In honor of Tough Money Love’s post today on financial mistakes that we bloggers have learned the hard way, I wanted to share with you my biggest mistake.
Six years to the day yesterday I turned 19 (legal age to gamble in Canada). My father and I took the twenty minute trek to Niagara Falls and we sat down at a blackjack table. An hour later I was $600 richer and a gambler for life.
College – My Dumb Years
I went to school in Indiana, luckily there were no casinos around and Internet gambling was just becoming a fad. I would go home on occasion specifically for the casinos. I will be honest and tell you I came out ahead at live casinos playing blackjack, but along the way I broke some of my own hard and fast rules for not losing my shirt at a casino. These rules:
- Don’t ever go to the ATM, bring what I am willing to lose.
- Don’t chase lost money with bigger bets
- Don’t overreach (walking into a casino and playing a single blackjack hand for $300, losing, then spending the next four hours trying to get back even, is not advisable)
About the tail end of college I started to play Internet poker. I had a good year at live casinos so I was willing to have fun with my money. I am not a poker player, I like action and poker is a slow game. I probably lost $2000 over the course of a few months before I left Indiana for grad school.
Grad school – My Really Dumb Years
I made some great friends while at grad school and we all loved to hang out and play cards. Usually we played for small amounts because it was social. This got my blood pumping for more and I proceeded to start playing online poker about as much as I was studying. Again, I am not a poker player. Over the course of two years I lost $6000 took an 8 month break and lost another $4000 when I felt I could come back and control my habit.
I would constantly stress about money, dipping into my savings to pay my gambling bill. It never became debt, but it was scary.
Employment – My WTF Brian! Years
A friend asked me for my newspaper to check the lines of opening NFL weekend and then placed a call to his bookie in front of me. I had never bet on football before with any real money, but I know the game and I liked his bet. I told him to throw $200 extra and I was good for it. At this time I hadn’t placed a bet in about a year. I lost that $200 but started to look at football as a way to make some extra cash if I got good at reading the lines. The next week I placed a few bets and won about $550.
With money flush in my account I was looking at the lines for the following week with excitement to make some money. But when it’s Tuesday, NFL Sunday seems so far away. In the corner of my eye I saw the online blackjack tables. To pass the time I was playing $1 and $2 hands. Again, I like action. This eventually turned into $25 hands which turned into three $25 hands at a time.
The blackjack hands at an online casino take about three seconds to play. A couple mouse clicks and it’s the next hand. My blood was pumping so fast while playing I would mis-click buttons and lose money. There were times when I would have three hands of $300 playing at the same time.
This behavior lasted for about three months. It finally concluded when I placed one large (over $2000) bet on a football game. It was a smart bet and i won it. All told, when i called the website this past week they said in that four month period i had deposited over $8500 into their system. Luckily I had cashed out with almost $11,000. I really thought I had made more (any surprise their?).
Present Day – The Responsible Years
I have had quite the turnaround in the past year. My cash flow is out in the open and it’s all from reliable sources (employers). I haven’t placed a bet since that large bet in early December. I have made a permanent change for the better.
One of my brothers and i made a commitment to each other that we would not place a single bet this year (table games or football). I don’t know how he is doing with his end of the deal but I have not made one single bet (even a friendly wager amongst friends).
I also discovered the power of personal finance and the knowledge that one can really win the race with a slow and steady approach. They may not know it, but several personal finance bloggers have been an inspiration to me and have kept me on a path towards accumulated wealth. I thank each of them for that. (Going to have to give thanks in particular to J. Money at Budgets are Sexy. Without his advice I wouldn’t have written about this topic and maybe one of you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.)