A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a writer and gambler. He talks about how earning in dollars makes gambling in Naira bearable, selling his properties to offset gambling bills and the adrenaline rush betting gives him.
The first thing I reach for when I get out of bed this morning is my phone. Before I do other things like checking work emails, replying to WhatsApp messages or even reading the news, I open my betting site. It’s 10 a.m. and I’m looking for early kick-off [1 p.m.] football games to bet on.
I scroll, unimpressed, through the Arabian league, Estonian league, before settling on the Portuguese league. I do a bit of reading up on the teams, do some mental maths, and play two tickets. One ticket has 8 games in it with potential winnings of roughly ₦50,000. Not bad for a ticket that cost ₦1500 to play. The other one has 7 games in it and costs ₦1,000 to play. The potential winnings are relatively lower than the first, but we move.
With the bets out of the way and the looming thrill of winning or losing present, my day begins. As a freelance writer [for a foreign football and predictions site], I work overnight till 3 a.m., wake up at 10 a.m., place a bet, look at work emails, curse or jubilate when my ticket cuts or enters, and eat somewhere in between. This is in addition to my non-existent social life.
My first task this morning is to have my bath, then I’ll move from there.
2:00 p.m.: Most of today has been a blur. I wrote a few blog posts, replied to a few messages, cursed Nigeria; nothing out of the usual. My first match starts at 2:30 p.m. and I’m looking forward to it. I’m thankful for this app from work that allows me to watch obscure leagues so I can monitor, write and bet on matches. I’m super excited to see how my predictions perform.
4:30 p.m.: The ₦1,000 ticket has casted. Two of the teams lost already so there’s no hope. Although the ₦1,500 ticket is giving me life: 3 out of 8 games have clicked. I’m hopeful as fuck.
5:30 p.m: Now, 5/8. We’re still on track.
6:30 p.m.: Omo! 7 of 8 games are in. And the last two tickets had last-minute goals. I picked over two goals [that is, both teams score more than two goals by the final whistle] for one match and the teams didn’t score until the 67th and 81st minute. For the other match, they were playing 1-1 until someone scored an extra-time goal — see the way I screamed! Their papa!!!
8:00 p.m.: Final fixture and I can feel things are aligning for me. All the signs have shown me that this ticket is the lucky one. I just know. My bet on this match is that both teams score more than 2 goals, and this team is notorious for scoring goals. Let’s bring this money home.
8:30 p.m.: Gooooooall. 1 goal down. Let’s gooooo.
9:00 p.m.: Still waiting. Let’s do it.
9:15 p.m.: Come on booyysss.
9:20 p.m.: Please now, boys.
9:25 p.m: God, please. It’s never too late for a miracle. God pleasseee.
9:35 p.m.: Fuck! These bastards have finished me.
Yesterday was a shitty day. In fact, this month has been shitty because I haven’t won a single gamble. My only consolation is that I earn in dollars so I have enough disposable income to spare. If not, I’d have become desperate.
Anatomy of recent losses:
On Saturday, I lost ₦4,000 because some of the big premiership teams disappointed me.
On Sunday, I lost ₦6,500 because their counterparts in La-Liga also did the same.
Monday, I said let me try obscure league and same embarrassment. I lost ₦2500.
₦13,000 gone in three days just like that inside this Buhari economy. It’s all good because I’m still going to try my luck again this afternoon.
Even with the drought, I’m not scared. I’ve seen worse. From 2017 – 2019, I didn’t win one single gamble; only losses. Both big and small bets were casting. One time, I even tried rising [a gambling term for increasing money] ₦100 to ₦500 just to get the feeling of winning and it casted. However, on August 18, 2019 — I’ll never forget the date in my life — I broke this jinx. I used ₦500 to win ₦19,000. I called all my guys to tell them that the jinx had been broken. Omo, see the faji after.
I once saw a tweet that said there’s no better thing than having an orgasm. A gambler will disagree. There’s no better feeling than chopping a win after many years of losing.
It’s a slow day at work today so I have time to think about my life. If I think hard enough I realise that the thrill is why I love betting.
The emotional roller coaster gives me a rush of adrenaline that makes me feel alive. Following simultaneous games on your ticket, seeing one club win here, another lose somewhere else, and all that passion is thrilling. It’s happiness, anger and tension at the same time. Betting is the only way to have a literal stake in the tension, unlike a casual observer. If I don’t have a ticket running on any given day my body starts to feel one kind. That’s why no matter how many times I try to quit, I fail.
To think that my gambling habit started from a radio show. As a die-hard football fan, I used to listen to this radio program where the host would announce how much people won from betting. The host would say things like clueless non-football fans won millions of money, yet die-hard football fans never made money from their passion.
One day, tired of being taunted, I placed my first bet and won ₦4,000. I was like, “Wait. Is it this easy?” From then on, it was a rabbit hole. I got into virtual betting and gambled away my project money, school fees, phone, laptop, speakers, and had an extra year.
In my final year, at the height of my troubles, I was owing my girlfriend about ₦100,000. I remember her suggesting that we go for deliverance. I struggled to explain to her that the same hope that allows human beings to show up daily is what gambling feeds upon.
You keep thinking, “I’ll win today. Today is my day.” But it’s not.
The more money you lose, the more the pull to get your money back. At some point, you start getting angry and making bad decisions and losing more. Then you start to borrow and drop properties as collateral. You then try to hustle money to bail your properties as collateral and start to owe everyone around you: from your roomies to friends to even your food woman.
If you’re lucky your eyes will clear quickly. If you’re like me, it’ll take gambling away your school fees, project money, and crying in the church to quit virtual betting.
To me, quitting virtual betting — like horse racing and other computer programmed games — and replacing it with online betting is a great step. At least, now I know I have a bad vice as compared to when it was a worse one. It also helps that I’m in a better place financially.
Thinking back on all this progress makes me feel lucky. I have a feeling today is going to be my day. When I finish replying to 10 work emails, I’ll reward myself by placing a small bet. For some reason, I have a feeling it will work out.
Yesterday wasn’t great but today looks better. I’m watching the last game of a ticket I played and my team is winning. Other games entered earlier in the day and I have been waiting for this match to complete my long-awaited win. As the referee blows his whistle for an extra minute in the game, I start to celebrate.
I open WhatsApp and order a shoe worth ₦30,000 and pay a ₦2,000 delivery fee. Any gambler will tell you that the minute you place a bet, in your head, you think the money has come. As a result, you become reckless with money because you think money is always coming and all you need to do is just “place a bet.”
In the past, I used to see gambling money as awoof to be blown anyhow. But now, I see it as money for projects. A few months ago when I won ₦92,000 I bought a fridge. Another time when I went low on cash because I bought a generator, I used gambling to turn my last ₦2,000 to ₦75,000.
Although the disadvantages of gambling outweigh the advantages, it’s still a two-way street to me.
Let me be honest with you: these losses no longer matter because the money is too small to lose sleep over.
I’m still on a high from yesterday. Today, I’m grateful for being in a place where I can laugh at losses. Before now, every time I lost a bet, I’d ignore the world and my 9-5 for a few hours to gather myself. And when I eventually came out, I’d go over each game, review my mistakes and jot them in an exercise book.
However, since my money went up, gambling has become a fun side vice for me. The only “bad” thing is that I sometimes go over my naira budget on gambling, but I’m managing it.
It’s not like I’m going to outrightly stop gambling tomorrow or in two years time. All I can do is make tiny improvements here and there. My plan is to slowly wean myself off gambling before 35. Right now, at 27, this gives me 8 years to get there. My biggest fear is to be an old person who spends their life betting. I remember seeing old people at virtual betting shops and saying I don’t want to be that person.
I know for sure that I’ll quit one day. Probably. Maybe. Time will tell.