What can beat that feeling of anticipation, that stomach churning excitement, that mounting elation and hopefully a climactic finish?
I’m talking of course about a day at the races and the thrill of watching horses or dogs sprint to the finish line, longing them to win you a few quid.
I might not be a seasoned gambler, but I do enjoy the odd flutter or two – especially when it’s live betting combined with a day out.
My first taste of gambling on speeding animals came a few years ago when a friend organised a work’s Christmas night out and, instead of the usual meal followed by a jaunt around town fuelled with copious amounts of alcohol, she decided to book an evening at the greyhound racing.
I will readily admit that the snob in me wrinkled my nose with distaste. “The dogs?” I asked. “That sounds a bit common.”
My opinion didn’t change when we arrived at the venue as it all looked rather rough and ready and full of lots of old men.
Instead of the usual festive fayre of turkey and stuffing, our cuisine for the night was “dirt burgers” with a few pints to wash them down.
However, any reservations vanished as soon as the racing started and I was hooked.
Queueing up to place my £2 bets on which doggy I thought would win, I was gripped by the buzz and fever as the four-legged beasts raced round the track in a blur. When my chosen dog actually won, my elation was so great, anyone would have thought I’d scooped six numbers on the Lotto rather than just winning £1.80 on top of my actual stake.
And so began my slippery slope into the world of gambling. Well, it didn’t really – unless you count going to the races a couple of times a year, placing a bet on the Grand National and buying the odd National Lottery ticket.
I did, however, graduate to bigger animals as after Hubby saw how excited and animated I was after a night at the dogs, he decided to take me to the horses. I enjoyed this just as much as the greyhounds, if not more, as it had the added bonus of giving you an excuse to get all dressed up in your best frock and heels … and that was just Hubby.
When it comes to the actual betting, I am far too much of a coward, so usually restrict myself to £5 a race.
As for tactics for choosing which dog or horse to back, forget studying form, listening to tips or going with the favourite.
Names and colours are the key to success every time. If you like the sound of a horse or dog’s flamboyant name or you like the top the jockey is wearing, put your money where your mouth is and back it.
And if you spot a horse or dog having a poo or a wee at the side of the track before the race starts, chances are, it will be a winner.
Sometimes, I even pick horses or dogs based on how glossy their coats are or if it looks like they are smiling at me. Odds are, if the beast is smiling, fortune might smile at you, too.
Hubby is usually quite miffed at my gambling techniques as, more often than not, my bizarre way of picking my bets are more successful than him carefully studying their past and present form.
Recently, Hubby and I took our gambling habits to an ultimate low by inciting our children into the path to addiction. We fancied an evening at the horse-racing, but not having any babysitters and not wanting to abuse the kindness of willing friends, we decided to take our twosome with us.
Little did we realise we would create a couple of gambling monsters as our two nine-year-olds rapidly became ensnared by the thrill of winning and even the thrill of almost winning.
Gleefully, the pair pored through the race programme picking their favourite horses and giving us their top tips with our daughter even suggesting: “Why don’t we put money on all the horses, that way we’ll definitely get the winner?”
But before all you judgemental people out start accusing us of introducing our children to gambling, let me do some finger pointing of my own...I blame the schools.
Yep, that’s right. Schools are usually the culprits when it comes to mooting the idea of gambling into young minds.
Our daughter Yasmin’s descent into gambling began at her first ever Summer Fair after starting school.
After handing over a shiny 50p piece in exchange for choosing a square on a map to mark with a cross to represent where she thought the treasure was buried, her beaming face was a picture when she was declared the winner and handed a giant teddy bear and a DVD boxset as her prize.
Since then, she has become Queen of the Tombolas and a regular raffle ticket buyer at all school events and her winning streak has continued
There is an upside to acquainting your youngsters to the joys of gambling – it doesn’t half bring their maths skills on in leaps and bounds.
Betting odds totally baffle me and are a mathematical minefield as far as I’m concerned. However, our budding Einsteins got the hang of it pretty quickly and were soon carving up fractions like there was no tomorrow.
Maybe they should put gambling on horses on the school curriculum ...