A Day In The Life Of The Mysterious TAB Man

(2016 Comment: This story was inspired by an actual person who I used to deal with in my capacity as a hospitality industry participant. Souls like these are everywhere.)

It’s a cold and frosty morning. The human henceforth known as “TAB Man” awakes from his slumber with a jolt, when a loud sound begins emanating from his alarm clock-radio. The time is 7am, and it’s RadioTAB on the dial. As the morning announcers start going over the forthcoming race events of the day, his heart-rate increases. He’s excited to be alive! TAB Man lives for racing, and another day means another race.

TAB Man’s one bedroom flat (as I imagine that’s all he needs to bet) is laid out with the usual amenities you’d expect – kitchenette, tiny shower with a shoe-horned toilet and simple combined loungeroom/bedroom combo. The “loungeroom” contains two identically sized flat-panel LCD televisions – one set to Sky Racing 1, the other (you guessed it) Sky Racing 2. In front of those, a coffee table containing previous weeks worth of pencil altered form guides neatly stacked, and the current one open and ready to go. To the left of that, a laptop with live odds ready to go.

His bed is really just a foldout couch, mostly left folded out behind the coffee-table. All he has to do to start the day of racing is sit up! What a life! Adorned along the walls are images of the greatest horsing wins of all time in commemorative framed editions, along with several other photos of himself standing infront of the TAB providing locations that have scored him his biggest wins – in order from first to latest.

So many bets… so thoroughly categorised…

TAB Man is very methodical, his flat always tidy and ready for the day. Always.

Eventually he drags himself out of bed after listening to ten minutes of the announcers banging on about tips for the day and their recommendations. TAB Man knows these are all bullshit and starts getting impatient. He needs not the suggestions of the boring RadioTAB presenters.

TAB Man checks the time – 7:13am. “Every day!” muttering to himself, “Every day they miss the ten past scratchings announcement! What am I going to do, oh good grief, what am I going to do!?!?”. TAB Man is no ordinary punter, and onlookers believe him (quite accurately) to be rather eccentric. If things don’t go according to plan his actions become almost… manic. Today would be no different.

With the impending announcements less than a minute from being started, TAB Man rushes to his laptop in a fluster. It’s on and waiting, merely in standby (TAB Man lives a constant struggle with needing up-to-the-second updates on bets, verses his compulsion to conserve and be environmentally friendly). Within seconds he has Internet Explorer open and is smashing refresh on the UNITAB website (it is of course, his Home page). He must have the scratching in-front of him immediately! “There they are! Finally!”, he says, RadioTAB announcers going through them in the background, as he methodically adjusts his form guide neatly with a pencil.

TAB Man needs no one to tell him which form guide to use!

By the time he’s done with that, the time has reached twenty-five past the hour. Who needs breakfast when there’s racing to be done! Depending on how he feels, TAB Man either sits at home and bets online using the appropriate services, or fills out a multitude of boxed TAB cards ready to punch into the local machine. Mostly the latter, with the former generally reserved for sick days. Laid out near yesterdays form guide are a stack of bets painstakingly laid out from the previous day. The bets are sorted by type alphabetically, and stacked vertically on the table.

This man takes betting very seriously if you haven’t worked it out yet.

Curiously, despite his intense interest in racing, TAB Man never watches the races he has bets on. He studies all other events containing horses he is backing and makes bets for future races based on those results. If a race comes on and he’s in-front of his televisions, he immediately replaces it with the emergency episode of Mr. Ed waiting on standby for just such an occasion (he has the entire series on DVD).

No ones really sure where he gets his money, or if he even has a day job (apart from betting obviously) – They only know him as the TAB Man, so obviously I can’t tell you that part of the story. I imagine the rest is 100% accurate however.

I was just making a joke, I didn’t realize it was actually on DVD!

Though TAB Man is a rather portly man (probably quite overweight actually), he eventually realizes he needs sustenance while writing out his betting cards for the day. After painstakingly laying out today’s bets on the opposite side of the table from yesterdays, he arises and enters the kitchen a mere five steps away. Opening the fridge door he discovers more TAB tickets that haven’t been checked! “Oh dear, oh dear, ohhh…! How did these end up here, oh jeez….”. He struggles with the find, placing them in his back pocket to deal with later.

After preparing his usual breakfast of cornflakes and milk (with a dash of sugar), he basks in the warm glow of a fake open fireplace (you know those ones that glow and shit), humbled by the soothing voice-overs provided by RadioTAB.

At this point, TAB Man is ready for the day. By this time it’s 9am and his favourite local pub is not yet ready for his bets. So between 9am and 11am, it’s Sky Racing and form studying. He works hard to ensure his bets are accurate, ready and waiting to go for opening time. Need a hasty fix? No problem – he always knows where the offending incorrect ticket lies.

Rumour has it TAB Man bought a digital radio for his car JUST to get crystal clear racing announcements. Ah digital, is there anything you can’t do?

As soon as it hits 10.50am, the studying relaxes. The televisions go off. RadioTAB goes off. It’s time… to bet. His favourite time of the day (obviously). Yesterdays tickets in the back left pocket, today’s tickets in the back right, and those mystery ones moved to the front shirt pocket, he’s ready to go… almost. One thing remains. On the way out TAB Man grabs his car keys and removes his patented Lucky Betting Cap (well, it’s actually a Fedora) from the hook behind the front door.

If TAB Man had a theme-song, it’d sure be playing at that very moment everyday (and he’d be in there muttering).

The drive to his favourite local is always the same – eight minutes there, eight minutes back. Once a day. I’m sure by this point you already know what his only programmed radio station is on his car stereo.

Once arriving, he steps out and power-walks across the road. TAB Man can only take so long away from any form of racing, televised or not. Once getting inside, he feels safe again.

He walks over to me. By this point we’ve all spotted him and have fought and won/lost over who’s going to serve him. Today I’d won.

“Well, look who it is!”. TAB Man says nothing. Concentrating on removing yesterday’s cards from his pocket and putting them through the machine. “Oh jeez, oh, I think I’ve got a few winners here!” he says, as they slowly make there way through the ticketing machine. No dividend, no dividend, no dividend, two dollars, no dividend – this is the usual story over about thirty of yesterdays tickets. “Ohhhhh… ohhhh…”, he continues to mutter as the machine continues. His eventual winning total adds up to $34.20 – $15.80 short of his initial investment.

“Danana nanana TAB MAN!”. Cape lined with money, shoes lined with PAIN!

TAB Man looks confused and mutters about the situation, “Oh gee ohh surely one of them paid oh dear…”. I toss the affected tickets as I reassure him the computer unfortunately doesn’t lie. No matter, he will do better today, or so he keeps reassuring himself. Next go the mystery tickets – nothing there either. If you had a timelapse camera on his facial expressions as the tickets made their way through the machine, you could chart his frustration and anger growing.

Never-mind that he only makes bets with very small denomiations, TAB Man takes everything very seriously. I think that instead of oppressing his intense feelings of angst and depression towards gambling losses that every gambler has, he’s just out with them – through his muttering, through his powerwalking… everything!

Last thing for him to do for the day, put his new bets on! And as stated, this is the most exciting part of his day. The tedious organization and research is all for this one point of every day. Without hesitation, TAB Man removes the newly filled out bets from his pants pocket and places them in the TAB ticketing machine. I watch as they come through… $2… $4… $3… The tickets continue to add up in small denominations.

All of a sudden, the quiet churning of the machine pauses. In that moment the sweat begins beading off his forehead. He pauses breathing for a moment, at the same time the machine stops ticketing flow because of… A TICKETING ERROR. TAB Man had missed a scratching in his morning preparations! “Oh what am I going to do? Hmmm gee oohh I don’t know what else to change it too gee errr…”. He continues panting and rambling.

Really though, don’t start betting. Despite my recent wins it really is a waste of money.

I interrupt and ask if he’d like to can the ticket. TAB Man considers his options for a moment, and reluctantly accepts… his tone seemingly… defeated… as if he’s just lost out on the biggest bet of his life… He found himself unable to recall the specifics of the race in question and hence, couldn’t provide a substitute a horse for his $4.50 box trifecta/quinella.

As the rest of his tickets churned through, TAB Man did not look up from his failed ticket. Head bowed, I was unable to tell if the moisture on his face was from the sweat of anticipation, or tears from defeat at not being able to complete his bet. His demeanour was similar to that of a crushed man. When they finished cycling through, I quoted $45.50 – a key $4.50 short of his standard $50 bet. He pulled out his wallet, crammed with receipts for god knows what (as far as we know all he does is BET – he has no time for any shopping!) and paid me in correct change.

With a quick and quiet “Thank you”, head still bowed, he shot out the door as fast as he came in and back to the car. As I went on to share my new story with co-workers, we soon heard an almighty screeching from outside. Although this is something that happens often given the road we’re situated on, this time was different – more… prolonged. I rush to the doorway to take a look… It’s TAB Man! And he’s pulling a giant skid down the road in front of us!

I can only assume he went home in a huff of disappointment in himself, and studied the form and Sky Racing the rest of the day. How can one man so committed to racing make such a rookie mistake? Only the TAB Man knows.

One thing was for certain though – we were going to see him tomorrow… placing $54.50 worth of bets.

TAB Man… driving off into a haze of bets… and smoke…


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