Thursday 14 December 2023

Big Deal: Do You Remember Robbie Box?

Back in the 80s there was a real buzz about Big Deal.

I’m sure many gamblers remember this TV program that appeared on our screens from 1984 – 1986 starring Ray Brooks, Sharon Duce and Lisa Geoghan. In fact, it had an excellent cast and a fine production by the BBC.

The theme music was on point, performed by Buck’s Fizz member Bobby G.

It was created by Geoff McQueen and written by David Crane. It was released as a comedy-drama but it really captured the lifestyle of a gambler and Robbie Box was a character many would-be professional gamblers could associate.

I looked forward to watching the three series with my Dad.

The storyline followed the ups and downs of small-time London gambler Robbie Box and his long-suffering girlfriend Jan Oliver.

His addiction to poker made for an incredible watch.

The three series of 10 episodes each started on the 14th October 1984. I would have been 14-year-old at the time and had aspirations of being a gambler myself and I know Dad would have loved to have given up his business to bet for a living.

Each episode lasted for 50 minutes.

The start, finish and end was something to be savoured and I loved every minute and couldn’t wait for the next instalment.

The last episode in series 3 titled: ‘Innocent, OK’ was a fitting end to a superb drama. Ray Brooks has a long and varied profile as a brilliant actor from the Ken Loach directed Cathy Come Home to the voice of Mr Benn.

I think Big Deal was one of his most enjoyable roles he played, the cast seemed very much like a family.

It was a sad day when the series ended and disappointing that the BBC only released series 1 on DVD (2006).

Luckily, some kind soul keeps putting all three series on YouTube. The picture quality isn’t great, but when Bobby G starts to sing: ‘Gone are the dreams. You had them so very long. Now you’re having a run…’

It’s a good day.

Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle

The Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 2 hurdle race run over 2 miles at Kempton Park in late February. As the title implies, the race is restricted to horses aged four years – or, in other words, aged three years at the start of the current season – who, by definition, are racing in their first season under National Hunt rules. Inaugurated, as the Tote Placepot Hurdle, in 1965, the race was elevated to Grade 2 from Listed status in 1991 and renamed to its current title three years later.

Despite the obvious differences between the right-handed, flat hurdles course at Kempton and the New Course at Cheltenham, which is left-handed, undulating and features just two flights of hurdles in the final three-quarters of a mile, the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is considered a key trial for the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The most recent winner of both races was Zarkandar, trained by Paul Nicholls, in 2011. Indeed, more recent winners of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle have a less-than-stellar record in the Triumph Hurdle. Since 2011, eight have attempted the double, but none of them has troubled the judge at Cheltenham, despite being well fancied more often than not.

Nicky Henderson, who saddled Katarino (1999), Punjabi (2007), Binocular (2008), Soldatino (2010) and Fusil Raffles (2019), and Alan King, who saddled Trouble at Bay (2004), Penzance (2005), Master Blueyes (2017), Redicean (2018) and Tritonic (2021), are jointly the most successful handlers in the history of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle with five winners apiece. Looking ahead to the 2023 renewal of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle, scheduled 1:50pm on Saturday, Februrary 25, punters may like to note that seven of the last ten starting price favourites have won.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Have you watched Louis Theroux: Gambling In Las Vegas?

 Even though it dates back to 2007, that episode stuck in my mind for many reasons. It was a surreal experience to see a selection of gamblers basically lose their cash. In fact, ironically, the only person who seemed to win was Louis Theroux. I’m sure you can remember Alan the Canadian high-roller and multi millionaire ‘The Mattress Man’ who couldn’t lose his money fast enough, at one point playing two high-limit slots at the same time. The man who sold mattresses for a living said: ‘I think in a lifetime, everyone’s a loser.’

Without doubt, The Mattress Man was a bit of a loser. A Whale, as they call big gamblers, and by the end of the program he was feeling blue. In fact, there are online articles which suggest he went through his cash and now a taxi driver.

But what are high-limit slots?

For those, like myself, who have no idea what limit is a high limit. I’m having flashbacks to Louis chatting with Dr Martha Ogman, a retired dentist who lost millions on the slots. She seemed to think it was humorous spending her son’s inheritance and spoke in glowing terms about the casino who paid for her husband’s funeral and wake.

I needed to investigate high-limit slots and learn more.

I headed straight to the YouTube channel Raja Slots, who have 63.4K subscribers. The video titled: $5,000 Spins! Must See High Limit Slots (Over 15 Jackpots). Those words were printed in caps lock but it was too heavy on the eyes.

The video has 251K views.

If you ever wanted to know how long it takes to lose $250,000 then the video lasts 24:09. I’m not sure who the gentleman is playing the slot but his accent has a southern drawl which reminds me of a character from the Simpson’s cartoon. I can’t remember the name. [Moe from Moe’s Tavern.]

I couldn’t help but imagine one of Moe Szylak’s most relatable quotes: ‘Hey Homer. I could hear your pathetic rationalizing through the door.’

The slot was at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

The man playing, let’s call him Moe, seemed emotionless and relaxed about gambling such a vast sum of money [$250,000]. It was clearly a stunt to get people watching the video. I questioned if it was real. I couldn’t help but wonder where the money had come from. Whose pocket? The whole situation seemed surreal. In a world where children are starving to death it made for an uneasy watch. I thought, thank the Lord that’s not my money tripping the light fantastic. I had vision of Hunter Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

Didn’t he blow his brains out?’

The man showed a number of $50,000 vouchers which he pushed into the slot to give credits. He started off at a $1,000 a spin to ‘warm it up a little’. Then after ten spins he started on the big money a $5,000 a spin.

Looking at the YouTube transcript it was ‘50 spins at $5,000 a spin’.

Playing the Black Widow slot.

The money went down much too fast and by the time the $250,000 had been spent the total ‘winnings’ were about $49,000. So, a loss of $201,000 in just under 25-minutes. The biggest of the ‘15 Jackpots!!!!’ was $15,750.

I loved the way a Jackpot was quickly sent to Snapchat. Social media is clearly king in the world of slots.

Another win of $15,250.

Another win of $10,500.

A few smaller wins.

I was left thinking what really is it all about.

In truth, this was probably a fraction of the money lost by the Mattress Man or Dr Martha Ogman.

It’s only money, hey.

Unless you are betting with a skill based knowledge rather than fixed odds you are guaranteed to lose. Gambling needs to be questioned when you bet $250,000 for fun, entertainment or the glorification of the spin of a reel.

I remember Louis Theroux being in a lift with a couple heading back to their room after a night at the casino.

He asked: ‘How did you get on?’

Reply: ‘I lost twenty!’

Therous: ‘Twenty dollars?’

‘No, twenty thousand.’

I’m sure every casino goer left the casino to the soundtrack of Kenny Roger’s ringing in their ears.

The Gambler.