I get the paper delivered every day. I have done so for a long time. Only a few times have they got it wrong and sent the wrong paper. But only once did they deliver two newspapers – today’s and tomorrow’s.

I am a keen punter on the gallops, so I’m normally up early on a Saturday morning eagerly anticipating the racing section of the paper. This particular Saturday I received both the form and the results. Of course, I immediately checked that I hadn’t simply missed a day. But no, it was Saturday, and I had tomorrow’s paper. Then I thought someone was playing an elaborate hoax. There was only one way to find out.

The interesting thing was that only the sports sections were considerably different. The rest of the news was basically the same, with a slightly different spin on a few stories the media had been flogging throughout the entire week. But the racing section, wow, could it be true?

I have a phone and Internet betting account with the TAB, but I normally wander down the pub about 3.00pm and just bet on the final races. Not this time. I had to test the legitimacy of the results before me. So I logged on to find that I had a balance of a mere $10. I accepted that this was a reasonable stake considering what I may have before me. So I backed the first race in Sydney. The paper listed the winner as number five, Calling Home. I had $5 a win on it and put the other $5 on the First 4. I couldn’t eat anything, my stomach was churning and I was sweating like a pig in the middle of winter.

Finally the race came around. I listened to it on my trusty transistor radio while consuming two very early beers. Calling home led all the way and paid the exact dividend as shown in the paper. The First 4 came home in the order as listed and I now had just over $200 in my account. It was now clearly time to go to the pub.

Most of the usual suspects hadn’t arrived yet. Every Saturday basically the same crowd turn up for a punt. Because I was early, only Punchy, Spring, Boof and Jack (real name John) were present. I tried to look as relaxed and casual as possible. “Hope we have better luck today”, said Boof. “It’s been a while”. “I’m feeling lucky today”, I replied. “What do you like in the next”, he asked. I responded that I had a good feeling about number 12. “Oh, good odds”, he remarked with a shrug of the shoulders. “I like number three”.

I had a $10 win bet on my selection and it got up by a nose from number three. It paid $12.30 for a win, so I had my stake for betting at the pub for the day. I knew there were even longer priced winners coming in other states, but I only ever bet on the Sydney races and I didn’t want to raise any suspicions. And I never had more than $10 a bet. I waited half an hour before placing the next wager.

By race number four, all the regulars were sitting around me and were buying me beers as I led them to winner after winner. As more locals turned up, more people surrounded me and more beer was bought.

By race six, I was really pissed. I had marked all the winners on my standard Saturday form guide as usual, so I wasn’t really worried about making a mistake. That is until I lost it. Every punter that came to the pub that day had the same form guide with his or her own scribble. I thought I left mine sitting on the table where I was sitting, but it wasn’t there when I came back from the toilet. I made lots of trips to the loo that day. I frantically looked around, inspected everyone else’s guides, but it had just disappeared.  I checked the toilet, the bar, the garbage bins. Oh no!

I borrowed Bill’s form guide and stared at it for what seemed like an eternity. I was pretty sure that number 10, Sporting Champ, was about to win the next race, but I wasn’t absolutely certain. I placed my $10 win bet on it anyway and almost everyone else followed. Except that by this time some of these guys were having hundreds of dollars of bets on my selections. I started to get really nervous.

They jumped in race six and, for the most part, Sporting Champ didn’t look a hope at all. But he squeezed through a narrow gap in the straight to score by a short head. It paid $4.50 for a win, thank God. Bernie, Patsa and Barry had big wins and insisted on buying me more drinks. I had intended to slow right down, but I was so nervous and drunk already that I willingly accepted them.

This time when studying a borrowed for guide I was told that I looked at the paper for a good fifteen minutes, shaking my head constantly, taking regular deep breaths and passing out briefly at one point. I was sure it was just a matter of clearing the head and trying to relax. Suddenly I could see it as plain as day. Yes, Comic Lies, number two, that’s the winner. Unfortunately it was the favourite and paying even money. That didn’t change my bet of course, but almost all the other guys bet up big. We all sat back smugly awaiting the desired result. Comic Lies came in fourth. No interference, no protest, beaten a good three lengths.

God, how people can turn. The majority of my followers weren’t happy, especially Bill who’d placed $600 on the tip. He was now well behind for the day, as were a few others. All of a sudden the place was very quiet. I felt sick. I was so tempted to go home and check tomorrow’s paper, but when I muttered something about ducking home I was booed. I knew I had to make it up to them.

There were two races left. I had to show confidence. In my drunken stupor, I pulled out a $100 note and had a win bet on the horse I was sure got up in race seven. It didn’t. The $400 I had in the last also went astray. By the end of the day the atmosphere was darker than I had ever encountered. I had very little money left. Most had none. I left with my tail between my legs to stagger home. I was so embarrassed.

When I finally awoke the following day it was almost afternoon. The reality of what I had done hit me like a truck. I vowed not to put a foot inside the pub again for a long time. Then I remembered that I still had almost $2oo available to me in my TAB account. Or did I? Was it ALL just a dream. After my third coffee I was brave enough to boot up the computer and log into my account. Oh my God! I didn’t have a $200 balance at all. I had forgotten that I had placed $10 on the Big 6 before I went to the pub. That involves picking the winners of six nominated races – three in Sydney and three in Melbourne. I had placed $10 on the result. When nobody picks all six winners, there is jackpot passed over to the following week. This had occurred for the previous two weeks, so the Big 6 pool yesterday was huge. It paid $74,230 – for the one-dollar bet. My account balance was almost three-quarters of a million dollars.

I never did go back to the pub, ever. I moved – bought a two-story house overlooking the sea. And I forgave myself. We all make mistakes.

Geoff Mooney