‘Someone asked me why women don’t gamble as much as men do, and I gave the commonsensical reply that we don’t have as much money. That was a true and incomplete answer. In fact, women’s total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.’ So, by Gloria Steinem’s reasoning, my total instinct for gambling has yet to be satisfied. Which more than likely explains my fascination with the innocuous – like two flies going up a wall or two raindrops falling down a window pane. I love to gamble. Horses, cards, lotteries, raffles … if there’s a chance I can win, I’m in. Don’t confuse this with being competitive. I’m only competitive with myself – my risk, my gamble, my choice, my decision.
One of my favourite days out is a day at the races …the whole process of picking my horse, laying my bet, and then cheering ’til I’m hoarse with some misguided notion that both horse and jockey will hear my voice above all others and be driven to cross the finish line first, it leaves me breathless. One of my favourite afternoons out is watching a rugby match (Ireland or Munster) and again, shouting at the TV screen or (if I’m lucky) at the players in real life, again thinking that they will hear my angst and do their best not to disappoint me. One of my favourite nights out (limited because I know my weaknesses) is to hit the casino. Caribbean stud is my game of choice (I drew a poker of 2s once in Biloxi, Mississippi, and took home $700); roulette I play in transit; and blackjack only gets a look in if I’m feeling lucky. I can spend hours on the slots, mindlessly pressing buttons in the hope that my lemons line up and the coins come gushing out.It’s great not having to think.
I grew up in Kildare. A plethora of racecourses, horse trainers, and stud farms create a demand for green jackets and riding boots amongst the horsey set. My mother’s advice – that a bookie’s money is only on loan – has stood me in good stead. I only ever gamble what I can afford to lose – and always keep my winnings separate so I can do the math when the last horse has come home. Likewise when I play cards or go to a casino – credit cards are left at home; access to money is cut off; and my stake is carefully calculated.
My saner friends think I am mad. They don’t see the attraction. Or the addiction. They don’t get the same buzz from what might be. Or perhaps, like Rita Mae Brown when Leroy bet her that she couldn’t find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they think it’s a stupid bet because the rainbow is enough. So maybe, for them, the promise of what might be is not nearly as intoxicating of the reality of what is. Me? I’m still struggling to live in the present.