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The Wager Zone

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Apr 06, 2009


Sports Desk
By Aodhán Elder

It's a Grand National

Grand National DayIt had almost the same moniker as the neighbour's dog, the trainer had the same initials as a parent, or the name brought back memories of past conquests. Along with the more conventional strategies of picking a horse with your lucky number or a jockey that's wearing your favourite colour, these are among a multitude of methods that have resulted in making the correct selection on Grand National day.

The Melbourne Cup may be the race that stops a nation, but the Grand National is the race that gets a nation into the bookies. It will be decided by huge slices of good fortune, having the rub of the green and a dash of luck. Even for those whose sum total of interest in horse racing is roughly fifteen minutes every twelve months, the spectacle of 40 horses thundering around Aintree is an utterly exhilarating piece of sporting theatre.

But exhilaration doesn't necessarily go along with profit and while it's sacrilege to suggest not having a bet on the National, any investments should be confined to the levels of 'for entertainment purposes only.'

There is talk that the Gold Cup winning Denman could make an appearance and while his status as the best horse in the race is beyond debate, he will have to carry top weight around for four miles, all the time steering clear of the carnage that unfolds in front of him. For all his talent, you won't be getting any value backing Denman if he runs, so stay clear. There is no system for picking the winner of the Grand National, but directing your pin in the direction of any horse carrying less than 11 stone should aid your bid for glory. After that, just cross anything you can cross and hope that the Gods have punted the same selection as you.

The Fun, Fun, Fun of Formula One

The prospect of witnessing a matt gloss paint settle nicely onto a wall may elicit more excitement for most people, but entertainment value shouldn't get in the way of making a profit. The latest regulations being introduced into Formula One are designed to increase overtaking and augment interest in the sport.

It probably won't work as well as the revelations about Max Mosley's dungeon antics, but it should cause some uncertainty within the bookmaking ranks and where there's uncertainty, there's opportunity. Without risking ennui with the details, the central idea is to level the playing tarmac and, in theory, the gap between the top cars and the rest of the grid should narrow.
It's too much to think that Sebastian Vettel can take Lewis Hamilton's Driver's Championship, but in the Red Bull car, he should get involved at the business end on a more regular basis. He drove superbly in winning at a rain-soaked Monza to become the youngest winner of a Grand Prix and his chances of victory won't be hindered by any inclement conditions the F1 circus encounters throughout 2009.

The real value in backing Vettel should come in backing him before qualifying at circuits that are prone to deluges. In general, that would mean the Monaco, British, Belgian Grand Prix and possibly Italy. In terms of talent, "Baby Schumi" looks to be comparable to the main players on the grid and should weather conditions help nullify the differences between the cars, it could be worth having him on your side. And don't worry, sitting through the race isn't a prerequisite for claiming your winnings.

University Boat Race

You may not know your Crabtree Reach from your Chiswick Eyot, but it seems plenty of people know a thing or two about rowing down the Thames.

Traditionally, the Oxford v Cambridge University Boat Race has been an annual opportunity for the wider population to catch a glimpse inside the most famous varsity rivalry this side of the Atlantic, but judging by the ever-increasing numbers of people willing to bet on it, it has gone from trifling pursuit of the upper classes to genuine betting heat.

Last year, one bookmaker reported taking a large five figure bet amongst a flurry of smaller sums on the "Dark Blues" of Oxford which obviously proved correct. The lesson seems to be that if someone knows something you don't, it could be worth getting on board.

Roy Brindley's Life's a Gamble
By Rebecca McAdam

Roy BrindleyIt takes all kinds of people to fill a room crammed with poker tables - many wear scarves, large sunglasses, or hats - anything to cover their natural reactions. They are essentially hiding who they really are - afraid to show weakness. It is the people behind the disguises however who make the game so interesting. Those who are willing to reveal their true selves, often prove strong enough to outlast the rest. One of these players is Roy Brindley. But before he was a poker player, he was a gambler. Still is to some extent.

Life's a Gamble: The High Stakes and Low Life of a Poker Professional tells the true story of Brindley's struggle with gambling addiction. At times frustrating, and often shock-inducing, Brindley's journey is riddled with misfortune ... but also with opportunity. It's hard to believe the English man in the snazzy suit sitting across the felt from other familiar names was someone people stepped over on the street, someone who fled the police with nowhere to go, and someone whose self-destructive cries for help continuosly fell on deaf ears.

Everything Brindley encounters from his time working at greyhound tracks to his days as a magazine editor appears to have led him to his place at that leather-rimmed table. His story is honest and raw, but with hints of underlying, unspoken tensions. His sheer determination is contagious, and his gutsy self-belief ensures the reader stands firmly in his corner throughout. That being said, Brindley's weakness for the rush of adrenalin which comes from the prospect of that illusive "big win", also evokes a sense of incomprehension and disappointment.

The journey Brindley takes not only from the street corner to a television career, but also as a writer, is what makes his debut book so captivating. Every word is thought, written, and felt by the man himself, and his conversational and down-to-earth style helps the reader to better understand what goes on in the mind of a gambler. But gambling is only one layer to his story. You can't help but get the impression that Brindley has a lot more to say, and as Card Player found out, he does...

Rebecca McAdam: What made you want to write a book?

Roy Brindley: A lot of mad stuff happened me throughout my life that people often wouldn't believe. To actually write it down and explain every juncture of it makes it more understandable. Something I want to endorse all the way is that I'm not stroking my own ego. Playing poker has given me the notoriety and the vehicle to write a book, although the finished product is not what I originally wanted to write. So many things in my life have been because of an accumulation of factors and other people, but you can't bring someone's character into disrepute, so many things had to be taken out. I went through two ghost writers that I had a lot of legal problems with. So, the book's actually two years late. What I can say, and I'm very proud of this, is that there is not one sentence in there that isn't my own.

RM: Is there a general interest in the life of a gambler?

RB: As far as we can ascertain there's been hundreds of books written about alcoholics. Never once has a person come forward, even people that should have, and said, "I was an addictive gambler, and this is why , this is how it feels, and why I couldn't stop". I don't think most people could understand what it's like to prefer to bet your last five pounds in the world and walk home six miles, than to get a bus or feed yourself. I've been in fish 'n' chip shops asking for credit, and shamelessly borrowed off everyone and anyone. The thing was I wasn't necessarily skint, the money was just going gambling.

RM: What would happen if you saw your children interested in gambling?

RB: I don't condemn gambling. I have been a mug gambler, but I've a lot of professional friends that gamble for a living and have made a fantastic life from it. What I wouldn't want for them is to make the same mistake I made, and gamble anything and everything.

RM: It becomes clear in the book that you were destined to write, despite perhaps it being a way of making ends meet at first. Was writing a book always an ambition?

RB: With writing the magazine, literally I could not compose a sentence or spell the most basic of words, so it was self-taught. You get a lot of satisfaction out of learning something in your 30's having struggled all your life. I was living on the street in a cardboard box and 12 months later I was an editor of my own magazine, while contemplating going to nightschool to actually learn how to read and write.

RM: Was it difficult dredging up your past?

RB: Yeah, a lot of it was tough, it was always going to be. I wanted to write a book about the bad things that happened in my life, and once I did that I could close it, put it on a shelf, and let it become history. There's a lot of redemption in there. I've learned about myself - I'm very insecure, and I'm very considerate of how people perceive me. I wasn't aware I was that sensitive before.

RM: Did you see gambling as a problem or just part of your personality?

RB: It was a huge problem, my personality was gone. I was shot to pieces, and mentally there was something wrong with me.

RM: When did things change?

RB: Poker was the redemption. I spent 15 years trying to get a big win, then I started playing poker and every weekend I was picking up ten grand, and suddenly it was like, "Oh my God, everything I ever wanted that I thought I could get through gambling, I can get through poker!"

RM: I could see you having your own racetrack and kennels, because the love you have for greyhounds is quite clear. Is that something you'd ever consider?

RB: The last time I put a lead on a dog was in America, and what I saw there still gives me sleepless nights. The absolute massacre of healthy dogs by the most brutal methods was something I wanted to highlight. It was a battle to get it left in, and the repercussions will probably be huge but I don't mind. To be honest, I wouldn't be disappointed, especially in Ireland, if tracks were shut down with the exception of about three, because then every dog that's bred can find a home in retirement.

RM: You weren't treated well when playing in America, do you think Americans still treat outsiders badly at the poker table?

RB: The arrogance of them is just detestable. It's not just the general people on the street who think Australia is part of Europe, and Ireland and England are the same country - the ignorance is incredible. But the arrogance when they play poker is beyond comprehension. No one else can play the game according to them. They're so distasteful as well, all these high fives and running around the table, they've a distinct lack of class. To be honest, when they come across to Europe, their results are very ordinary. It's such an unfair playing field. There's a lot of very talented working class poker players that will never get the opportunities that some very moderate American players have.

RM: It seems like you're chasing a dream all the way through the book. Do you think that maybe you're the type of person that just loves the chase?

RB: I'm still chasing the €1 million tournament, or an EPT title, or that outrageous accumulator that encompasses six football teams, and six racehorses and pays out a million, but I've definitely got a better standard of life, and I'm a far better person than I was. I struggle to get my head around those poker players who have had a big win and suddenly they want to play in the biggest cash games and tournaments. If I win a couple of million, I'm gone, I'm out of here. These guys win the World Series of Poker and then end up being a freak show for five years going around the world - you're never going to beat winning the World Series! I'm not into poker for that anymore. I'm in it for the money. Something I've learned is that money is no longer tokens for more gambling, it's meant to actually do things with.

RM: Will there be an encore?

RB: I've got a couple of books I want to do now. I want to do Terry Ramsden's biography. He was the biggest gambler of the 80's and just an amazing character. I'm actually writing a second book which is a novel, and a lot of it is real-life experiences that I couldn't dare write for fear of libel or whatever, which I can write as fiction.

RM: What's next?

RB: I'm so pumped up for the second book now. I would love to see it made into a film. It's really bizarre because if you asked me a coupleof years ago - what will you be doing a few years down the road? - I'd say poker and nothing but poker, but ... we change.