Saturday 31 July 2010

Den of Iniquity

I have puritanical views on gambling. I've never bought a lottery ticket and was horrified by Tony Blair's plans for super-casinos. I beat a tambourine for joy when son of the manse Gordon Brown consigned them to hell. However, there is gambling and then there is the "inside track": if you actually know something about the proposition then the case can be made for a flutter. Thus I was convinced by my friend Jorge Secada, a post-graduate philosopher from Lima, that Peru would easily beat Scotland in the 1978 World Cup ("Eet ees a dead cert, Beel!") and cleaned up with a £5 bet at 4 to 1. Similarly in 1979 I put £2 each way on 100 to 1 outsider Rankin in the Derby based on the first-hand report of a very drunk but plausible denizen of the Cow and Calf in Cambridge (weekend resort of choice for the County Mayo men building the by-pass). I also laid this off with a couple of pounds on the nose of the favourite Troy. Kerching! and celebrations all round on both counts. That was the last time I was in a betting shop - in the days when they had frosted glass and no comfort was permitted inside except smoking.

But last night my old friend Nick rings to tell me that he has bumped into the owner of Jimmy Styles running today in the 3.40 at Goodwood - it is 25 to 1 but, unknown to the public, actually on fantastic form. So I enter BetFred in Swansea (every comfort but no smoking) and put £10 on each way - the computerised slip says "Good Luck!" on it, a generous sentiment for a bookmaker. It is unplaced in spite of a "late spurt". For some reason my moral compass swivels once again towards righteous condemnation of this evil pastime: get thee behind me, Satan, for at least another 30 years.