Privé (South Africa) Summer 2010
One day you need to stick your neck out. Bet big and feel the rush says Daniel Ford.
My friend Ray used to be in the merchant navy. From Singapore to Malaysia to Durban, a girl in every port, the sun on his back, life on the ocean wave and all that. The trouble is the ocean waves do get a bit big sometimes. Very, very big, and the waves can toss around even a 14,5 million tonne vessel as if it’s a leaf lost at sea. Which isn’t much fun if you’re stuck on the said leaf.
So why exactly did Ray decide to venture out to the crew deck as his ship passed through the edge of Hurricane Ida? Yes, a hurricane. Why did he scramble across this foam-covered deck with a pooping just waiting to happen and wash him off like an even smaller leaf, never to be heard of, or remembered again? And why did he wrap his arms into some iron bars on the deck for stability, stick his chest out, close his eyes and allow the powerful spray to pummel him so hard that it left speckles of blood on his face?
Ray did it because it was exhilarating. And he did it because he wanted to feel that burst of exhilaration that only comes from taking a chance.
Now, Ray was being a bit silly (silly, silly boy Ray) and he admits it’s the biggest chance he’s ever taken in his life but I know exactly what he was after because I’ve always believed that every betting (wo)man should take at least one BIG chance in their betting life.
It means sticking your neck out, breaking all the normal rules of sensible betting and making one big bet that sets your heart racing again (remember the excitement of that first bet?). I’ve been a betting man as long as I remember but it’s always struck me that never feeling the rush of stretching yourself is like going to a sumptuous feast and sticking to the tomato soup.
Bear in mind that ‘going big’ varies from person to person. What’s ‘big’ for you may be nothing to your friend. It’s not the actual amount that matters; it’s whether it takes you outside your comfort zone. Are you looking at your chips on the table and absolutely fascinated by the bet you’ve just made? Too often I bet and don’t really mind one way or the other because, as it should be, it’s a bit of fun. Of course I want to win, who doesn’t? But the amount I bet is well within my comfort zone. My pulse won’t speed up until a pretty girl in a short skirt walks past.
It comes down to adrenaline and stress. Stress generally gets a bad press, always associated with a hard day at work or a nightmare afternoon out with the screaming kids. But controlled stress can take us to a new level. If you never stress your muscles in the gym your muscles stay the same. If you never stress your brain at work your brain goes flabby. People who never stress themselves rarely get anywhere in my view. Get up, eat, tickle the dog’s tummy and go to bed.
And so goes the theory in my betting world. If I were to always bet within myself my whole life then I would never feel the adrenaline that stressing my betting brain brings.
So one day I decided to stick my neck out. I should explain at this point that although my experience of sticking my neck out ended in a win, I would still be writing this article even if I had lost because it was the feeling just before the bet was concluded that mattered not the actual win itself (nice though it was).
I’m on a weekend away with two friends and we’re playing blackjack, my friends’ favourite game. After an hour of going up, going down, trying not to upset the guy next to me by drawing the card he needs, I decide to scoop up my chips and move to my favourite game: roulette.
I put the lot on black. It wins and I let it ride. My friends join me and double up my bet. We win again. We look at each other and laugh. The weekend is paid for and more.
“Let’s leave it,” I say.
This is the moment that counts for me right now. Black comes in but it doesn’t actually matter because those few seconds while I stare at my (rather large) pile of chips and wait for the wheel to settle are amazing. Stressed I was. And not in a screaming kids sort of way.
Just for once, go out on the deck in Hurricane Ida.
Prive (South Africa) Summer 2010
It’s not often you get to play a national champion at poker. Daniel Ford heads off to the sun to beat the Bermudian champion.
The giant leaves of the palm trees are gently rustling in the breeze while the Atlantic waves slap half-heartedly against the rocks as if the warmth of the day has sapped even their energy. The double doors to the balcony are wide open to frame the sun setting on another perfect day in Bermuda. I’m wearing shorts, slops and a T-shirt and am completely coated in that amazing warmth you get only on those days when you feel as if you can actually reach out and grab a chunk of the air and put it in your pocket for later. This is poker in paradise.
There’s only one problem: I’m sitting down to play against the Bermudian champion who has just returned from the World Championships in Las Vegas. A Canadian, who’s been working on the tax-free island for a number of years, had defeated locals and ex-pats alike in the months-long island-wide competition to earn the honour of representing the small country at the big tables in America.
“I made it right to the end of day one,” he tells me. “I went all-in on silly cards. I think it was a mixture of tiredness and wild confidence.”
The others sitting round the table are mostly financial people, here for the money and their own slice of the good life.
There are a couple of other South Africans sitting round the table and we swap tales of rugby, spit braais and where to find Mrs Ball’s chutney as you always do when you meet someone from home. Like everyone else they are here for the tax-free dollars. Talk abounds among all ex-pats of returning home laden with their booty and buying cars and houses in just a fraction of a time it would take to achieve the same goal at home. Maybe it’s simply a way of distracting ourselves as we prepare to lose our money to the national champion.
I’ve come across quite a few South Africans on the island (Facebook’s South African’s in Bermuda group has 98 members) some in the financial industry, of course, but many working as part of the many gardening and maintenance teams that keep the homes of the many rich and famous (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are residents here) nice and shiny.
Stakes are pretty high, as you’d expect from a bunch of bankers on six-figure dollar salaries. I wince as the dollar notes with more than one zero start to be flung about. My friend nods across the table to indicate that he will cover me if I want to stay in. It’s just the Bermudian champ and me. Oh, what the hell.
I go all-in, he follows and we both flip our cards over. My six and seven really look rather sad against his pair of kings.
“What are you doing Dan,” asks my friend. I suppose it is his money after all.
The flop generously adds an eight to my wildly hopeful bid for a straight. The trouble is the tens mean he’s got two pair now. Oh well.
A three. No good to anyone.
Then a beautiful nine on diamonds to complete my straight.
“Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” I declare as if he has just lost his eyesight as well as his sense of humour. I’ve just beaten the Bermudian champion. Vegas, Smegus, I think quietly.
“Sorry,” I tell him. “I was lucky; they were silly cards to go in on. I think it was a mixture of tiredness and wild confidence.