I am not a good gambler and I am the opposite of a high-roller. In fact, I am as low of a roller as they come. I’m betting dollars at a time. Single dollars. If I’m feeling dangerous, or really believe in whatever bet I’ve constructed while researching enough statistics to thoroughly convince myself of said bet’s success, then I reach towards five dollars, dare I say, ten. Contrary to various opinions, perhaps myself and the fellow gamblers who enjoy this type of low-risk way to waste money on a daily basis could be labeled as addicts.
No risk, not much reward. A daily chance to win anything at all.
Yet, the term addict is often linked to a serious problem, a set of compulsive behaviors that persist despite harmful outcomes. Someone who has little control over their own actions and seeks to fulfill their desires with reckless abandon. If losing dollar parlays or continuously betting on the Rockies knowing very well they may not win fits under this definition, then sure, I may be an addict. But unlike far more serious issues that arise with addiction, low-stakes gambling may not be as akin to addiction as it is simple stupidity.
Gambling is fun, and when you’re a gentle daffodil who has many other monetary priorities opposed to gambling, it becomes less of a problem and more of a daily endeavor to stay entertained, to feel as if you’ve won something. Anyone who begins gambling to make it big has been sold a lie by the cavalcade of sportsbooks like BetMGM, Caesar’s, DraftKings, FanDuel (has anyone stuped low enough and signed up for Bet365 as I have? Was I sold a lie by Aaron Paul?)
Yet gambling, at its purest form, is stupidity, an act that requires incredibly dumb luck which, in return, rewards those winners and losers with continued delusions of grandeur, dreams of winning enough money to stave themselves from the monotony of everyday life over any sort of monetary gain.
There’s a complicated discourse regarding the level of degeneracy the common gambler inhabits. Gamblers quite possibly exist on the plane of addiction and connection at the same time, revolving in a consistent cycle they might never be able to find the exit to.
It’s not addiction but rather a perpetual disregard for the obvious outcome, a consistent belief that the next bet will be different. The search for the next experience.
But would someone who is addicted to gambling stumble upon a tournament of European table tennis players—mainly Polish—a little past midnight in their respective time zone? Would a dumb man root for someone solely based upon their name, lackluster physical presence, and absolute control with a paddle in their hands? Would said man tune into the pixelated livestream of these matches that seem to be taking place from the emptied gym of a recreation center? Would they bet and win and win and then lose and lose and lose, only to return the next day?
Yes. Why wouldn’t they?
Real gamblers do this. They discover men like Mateuzs Golebiowski. They ride the highs and lows into the early morning and then patiently await their next opportunity. They are not trying to change their lives in one night but rather revel in this minuscule moment of magic they’ve managed to capture when placing a bet of any monetary value. Simply, gambling shouldn’t be defined solely upon the addictive traits of the gambler, but rather by the persistent chase of these moments bound to elude them.
Matuezs Golebiowski isn’t someone many would root for because many people don’t have the slightest bit of concern for a table tennis tournament taking place nearly 5, 264 miles away from them. He’s a 33-year-old, semi-bald man who looks as if he just finished a night shift when he steps up to the table. There’s a brace wrapped around his left knee. Maybe he’s got a kid or two at home. There’s less than meets the eye with Matuezs, but when the paddles come out, he becomes so much more.
Obviously my winnings are laughable, but there’s something compelling about finding a niche sport such as table tennis and becoming a fan of one athlete solely based upon his name and appearance. Again, it’s the moment captured within one single space of time, as if watching Golebiowski play at seven-in-the-morning Poland time, having a lone dollar placed on him to win, and hearing the crack of the ping pong ball combined with the guttural grunts of the men playing, exist solely in that moment.
This experience is inherently sad, yet it’s one that no sportsbook can take from me.
The proliferation of gambling and availability of these niche sports creates a unique type of container, one where those whose names may have never been known can be recognized if only for a brief moment in time. Matuezs Golebiowski becomes a hero to one man, one sad, sad man placing a dollar bet on his passion.
So, I am not an addict. I have not gambled a mortgage away or driven my loved ones far from my life due to countless wagers placed on baseball parlays or futures that were all but certain. I’ve certainly thrown away more money than I’d like to admit when I first began, but this stage of my gambling endeavors feels more like retirement. Casually throwing money down, finding new and random athletes across oceans to root for, staying up later than anyone should to watch Polish table tennis, because, simply put, a gambler revolves around this, regardless of how high the stakes are.
If there’s anything I’m addicted to, it’s discovering via gambling how other worlds operate, how there are countless athletes around the globe playing a game that they love, continuously striving to retain their own moment of magic.
Maybe I’ll mosey over to the Israeli Basketball Premier League next. Or, stop in on the world of European handball. Everywhere there will undoubtedly be someone worth rooting for, someone worth at the very minimum, a dollar.
And if all else fails, my boy Mateuzs should still be playing in the Table Tennis Elite Series until the end of the week, I’ll put money on it.