Everyone remembers their first time; from that first kiss with the girl you thought you would love forever to this: the first dog that has your hopes riding on its back. With a love for Blur’s Parklife album, a good knowledge of my times tables and a spare twenty quid burning a hole in my pocket, my brother took me to Shawfield Stadium.
Stadium suggests luxury, finesse and a grand stage for the sporting extravaganza to unfold. At Shawfield, there are pints of heavy, a mixture of gold-laden taxi drivers and pensioners in flat caps, and grandchildren running round with pokes of chips ready to spill. Although the thought of placing your cash on one greyhound beating 5 others round a cold, wet, sandy track when chasing a piece of fur attached to a high speed rail may sound idiotic, it’s exhilarating. A night at Shawfield is great fun for a group of friends; especially if you’ve invited a friend who can show you the ropes.
They’ll tell you how to read the form guide you get with its list of race times, placings and near impenetrable abbreviations as commentary. The guide will also mention each dog’s odds: their likelihood of winning according to the bookmaker. A dog at 4-1 (You win £4 for every £1 you bet) is less likely to win according to the bookmaker than another at 3-1 (£3 for every £1 gambled). The bookies will change these odds right up to the start of the race based on the other bets taken. There are bookies both in the stadium, and private bookies by the side of the tracks, who often give you better – but less predictable – odds.
To place a bet on 1 dog to win you would say the dog’s number and how much you wish to gamble (i.e. Trap 4. £1). You can also gamble on more than 1 dog if you believe they will come in a certain order. If it is 2 dogs you call this a forecast (“Forecast 5 & 1. £1”). If it is 3 dogs all in the correct order, this is called a tricast (“Tricast. 5,1 and 3. £1”). You can also bet on the dog not only winning, but coming second. This is known as an each-way bet. It actually consists of 2 bets; therefore if you want to gamble a total of £1, remember to halve your stake (“Trap 5. 50p Each way”). The bookmakers can help you with any of the jargon you’re confused about. Your expert friend will also tell you how to collect your winnings when you picked the dog with the nicest name as your choice: just hand over the ticket you received at the counter when you placed the bet.
In recent years, Glasgow has been dubbed Glasvegas, thanks to its many casinos within the city centre. Blackjack and Roulette are the most famous of the games, if you know little then stick to them and ask for advice from the croupier.
A couple of pints of bravado and the fact that cash machines are only a few steps away, means that you might try to regain that £20 you have lost. There are a few rules that should be written outside casinos: wealth warnings similar to the ones that we all ignore when buying cigarettes.
Here are a few:
1) Never go to casinos or dog races alone. With friends they will soon say when they want to leave so you can limit your losses or wins.
2) Only take enough cash you wish to lose. The correct answer here is £0, but where’s the danger in that?
3) Never get too drunk. You wouldn’t drink or drive would you? Then why do the equivalent with your bank balance?
And the golden rule:
4) Never chase your losses: This is a deadly pursuit for 2 reasons: You are now over your budget and will be cursing yourself later, and it is the first sign of gambling addiction
This is where reality kicks in: gambling is a vice ,and like all vices can be exhilarating in moderation. As the odd drink twice a week turns into the odd bottle every day; gambling can also overtake you. £20 loss can suddenly turn into £200 or indeed £2000. This may sound dramatic, but Gambling Anonymous will testify to that maxim.
Finally, avoid online gambling. There are hundreds of these sites willing to offer you ‘free money’ in turn for gambling on their Vegas styled pixelated backdrops. As soon as your deposit money from your real bank account, it becomes a virtual game. With a few clicks of your mouse you may have gambled more than you would have done so at the stadium or at the casino.
Why? Because the illusion is created that it is not money you are betting with, but credits or virtual chips. That £20 which took you 4 hours to earn is gone within 4 minutes. and it will only be then that you realise the money is real. Once again remember the rule: Never chase your losses. In an empty room with you and your computer, there is no one to tell you to stop. Limit yourself or suffer the consequences.
Enjoy the glamour, enjoy the fun and hopefully enjoy your winnings.