A bond trader explains to Here Is The City how his compulsive gambling almost put paid to his career, his marriage and, indeed, his very life.
'I'd always had a compulsive personality - in school I'd work the hardest, read the most and always strived to be the best in class.
At work, I was always in the earliest and spent hours pouring over market reports and commentary; I had to win, I had to bring in the biggest P&L, had to make the biggest bonus among my contemporaries.
And in my personal life, I had to have the perfect wife, the cutest and smartest kids, the biggest house and the flashiest cars.
But, as I hit my early 30s, my own life was far from perfect; in fact, I had descended into a hell of my own making - I was secretly gambling it all away.
Show me someone who claims to be a winner gambling, and I'll show you a liar. Gambling is evil - it suckers you in. You always seem to win when you first start - on the horses, in a casino or online. It makes you feel so good; invincible. But it slowly pulls you in, plays with you and spits you out. It's a disease that inevitably eats away at you, taking everything - your money, your family, your health, your self-esteem and finally your sanity.
I was a fool to get involved in the first place, and I was even more stupid not to walk away when I still could. In the end, nothing else meant anything. My life only mattered when I was in the casino. I'd complain to my wife when she didn't bring back the best bargains from the supermarket and save a few pennies, but I'd think nothing of dropping thousands every night over the roulette wheel.
'You're so lucky', my friends would say, 'You get free dinners in almost every casino in London!'.
If only they knew - it was because I was so UNLUCKY that I was comped everywhere I went.
This is my crazy story'.
The guys on the trading floor were always going on about 'the casino'. At first I thought it was a generic term for any number of the gambling establishments dotted around London. But, as I was soon to find out, the 'casino' in question was one based within walking distance from Park Lane in London's West End.
I was always being asked to go, but in truth it never really appealed to me. I knew the odds, and over the long term, you could never hope to end up making money. Sure, the guys often came into the work with stories of their winning exploits the night before, but their braggado never really rung true; there's no way they could all win every night, and I began to notice that some of the traders started borrowing off their mates as payday approached. I suspected that all was not as rosy as my colleagues liked to claim.
In the end, however, it was a bit of career advice that forced me to change my mind.
'Listen, Tom, it's being noticed that you never come out with us', Gary, one of the senior traders said.
'There's a feeling that you aren't a team player. You've got to start coming out with us. What kind of a trader doesn't like to gamble ?'.
It wasn't right, but I knew what he meant. The trading floor is a close-kit community, and you couldn't have one guy keeping himself to himself like I was.
'It could impact your bonus, too', Gary continued.
I looked him in the face quizzically. Nothing like a bit of bonus pressure.
'I'm not saying it will, Tom, but you know how these things work. Dave (the Head of Sales and Trading) places a lot of importance on group bonding'.
'OK', I replied, 'I hear you'. And I did. The next big night out at the casino would be my first visit, and the beginning of the slippery slope.
To be continued....