July 2, 2017 by Roy Murray
Yesterday I went to the horse-racing in the Curragh with the family. I’m not a horsey person so I had to come up with some sort of a system for betting that would allow me to defeat my brothers and sisters in our lifelong sibling rivalry game. I broke even but I was dissatisfied with my strategy. It lacked a certain grace to its logic and at times it bordered on meaningless random decisions. That is not a good strategy for anything unless you want to keep people confused. This got me thinking about a foolproof gambling system. I’m actually analysing systems at the moment for work so my head is in that space. I’m a sucker for things like religions, the London Underground, HTML and conspiracy theories. They have a unity that I like. Plus, I have a history with systems.
When I was a kid, me and the second cousin down the road developed a system to predict what song would be number one. We were pretty successful. Music Magazines printed the charts every week and we were never too far wrong. In our early 80s schoolyard the charts were the only results that mattered. Was Madness going up or down? How was The Police’s new single doing? What new band was going to break into the top ten? These were big questions at the time and every self respecting teenager had to be able to hold their own in conversations about them.
Our system involved a lot of effort and time and data. I spent hours in the room listening to the radio. I would list every song that I heard and place a tick against it everytime it was played. At the end of the week I would have a pretty good idea what songs would be in the charts. The system worked even if it was deeply flawed. In our innocence we thought that DJs were choosing the songs by somehow tuning in to the habits of the record buying public as if they were some kind of musical mediums. Along with giving too much credit to DJs I was also looking at the system backwards. I eventually realised that the DJs played what the record companies told them to. This led to me becoming a cynical teenager who sneered at the commercial music industry and spent hours searching for unknown bands who were also rebelling against the system until I realised that they too were being promoted by the record industry.
Chip Shop Matrix
Around the same time I discovered another system. Poker machines. I had wandered into a chipper with 50p back when a bag was 40p. I threw the remaining coin into the poker machine in the corner. Four kings came up and were automatically held by the machine. For anyone who does not know poker machines, this is money on a plate. It asked me if I wanted to gamble on whether the next card was higher or lower than an ace. As an ace could be a low card or a high card no matter which way I went I was going to double my winnings.
I left the chippers with a bag of chips drowned in vinegar, a raging poker machine addiction and 8 old Irish pounds which was more money than I had ever had to myself in my life. I also had the idea that I had “the touch” which is a mystical state whereby a gambler is in tune with the random flow of the system and could feel when a win was in the works. This was 1980s hacking Matrix syle. I fancied myself as the Neo of the Noraut (the company that manufactures the arcade style machines in Northern Ireland) Poker world.
I had a part-time job back when young people could have such a thing in the western hemisphere. Instead of spending all my money on records and clothes I poured it all into chip shop and pub backroom poker machines. By the time I eventually realised that this was nonsense of the highest degree I had wasted a lot of time and pretty much all my hard earned money from working in the local furniture factory. Time passed and I got lucky because I no longer go near poker machines, unless I find myself in Salt Hill in Galway and it is raining and I just want to spend a nostalgic few hours losing money watching 8 bit cards turn randomly on a glowing blue screen. I know I’m going to lose and I am alright with that.
How to win at the lotto
After my experiences with poker machines I have the reformed gamblers hatred of chance. Herself is always begging me to play the lotto so I have come up with a foolproof gambling system for it. I will choose my numbers twice a week. The numbers may be special or they may be random. I will not buy a ticket. Oh no. I will create an excel sheet and enter the date, my numbers, the winning numbers and how much money I saved by not playing the lotto.
This will be my new system. I will keep track of it religiously. Every week I will watch the balls roll out and feel that old snaky feeling of anticipation slink through my stomach. Unlike normal lotto, chances are I will likely get a nice blast of dopamine every week as my numbers fail to appear. Because that is what usually happens. Instead of a sigh there will be a Yess! Instead of the crumpled ticket to the bin there will be a high five as I avoid once again the head melting disaster that winning brings.
Over time my system records will start to show a growth in savings. As slow as a pension fund and as consistent as the changing of the seasons. Of course now and again, a few numbers will come up and I will have to take the odd chunk off the total but as yer one says to Katniss, the odds will forever be in my favour. Sometimes I will choose to up my bets and more than one set of numbers when I am feeling particularly dangerous. Some days you need to stare into the abyss in order to feel extra alive.
Always I will fear the terrifying day when the numbers fall right for me. That 1 in 10,737,573 chance that would drastically change my life. How would I deal with that? Always I will have that possibility hanging over me but the feeling of the onslaught of those feelings on a weekly basis would make for a heady and free chemical concoction.
If it ever does happens I hope that I will see it as a sign. Throw it all to the wind and start a blog maybe.