit of his free advice without the slightest hint of encouragement …   

 

“… get a couple of quid on 16 lad …”

“…. Why? I don’t touch it …”

“… it’s due out …” 

“… how do you know? …”

“... I’ve lost £24,000 in the last year playing these machines. I know them inside out ……….. ”

 

I actually heard this pearl of wisdom in a city-centre bookies on a Walkman-free excursion. Not satisified with my choosing to ignore his nailed-on tip, my fellow loser then attempted to put £2 of my hard-earned on number 16 the very next spin. And then proceeded to start frothing at the mouth when instead of playing, I pressed “menu” and “print receipt” and walked away with £72 from £40 staked, a profit of £32 from 15 minutes graft plus listening to 5 minutes of Taurus stronzo. Needless to say, the green and white saviour had not put in a guest appearance up to that point …..

 

My own best day at the office came on a May Friday teatime three years ago. An early start for Fulham away the following day meant that I needed to get my fixed odds coupon on and once that was sorted, I decided to throw £40 at the cyberwheel. £1 on zero, 40p on 7, 40p on 14, 40p on 20, and the cross – 20p on 26, 20p on 28, 40p on 29, 20p on 30, 20p on 32, and 20p splits between 26/29, 28/29, 30/29, 32/29. The faithful green and white combo turned up third spin as Joey Beltram’s Live @ Womb (Tresor.218) on my earphones blocked out the in-shop commentary from Kempton Park’s night meeting and everything else going on around me. £36 win. I upped zero to £3 and it doubled, coming in again the very next spin. £108 win. I upped zero again to £6 and boosted 14, 20, and 29 to £1. Five spins, five losses and then the machine went on a sequence I’ve never seen before or since. It was like AC Milan’s rampage against Barcelona in the 1994 European Cup Final .…. the green and white beauty slotted again, this time for £216. Fucking get in … I upped the stake on it to £9 and raised 14, 20, and 29 to £3.  – all the latter three numbers showed in the next nine spins for two £108 wins and one of £122.40 just as Start It Up segued magnificently into Thomas Krome’s Bitches From Hell courtesy of Beltram, who was also spinning like a man possessed on the decks over in Tokyo. I boosted 29 to £6 and all the surrounding splits to £1. In the space of 25 minutes it threw 29 another three times, zero twice more and 20 on three successive spins. It also gave me further hits on 7, 14 and 30 all with £3 stakes on and 23 with £5 on. In just under half-an-hour I walked out with £1700 in my Barbour pocket and the applause of the Japanese technoratti ringing in my ears for a set of seamless mixing by Beltram and no-holds barred gambling by Smith

 

Some great gambling moments

 

££££ … backing L’Escargot to win the 1975 Grand National (25p pocket money at 8/1) … ££££ 

££££ … The Sopranos final series and the scene where Tony wedges 23 and the surrounding splits to fuck on the roulette table to win $36,000 – then lets it all ride and loses the lot … ££££

££££ … Robert De Niro’s/Sam Rothstein’s offer to the wire-tap card cheat in Casino – “You can leave with the money if you want to but if you do you’re getting the hammer as well. What’s it to be? …” ££££

££££ … December 1994 - Everton nominate David Unsworth as penalty-taker in Andy Hinchcliffe’s absence, a fact that escapes the bookies notice who leave him priced at 25/1 for first goalscorer. A Monday night Sky game v Leeds and an early Unsworth strike from the 12-yard spot sees scenes of celebration all round Goodison not witnessed since the 1987 League Championship win … ££££  

££££ … a 50p 13-match fixed-odds accumulator paying £2,600, clinched after Millwall slaughtered Brentford 6-1 in a Sunday game following the longest Saturday night and Sunday morning of my life with the other 12 results already up … ££££

££££ … Mike Duff’s description of Dawn Run overhauling Wayward Lad in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup in The Hatcheck Boy, along with main character and perennial loser Drunken Duncan and girlfriend’s reactions in a Manchester bookies as their shit-or-bust-and-evicted £600 punt on Dawn Run appears to be going down the pan … until the final ten yards before the post … £££

£££ … Richard Pryor in the casino in Brewsters Millions … ££££

££££ … £50 on Holland at an outrageous 3/1 to beat Sven Goran Eriksson’s 22-man England at White Hart Lane in 2001 – Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edgar Davids and yours truly never even broke sweat that night … ££££

££££ … The Sting – the greatest film ever made about gambling - I’ll wager …. ££££

 

 





 

 

 


 

 

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