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Won the Battle, Lost the War: My University Gambling Addiction

The most regretful chapter of my life started with a big win; on 3rd November 2016, on my anniversary holiday in Berlin, I turned $0.97 into $99.60 using PokerStars. I headed to reception and bought celebratory beers. The next day I splurged on an expensive dinner at Reinhard’s.

Only upon reflection do I realise that by playing more games before sleeping I had in fact accumulated a net loss of $63 that night.

Things got worse. Upon returning home, bored stiff by the coverage of Donald Trump’s election victory, I entered games on PokerStars at $100 a turn. My third entry won $400. Obliviously inspired, I continued to play. The result of the night? A net loss of $210. The wheels were in motion. The more I won, the more I played and the more I lost. The more I lost, the more disheartened I would feel and the more I would crave another win. My dull university course was not distracting enough – only partying could take me away from Texas Hold’em, and the few victories that I did get at the table led me to believe I had enough money to numb my losses with endless booze.  Nothing made me feel so simultaneously euphoric or worthless.

In reality, my finances had hit a brick wall; or rather, the bottom of a £1250 overdraft. By the time I discovered PaddyPower in late November I had already taken out my first SmartPig loan. Little did I know then that this was to be the first of three loans, alongside the tens of times I resorted to borrowing from my boyfriend. By Christmas, I was apologising to my family for being unable to afford their presents. It would be eight months following that first PokerStars bet until I realised I had a problem. Between Christmas and June my addiction festered – on my May 2016 payday I placed £750 on a single three-game accumulator, which took me £800 deep into my overdraft. In hindsight, if I hadn’t won that bet back, God knows where I’d be now.

Of the thousands of sportspeople on whom I bet, I calculated that I only knew 2% of them. I wasn’t betting because I knew the sport or had confidence in the team, I was betting for the sake of betting.

My parents discovered when my Mum opened one of my bank statements. Uncertain what to do, she told my Dad. I love my Mum more than anything, yet when she opened those statements I had the audacity to try and ignore her for a week. My delusion made me believe that she was the problem, and not me. From that moment forward, my Dad rigorously scoured my bank statements. It was humiliating yet upsettingly necessary.

I wrote this article because although I know scores of people who bet frequently in their lives, I have never known anyone with a gambling addiction, and never even heard stories of anyone with such an addiction at my age, despite my having no doubt that there are people like me out there.

To this day, I joke and jibe about my addiction. I’ve never talked about it seriously. Ironically, I still walk past the Ladbrokes on Moorland Road and wonder what kind of low life would want to spend their time in there. To this day, it appears that I still haven’t grasped the severity of the condition I once had. Being behind a computer screen kept me in my ivory tower despite my deteriorating mental health. At the time, my finances couldn’t have gotten much worse. If they had, I am convinced I wouldn’t have told anyone. Had my Mum not opened those statements, I would never have stopped gambling. I am one of the lucky ones.

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