This is the story of my gambling career, from the early days as a boy growing up on the tough streets of suburban Blackpool to the bright lights of Las Vegas. I want to delve to the depth of my soul and work out the ingredients of what made me into what some would call a degenerate gambler. Maybe it will act as a warning to others to save them from the same terrible fate as me.
Nah fuck that, it’s just an excuse to dig up some old stories. Often drunken ones too!
Fact is, the stakes you play for is not what necessarily makes a bet is worth talking about. Bad luck, good luck, what you’re betting on or even just the unusual circumstance of where and when they take place is what counts. If I said “I had £500 on black and it lost.” Well that would just be a bit shit. So during my mini autobiography I will try to recall some of the best memories I have, some winners, mostly losers, but hopefully entertaining and worthy of a read.
Gambling is in my Blood, My Dad did it, my granddad did it and I am sure his father before him liked a little dabble too. The fact is everyone does. There might be people out there saying “I don’t gamble” but that just bollocks. Everyone does, just they don’t realise it. Maybe it’s the odd pound on the pools or lottery disguised in the thought that you “donated to good causes”. Well those people kid themselves. The excitement of the lottery may not be what it once was but many a ‘Non gambler’ would sit around the radio or TV on a Saturday evening checking the Footy scores hoping to bag eight score draws or 6 numbers from machine Arthur. And while they do, they are not thinking about funding Opera companies and poor inner city play grounds either, much more likely they are thinking about phoning the boss Monday morning to tell him “You can stick your poxy job, you fat bald fascist bastard!”.
Whether it is a bet on Sports, taking out life/home insurance, maybe even just brave fart on a Sunday morning before leaving your bed after a heavy night on the Guinness and a trip to the Ali’s Tandori and Kebab takeaway, everyone has a gamble.
(Life insurance is surely the worse gamble of all, It’s not like you can even collect is it! It’s like having £50 on a horse and giving the slip to your mate. “Here have this, I don’t like collecting, I just like the gamble”. It’s the only bet you will ever have that you are actually praying you never win!)
When did it start? Well for me I am not sure. It may have been during primary school. Now before you all start judging I would ague that it does for many, if not all. Do you remember the little school ‘fund raisers’ at Christmas or Easter. Raffles, treasure hunts, school fairs. These are all gambling. Risking 10p on winning a selection box in the Xmas raffle was a must. I couldn’t careless whether the proceeds was being used for the disabled kids at the ‘Special’ school up the road or going toward a large bottle of Spar Vodka for the Teachers Xmas party. All that I and indeed every other kid who entered was concerned about was the delicious chocolatey treats lying within that large package of cardboard and plastic.
Now I am not saying I was running bad on the old raffle front but the only recollection of a prize at junior school was an Easter Penalty shoot out competition. At 50p entry, first prize was a chocolate egg so big it would take two of us to carry it home. Now football was not my best game, in fact not even my second or third game. Luckily though ball skills were not required just simply kicking a standing object as hard as you can in a relatively straight line. Kicking things I can do. Although I didn’t win, I did get second prize. This was enough to get me hooked on what I would later come to call “Short Term Investment Management”. You may call it gambling.
(The mystery of why I wasn’t eating my tea that night and looked a little queasy was never solved by my mother.)
Growing up in Blackpool meant gambling was never far away. In fact it was just a short walk to the promenade and the magical Golden Mile. A full mile of Amusement Arcades each containing hundreds of shiney flashy and noisy Slot machines. Each promising a myriad of easy riches. If heaven does exist surly it would look like this. Thinking back now, how eight years olds were allowed to wander the arcades of Blackpool unsupervised is truly astonishing.
My favourite machines at this age were the Penny falls. Probably because the money was right there in front of you. The only thing stopping you from reaching in and helping yourself was the large piece of laminated bullet proof glass. The coins would often be delicately balanced over the edge and just a simple nudge would push the riches into the bottom tray if you could just land the right coin above it. However what generally happened was that the coins would slide sideways into the ‘Secret area’ only later to be collected by the evil arcade owner later that evening when we were all in bed. The only way to even things up it to kick the bastards while walking past hoping to dislodge a big group of 2p pieces into the bottom, ready for your mate to intercept when the alarms had stopped ringing and the attendant was busy chasing you down the street. I was good at kicking things after all.
One Saturday I had the amazing coup of receiving a full £1 from a friend of my mums to go and watch the new Indiana Jones movie. A trip to the pictures was a very rare treat indeed. I mostly had to wait four or five years for the best films to come on TV over the Christmas period. Frantically scouring the TV and radio times to see what was on.
One thing I was never able to buy was one of the giant hot dogs that would deliciously appear on screen after the pearl and dean intro music had finished.
“Why not try one of our delicious HOT DOGSSSSSSZZZZ!!” A deep booming voice would announce as the juicy Mustard covered delicacy with fill the 60 foot screen. “Or maybe an ICE COLD COKE!” argg the torture. I had no idea what a Cornetto tasted like till I got my first job as a paper boy at the age of 13.
Not having enough money for the bus and my entry I walked a mile into town to call for a friend asking if he would join me.
Alas he was skint and a quid was simply not going to cover the two of us. Fortunately for us he knew of a new Slot machine called Piggy Bank or summut had just been installed in the nearby arcade. I had never played Fruit machines before but he seemed to know what he was talking about. Back then a jackpot was just £3 and was paid in tokens. These tokens were only usable for further credits. Kinda makes you wonder why people even bothered. Even if you did drop a jackpot you had to carry on playing till you lost it all. This had not escaped the attention of a very financially astute young Skalie, making him weary of such machines. However Piggy Bank was different, it was to change the future of gambling and indeed my life for ever! You see, when you won the Jackpot on Piggy Bank you could have a further gamble. You could take half your winnings in cash, yes a full £1.50 in CASH, and have a 50/50 chance of the jackpot repeating. And repeating again, and again and again……! Although this seems old hat now this was to the best of my knowledge the first machine ever to do this. The whole playing field has changed, finally the odds have moved in our favour, what could possibly go wrong! I could even get my very first hot dog!
From what I hear the film was very good!