Hopeless on the punt

I opened an online betting account in February 2010 and got busted the following day.  My explanation wasn’t rehearsed.  It barely sounded like justification.  Filled with guilt, I stammered on, that I’d only used $100 to open the account and I wouldn’t bet in big amounts.

‘What are you worried about,’ Kristine said.  ‘I know what you’re like.’

She had no idea what I am like on the punt, but I admired her confidence.

I started the season without confidence.  I certainly didn’t start with any bets.  It wasn’t until round eight before I laid a bet, $20 on a triple.  The first two got up.  Hawthorn had to beat Richmond.

That simple, inoffensive bet had massive ramifications on my gambling future.  Hawthorn won by three-points.  During the last quarter, all I could think about was $20 I might lose.  I couldn’t enjoy the game.

Normally I would’ve been going for Richmond yet I shifted my allegiance because of a bet.  It felt wrong.  The last quarter was torture made worse by swearing.  I had a headache.    Winning the bet didn’t create excitement.  It was pure relief.

Throughout 2010, I flirted with three or four-way combinations.  Usually I lost.  Heading into the Grand Final replay, I bet all I had left, about $35, on Collingwood winning by more than 25 points.

The win ensured my account was back at parity.  There was no satisfaction.  I felt lucky to have $100 in my account.

Before the 2011 season a wise man gave free advice: no gambler wins any money betting $20 a week.  Another wise man said to bet small and build gradually.  I told him it could take ten years to double my money.  He said it didn’t matter.

I didn’t use any of that free advice.  My betting didn’t improve.  Through 2011-12, my account didn’t dip below $100 but it never climbed higher than $150.  It didn’t help that I hardly made a bet.

In 2013, I made one bet for the year, on the Grand Final.  Ignoring my brother’s advice to put money on Brian Lake, I bet on a Fremantle win.

At the weekend, before North played Geelong, I talked to two wise men about betting.  Russ wanted to know why the Cats had drifted to $1.50.  North, he said, had no chance.

‘It’s probably a good bet but be careful,’ I said.  ‘It depends which North turns up.’

Russ was adamant that North wouldn’t win.  I was sure North was going to lose.  I could’ve made blood money but I’ve never bet on a North game.  It doesn’t feel right.

When he hung up I had him convinced not to bet.

Twenty minutes before the game started, Adam, sent me a text, I had another big bet.  I’m sick of having that money in the sports bet account.  I will either win big or lose big.

What was the bet?

 Boomer is paying 3 bux if he gets more than 29 possessions.  I put on a hundred.  What do you reckon?

 Good bet.  You can win if North lose.  Gutsy too.

As the game blew out, I found myself barracking for Harvey.

At half time, Russ called, asking again why North shortened so much.  He had put $20 on a double, Geelong into Port Adelaide.  It sounded like another good bet.

Harvey had 15 possessions to half time.  I sent a text to Adam, Harvey has had 15.  You’re half way there.  North has had about 20 possessions.

Midway through the final quarter, Harvey made good on Adam’s bet.

Adam turned $100 into $300.  It was a good bet, the kind I would never consider.  Adam might have money in an online account, but he hadn’t bet in years and forgot about the money.  He has made just two bets this year.  He might not have another bet for the year.

Back in 2010, Adam put $20 on a drawn Grand Final, at 42-1.  That was the best bet I have seen.  Later that year he bet on Americain to win the Melbourne cup.  I blew $20.

On Saturday I checked my account.  The figure showed the extent of my gambling.  After four and a half years, I had $135.  In that time, I’ve probably laid 15 bets.  This year I’ve bet just once, on Hawthorn and won five bucks.

I resolved to make a bet, $30 on Port Adelaide, head to head.  But the day grew long.  By the time I remembered my proposed bet, the game had started.

I had plenty of opportunity to make the bet throughout the day, but kept finding excuses.  When it was too late, I thought about being disappointed but couldn’t fake it.

Betting on a game changes my enjoyment.  I don’t want to watch or listen.  I swear too much and get angry.  To bet means you must be prepared to lose and I hate losing.

Of course, if I did bet I might win half the time.  Most weeks, six or seven favourites get up.  But as that wise man said, you’re not going to make money betting $20 a week.

So I hardly bother.  But there are always the words of that other wise man, to bet on the guarantee, even if you win $5 a week.

On Sunday, I wondered how I could use that $135 in my account.  I wasn’t using it for anything right now, so why not close the account?  I resolved to put $30 on Gold Coast to win by more than 25 points.  The bet was paying $1.80.  It seemed a cinch.

At half time, the margin was a solitary point.  I called Russ and bitched about gambling.

‘This is why I don’t bet,’ I said.  ‘Gold Coast should win by more than 25 points and they are a point up.  They’re playing at home, its 28 degrees and humid and they’re playing the Bulldogs.’

‘How about we talk each Friday about what games we want to bet on,’ Russ said.  ‘We only bet on what we agree on.  I only bet $20 each week and that’s all you want to do.’

It sounded like a good idea, but we’ve been doing that for years, so it sounded like a waste of time.  About an hour later, Russ called and offered congratulations.  I couldn’t raise a fuss.  Though I won $24, I did not enjoy the game.

Wise men will offer advice about gambling.  Some wise men gamble.  Other wise men don’t.  They will speak of two fundamental rules of gambling, bet with your head, not your heart and never bet more than you can afford.

There is nothing else to betting.

When the account was opened I had a simple mandate:  if I lost the initial hundred it would be closed.  I thought betting on football would be a bit of fun, another dimension to the game.  I thought I might be able to make a few dollars, maybe double my money inside a season.

I was wrong.  I am a hopeless gambler.  I bet with a dreadful fear of losing, without any thrill of winning.  There is no fantasy.

Besides, as that wise man said, I’m never going to win any money betting $20 each week.  But I might take the short odds this week, bet $20 to win a couple of bucks, because that other wise man is saying its easy, small amounts and build your account…

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Strikes a chord with me – Used to have a punt or few but found that it sucked out the enjoyment for me. Couldn’t just sit down and enjoy the games – Just got stressed about losing money or what could be. So I stopped having even a cheeky fiver and even called it quits on the office tipping comp. Never enjoyed my footy more than the first game I sat down to watch with nothing riding on it but my team’s 4 points.

    Kudos to those who can handle it and enjoy the extra thrill. Footy for me though is best just being that.

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