Adventures in Infidelity

by Trey Nosrac

Even the most ardent lover of harness horse racing can occasionally stray. Temptation lurks everywhere. Ninety-nine percent of my gambling money goes to the trotters and pacers, but recently I considered a fling with a stranger during a cold winter of racing.

My latest infatuation is snooker. I squander hours and hours watching this endlessly fascinating game on my iPad. For the most part, snooker fans reside in Europe and Asia. Americans are more likely to think of snooker as a verb. *snooker (verb): “to cheat,” early 1900s, from snooker (n.), probably because in the game novices can be easily tricked, the term is also used in the game itself to represent a position of difficulty.

At first glance, the game of snooker appears simple. Like harness horse racing or chess, the more you learn and the deeper you dig, the more intriguing things get. Snooker has a trajectory like harness racing. Spurred by the ability to televise matches, the billard-like game had quite a run of popularity. Then the television ratings took a dip, but streaming via computer breathed new life into the game.

Once I got a handle on snooker, became familiar with the star players, the venues and, pardon the pun, understood many of the angles, I decided to lay down a few quid on the outcome of a match.

Obviously, people wager on snooker. The players have logos that advertise various wagering sites embroidered in their tuxedo-like shirts. One afternoon, I decided to wager on Ronnie (The Rocket) O’Sullivan playing a match against John (The Wizard of Wishaw) Higgins. The tilt of these titans, a best of 19 frames affair, would take place at The Crucible.

At this point, dear reader, I pose a question to you.

Sitting in my Uber, idling in a Dollar Store parking lot on the corner of Carnegie Street and Huron Avenue, I can, and have, used my iPad to gamble on many live harness races. The question is — can I place a $30 wager on this upcoming snooker match? Circle your answer – YES or NO.

I honestly did not know.

I Googled a gambling site I was familiar with from shirt logos of star snooker players. I chose one of the largest wagering outfits, one that sponsored major tournaments. I began the annoying task of filling out my application, credit card, etc. Suddenly, a banner appeared on my iPad and covered the screen, “You are forbidden from wagering from this location.”

Although it happens frequently, Trey is not a fan of “being forbidden.” Harness racing has never forbidden my money or me. This denial felt like a slap in the face of the United States of America and I immediately blamed the current resident of the White House. Alas, for once, he was not to blame; the gambling restrictions preceded his reign.

Undeterred, and determined to risk my $30 on the action to take place on the felt cloth (called the green baize) of the table beneath the bright lights in South Yorkshire, I explored deeper. I squandered a few hours on my snooker-wagering situation. This resulted in an agonizing decision and a semi-happy ending.

To cut to the chase and answer the question at hand – could I wager on the O’Sullivan versus Higgins match?

Technically and legally, the answer is in the negative.

In real life, the answer is sure, if you step over the line and use a Virtual Private Network.

“VPNs do not allow you to circumvent local laws without consequence. Each state within the United States, as well as every country in the world, has its own set of regulations governing online gambling. Using a VPN to access a betting website in a region that forbids online gambling is still breaking the law. You can also run into legal issues by accessing betting sites across borders, so always be cautious and do your research before placing your first bet.”

The above disclaimer from one of the many VPN sites that craved my gambling money was an attempt to cover their bases. After the site gave me this semi-stern warning and obligatory disclaimer, they proceeded to show how and why I should step over the invisible line with them.

“By using our VPN, you can access any betting website you like in complete privacy.”

My snooker gamble boiled down to this – should I keep my nose clean, or should I cross the line and risk my money and what is left of my reputation in a sketchy gamble overseas with a VPN.

I kept my $30 in the USA. This turned out to be a good idea.

Ronnie the Rocket did not soar in this match. Higgins got a fluke, made a tough double to get started, and made a century in the fourth frame. The Wizard of Wishaw did not look back and potted like a terror. I would have lost my snooker wager and my thirty dollars.

When I decided to follow the letter of the law, my pending $30 of gambling money continued to burn a hole in my pocket. I wagered it on a trotting race from the Big M, placing $10 across the board. The trotter finished a nice second at 4-1 and I made a few dollars. I also felt amazingly patriotic for keeping my money at home and patronizing harness racing.

The moral of this story is … crime would not have paid (in this case).

* Snooker (UK: /ˈsnuːkər/, US: /ˈsnʊkər/) is a cue sport which originated among British Army officers in Etawah, India in the latter half of the 19th century. It is played on a rectangular table covered with a green cloth, or baize, with pockets at each of the four corners and in the middle of each long side. Using a cue and 22 coloured balls, players must strike the white ball (or “cue ball”) to pot the remaining balls in the correct sequence, accumulating points for each pot. An individual game, or frame, is won by the player who scores the most points, a match is won when a player wins a predetermined number of frames. In the 1870s, billiards was a popular sport played by members of the British Army stationed in India. Snooker gained its own identity in 1884 when officer Sir Neville Chamberlain, while stationed in Ooty, devised a set of rules that combined pyramid and life pool. The word “snooker” was a long used military term used to describe inexperienced or first-year personnel.