I’ve been around gamblers most of my life. Indeed, childhood trips to Disneyland were not complete without a quick four-hour drive across the desert to “Adult Disneyland”, a paradise of weird facades that I later learnt was called Las Vegas. In uni, I lived with the daughter of a professional gambler, my brother has written a book on the subject and Mr. F’s job means that we are regularly invited to attend horse meets (technical term for going to the races).
As with every other way of wasting money, I’m good at this shit. Allow me to talk you through a few ways for you to gamble your hard earned cash away.
Starting with the most glamorous option first, let’s pretend the casinos we xoJaners are most likely to be found at are in Monte Carlo or Las Vegas, rather than the Grosvenor in Stoke-on-Trent. Apart from the fact that a casino is often the only place that’s likely to be open at 5 in the morning, they’re also full of more interesting characters than the average pub, and can have far less threatening atmospheres.
According to my ex-roommate’s Papa, the key to being good on the games tables is very quick mental arithmetic, including knowing your thirteen and seventeen times tables, and mastering statistics. I find that kind of thing difficult so I’m going to make these suggestions instead: set a spending limit and stick to it (make your friends forcibly remove your handbag from you if need be) and take care not to overdress - some of those interesting characters may assume you’re a sex worker if you do.
As in all art forms, there are a few people who have a natural genius for poker. The rest of us need to practice ‘til our skillset improves to the point where we have a sense of achievement because we’ve, ya know, played a full game. Though pretty much the most fun a girl can have involving maths and deliberately misleading her friends, it really is that complicated.
I’d need the whole site’s word limit to actually teach you how to play poker so this is only a very quick overview of the game. If you’re interested in learning more leave a comment and I promise to come back to you in more detail.
So, a typical game of poker will contain between two and ten players. Casino games tend to set up with eight players for a seven-card game like Stud poker or Razz, and nine or ten players for Texas Hold'em but for God’s sake don’t go near a casino game ‘til you actually know what you’re doing. They will take your home if you bet it. That’s not just in movies.
The aim of poker is to win money by capturing “the pot”. This is the pot of money that contains bets made by players during the game. Players make bets in hopes that they have the best hand (set of cards) OR to give the impression that they have a strong hand. This is done to convince the other players to “fold” (abandon their hands).
Basically, you convince them your hand is amazing, they all back down and you walk away with the cash. To best achieve this you’ll need a “poker face”(an impassive or gormless gaze). Practice enough and yours will not give away the fact that, far from being close to winning the pot, you no longer have a pot to piss in.
Most poker games are played using a standard 52-card deck, with the occasional addition of a joker or “bug card” in some variations. There’s no need to invest in a set of poker chips - peanuts to pennies will work just as well - but they do look pretty cool, and can be ordered from a number of online retailers. For games of 3-4 players you’ll need 300 chips, with roughly another 50 for every additional player after that.
In poker, strategic victories are just as important as financial ones. This means that any money you’ve saved by not wagering it is just as valuable as any money you win (I did say it was complicated). Knowing when to fold a hand that appears to be beaten is just as important as knowing when to bet more money. Really, it’s the ultimate game you play for the sake of taking part rather than just winning.
Having held a few ladies-only poker nights in the safety of my own home, I can attest that once you’ve learnt the theory, masses of fun can be had at them, even if my crew do only play for chocolate buttons.
Betting at the Bookies
The stereotypical woman in the bookies is in there either because she works behind the counter or is placing a novelty bet. Novelty bets can be placed on basically anything that’s not a sporting event, which is what all the men who are in there are probably up to.
Top novelty bets include who’ll win Strictly Come Dancing, whether the new royal baby will be a boy or a girl, what it will be called, and whether it’ll be ginger (it won’t). You can also bet on things like what colour the Queen will wear to Ascot or the next royal wedding (it’s usually blue).
Don’t worry about going up to the desk and asking to bet on any of these things. Though the bookmaker may not have the odds immediately to hand, all they’ll do is make a two-minute phone call to get hold of them for you.
According to Mr. F, who likes an occassional punt, odds work thusly:
“A bet at 2/1 means that for every £1 (or £10 or £100 or £100,000) you lay down, you’ll win double that amount if the bet succeeds as well as getting your original ‘stake’ (the money you put down) back, i.e. you’re trebling your money. So a tenner at 3/1 pays out £40, a tenner at 4/1 pays out £50, a tenner at 20/1 pays out £210, and so on.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? You’ve just unlocked this form of magic that makes the world a sweeter place and means you’ll be able to retire to the Bahamas any day now. Except that your bets can lose as well as win. And the odds offered are directly related to the actual likelihood of your bet succeeding, as determined by squads of highly-paid experts who make a very good living out of predicting sporting events correctly.
If something is being offered at 9/1, it’s because it’s estimated to only have a 10% chance of succeeding. If an outcome is seen as more likely than not, it’ll be priced up at odds-on: meaning that, say, a bet at 1/2 on requires you to risk £200 for the sake of turning it into£300, with the risk that you’ll lose the whole lot.”
So, again, set yourself a spending limit and stick to it. No-one really needs to lose more than a fiver on any of this shit, and whatever happens, you are going to lose most of the time so try not to lose too much.
Going to the Dogs (or indeed the Horses)
In terms of placing bets when you’re at a race meet, it’s much like placing a bet at the bookies. Finding out the odds will be easier because they’ll be posted on boards all over the place, and because the racing guides will go into quite a lot of detail about the past of each animal that’s racing.
Have to say I’m not big on betting on animal races because of the cruelty that can be involved. I also refuse to dress up to attend meets because they’re always freezing, usually rainy, and also because of photos like this:
It’s just not very me, OK?
Every granny’s favourite gamble is now available online. Don’t bother. The whole point of bingo - which is basically just ticking numbers off a bit of paper in the hope that you’ll cross all yours out before everyone else does – is to do it sociably. That’s why your nana goes every week.
When I still lived in London I was a fan of Underground Rebel Bingo, which returns to the city in March. The dress code as I recall was “flash”, and the nights were uproarious. Having just checked their website, they now run nights in cities across the UK as well as one in LA, Madrid and Beijing. Check em out here.
Scratchcards and the Lottery
The most basic and accessible of modern gambling methods is probably buying a scratchcard or doing the Lottery next time you’re at the supermarket. I’m not going into detail because I’m sure you already know the drill. Personally, I never do bother with them.
Alisande is attempting to lose all her money on Twitter @AlisandeF