Married to the job

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Hi, I’m Jen and I’m married to a professional gambler.

This isn’t what he’s always done – I met him at work doing what most people would describe as a perfectly respectable job, and on the side he’d play a bit of poker. 10 years and 2 children later, my husband is a full time gambler and co-owns educating and advising on how to gamble responsibly for positive expected value.

I write this blog as a result of questions and feedback I’ve had over the last 3 years, and to share the other side of this story – what is it really like when your partner makes a living out of something that most people consider to be an unacceptable and irresponsible risk.

When we first told people that he was going to quit his job to do this full time, I was mostly met with a mixture of surprise, and occasional incredulity. We worked for the same company and knew the same people – many of whom saw my husband as a bit of a wildcard and me as the sensible one.

His dad also had some strong thoughts on the matter, and on his last day at work, kept saying to him “I’m sure if you went back in now and told them you’d changed your mind, they’d take you back”. This has been a surprisingly common theme over the last few years, with people often asking me when my husband will be returning to “the real world”.

A brief timeline to put this all into context – 3 years ago when our daughter was born, my husband spent most of his week on the road commuting from our home in Worcestershire to a job on the outskirts of London. The job was incredibly complex and he did get a good amount of job satisfaction from it. However, as many parents will recognise, he really only saw our child at the weekend when he was absolutely exhausted, and he started to feel like he was missing out.

A few years before this he had started to dabble in advantage betting, and as his interest and success started to grow, we started to be able to save some serious cash. In fact, he started to earn more in this side project than he did from his day job.

He decided after I went back to work from maternity leave that he wanted a go at full time parenting/gambling and was granted a 9 month sabbatical. At the end of the 9 months he was unrecognisable – he’d lost about 3 stone in weight, his relationship with our daughter had become something really beautiful to see and he was generally a lot happier. So, we took the decision that instead of going back to work, he would give his side project a bigger go and see how it all worked out.

Suffice to say, 3 years down the line and we’re really glad to have made this change.

However, the truth is that there are disadvantages to this situation. My husband is an absolute workaholic who if left to his own devices would work 24 hours a day. He does experience losing runs (of course he does, he’s gambling) which results in some pretty extreme mood swings at times.

I’ve had to get used to sudden bouts of penny pinching behaviour which follow that mood pattern, and I’ve had to find a way of rising above it and not joining him in the all consuming panic of a crappy weekend in sport.

Additionally, we now have 2 very small children whose bedtime coincides with kick off time – meaning that I am often trying to mix some formula for a screaming baby while quelling a tantrum from the 3 year old because her imaginary friend Terry can’t find her pyjamas (this is a genuine thing that happens), and locating this evening’s required bedtime teddy bear while my husband is yelling at the betting exchange because his lay hasn’t been registered. All part of the rich tapestry of life.

Advantages too are very numerous – early on in our relationship, Newcastle United were relegated and he was absolutely inconsolable. 8 years later and he does not care who is relegated, as long as it turns a healthy profit (luckily so as Newcastle really do like to play hopscotch with that relegation line).

In addition we didn’t get on the property ladder before the 2008 financial crash. Like most people, we couldnt afford it. We were laughed out of the bank with our piteous £10k savings, so we took matters into our own hands. Many friends had been given a step up onto the housing ladder through either the bank of mum and dad, or a boost from departed relatives.

We didn’t have the luxury of either of those things, and after calculating that it would take at least 6 years of massive savings from our wages (no holidays, no meals out, no avocado toast) to get together the extra money, my husband kick started some serious advantage play. In a 4 month period he made the additional £50,000 profit needed to allow us to move into an 1830s cottage overlooking the beautiful Worcestershire countryside.

All in all, this way of working will always be a bit of an uncertain gamble, but I have learned a lot from the experience, particularly that when nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. I am a naturally risk averse person, so this way of thinking did feel very uncomfortable to start with, but over time I’ve come to accept that you can house a little risk in your life, as long as you are able to keep the “real world” firmly in your sights.

This blog over; next to come.