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Before I started my journey to learn how to properly make, invest, and save money, I used to be obsessed with making money any way I can and as quickly as I can. And the quickest way, that I knew to make money, was by gambling. This, of course, was a recipe for disaster and explains why I was so unprepared when the global financial crisis of 2008 occurred.
I Loved Playing the Lottery
Anyone, with common sense, would tell you that lottery is a game of chance and a game that requires much luck in order to win any money. However, in my blind desperation to make money, I somehow convinced myself that I would be able to come up with a strategy to come out on top – I didn’t.
I used to spend anywhere from $40 to $80 a week playing daily lottery games, scratch-offs (instant games), and the big multi-state lottery twice-weekly lottery games. I, of course, never won any of the big jackpots but would win back a little bit, from time to time, to keep me thinking that I would win big eventually – I didn’t and I certainly didn’t break even.
I cannot say for sure how much money I wasted playing the lottery because I never formally tracked how much I won and how much I lost. However, I am fairly certain I lost anywhere between $2,080 ($40 x 52 weeks) to $4,160 ($80 x 52 weeks) a year and I had played for a number of years. What about the winnings that I mentioned winning from time to time? Well, being a “good investor,” I made sure to reinvest my money almost every single time and gave it all back.
I actually never knew you can bet on sports until one of my college classmates told me about it. I also did not know, at the time, that it was considered illegal. Well, in any case, my college classmate introduced me to sports betting and offered to help put my bets through with his bookie (I now believe that he was actually the bookie ?).
Being a big basketball and football fan, I thought it would be easy money since I knew which teams were dominant and which ones were just plain awful. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that betting on sports was not simply just putting your money on the better team and if they win then you win. The reality of it is that the edge sits with the bookies because the bad teams were given a handicap to even things out. So while the dominant teams usually did win, they did not always win by enough points to cover the spread (handicap) to win the bet.
An additional bookie advantage was that they charged “juice” (commission) on losing wagers, so I would win $100 on a winning $100 wager but lose $110 (10% juice) on a losing $100 wager. So if I won 10 games but lost 10 games, I would still owe $100 in juice or commission to the bookie.
While I did have some winning weeks, I definitely had more losing ones and I tend to lose more in a losing week than I won in a winning week. Despite that, I continued betting on sports for a number of years and truly believed that I would come out on top at the end – I didn’t.
Poker & Casinos
Yes, poker and casinos too. What kind of “professional gambler” would I be if I did not also play Texas Hold’em and frequent casinos? Fortunately for me, the closest casino from me is a little over 2 hours away by car so I didn’t go every day. Unfortunately for me, it was still close enough for me to go at least 3 to 4 times a month.
Again, naive me, I bought several books on Blackjack and Poker strategies, thinking I was going to take down the house – I didn’t. So while the books definitely did improve my odds and I did go on hot winning streaks, casinos always have the edge and will always be winners in the long run.
It wasn’t until I had several losing weeks (months) in a row that I realized that I had a gambling problem and needed to find better and smarter ways to actually make money. To this day, I still do not know exactly how much money I had lost from all of the different ways of gambling. I am fairly certain it is in the thousands. It might even be in the tens of thousands – though I really hope that is not the case.
Did my experience scare me away from gambling completely? Not quite. I still play the lottery once in a while, especially when the big multi-state lottery jackpot is over $100 million but I would never play more than $2 at a time now. I have also gone to casinos, but no more than twice a year – if even that many times – and I never bring more than $300 to gamble. Nowhere near the type of damage I used to do in the past.