Audiobook retail sample from the book’s introduction:
Here’s a free sample chapter called “Bring on the Rain”…
I’ll never forget the days I spent at the racetrack back in the ’80s. All that action and excitement, it’s when I really fell in love with gambling for the first time.
At sixteen years old I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but the bookie I worked for had a table inside the clubhouse so naturally I found a way to get myself in.
First I’d ride my BMX bike over to the Clover Lanes bowling alley and park it there across the street from the Detroit Race Course, then crawl through an open window to get into the grandstand. Next I’d have to duck around corners and wait for the security guys to leave their post on some errand before slipping through a couple more doors that took me up to the clubhouse. Man, oh man, was it worth it!
I’d open up that door and immediately the smell of corned beef would hit me. Then I’d wade through a haze of cigar smoke and greet the older guys. They all knew me from the action I ran out in the streets, so they never had a problem with me hanging out.
They had inside tips on some of the races, but since I was underage I had to rely on a guy named Randy to get in on the action. The first bet I ever placed was on a horse named Bring on the Rain, and would you believe it, as the field made that final turn down the track, the sky opened up and it actually started to rain! I was screaming and hollering the whole time… and then my pony actually won. What a feeling! Bring on the rain, indeed.
Another time after I’d won on a tip that Randy had personally given me, he handed me my money and said, “Hey, are you gonna sprinkle the infield?” That meant he wanted a little kickback for his inside information. What could I do, say no and miss out on future bets? So I peeled off twenty bucks and that made him happy.
Those were the days, I’m telling you. An old school cast of characters living the racetrack life and I was there to bask in the glory of it all. I can still see the bookies puffing stogies and drinking whiskey on the rocks, while the crowd below roared as the ponies thundered toward the finish line…
In between races I’d head over to the food table where they kept cooked meat under heat lamps. The chef piled your corned beef sandwich a mile high and you’d savor every bite of that perfect moment in time.
Thirty-five years later and maybe I’m still trying to relive that scene. I suppose too much has changed for that to be possible, though. The track closed down years ago, most of the Detroit guys have passed on, and I’ve lost too much to find satisfaction in the little perks anymore.
I need the big rush just like junkies crave another hit and extreme athletes jump off of mountaintops with a parachute in their hand. At least they die when they hit rock bottom. Us gamblers? It’s an addiction without toxic chemicals or imminent danger. A slow burn of our souls that spans decades. And most of the time no one even notices, unless we end up getting our cars repossessed or a loan shark comes to our workplace to collect an outstanding debt.
But usually we pay back just enough of what we owe while also racking up more losses, and thus they keep us walking in circles on their leash. The truth is, a lot of people behind the scenes rely on us to lose money day in and day out. We fund their vacations, trips which we should be taking. We buy their kids’ clothes and pay for their college.
No wonder the food doesn’t taste so good anymore. You can’t compare gourmet sandwiches from an idyllic youthful memory to the reality of what being a gambler looks like after decades of defeat.
I’m not even hanging out in Vegas or at some flashy Indian casino. Instead I’m sitting at a wobbly table inside a seedy Mexican restaurant up in the San Fernando Valley, and using my laptop to place bets on a Costa Rican website. The place operates as a gambling front and the guy who runs it takes my money without even having the decency to comp the cheap burrito I’m eating. Ten thousand a week I’ve been losing to the guy for years, and never an ounce of sympathy from him, not one dollar of credit.
Cash only, amigo!
I may be sick, but these bookies are sick. I can’t control myself and I need help, but at least I’m chasing that feeling, the rush that courses through your veins and says you’re alive!
The bookie with the burritos? He’s ice cold. It’s all about the money with him, nothing more. Selling crap food, collecting bets… It’s pure greed and no soul, let alone any real smarts.
Me, I have to hustle every day to land new customers and close sales in order to get my hands on the money I shuttle up to him three, four times a day. Back and forth I drive like madman, while he just sits there in that ugly little dive where he runs an illegal sportsbook – the opium den for fools like me who pursue the impossible, one parlay at a time.
I hope he’s happy. I hope he sleeps like a baby at night. Because he’s the big winner when all is said and done, not me. I’ve been getting clobbered every day in a thirty-year boxing match against the house – and the house always wins, round after bloody round.
I just wish someone would throw in the towel for me, because the champ seems content with putting on a good show rather than putting me out of my misery. God knows I’ll keep running out of the corner head first every time the bell rings to signal a new round.
I may be a loser, but I’ve got more heart than half the world combined, and I’ll never stop throwing haymakers.