Online bingo seems to be the ‘in thing’ at the moment. Our television screens are full of ads suggesting that this high-tech way of losing money is the most fun ever.
The companies behind the games are so convinced that you’re going to lose your dosh that most will give you ‘free’ money to play with once you’ve signed up.
Anyway, I’m no gambler and other than the occasional go on the National Lottery I don’t trust my hard-earned cash to chance.
However, I have discovered a much more sophisticated online numbers game that involves high stakes, devious strategies, complicated calculations and extreme patience, but if you’re clever and successful, you can be rewarded with . . . travel. Have you bought a rail ticket online recently?
The first big decision is ‘which website’? For just like online bingo there are many to choose from, all claiming to offer the best deals.
Firstly, there are the train companies’ own websites which, confusingly, will sell you tickets for other operators’ trains. Scotrail, for example, will happily flog you a return ticket between Bury St Edmunds and Penzance, a journey which I can pretty much guarantee will not involve a Scotrail train.
Then there’s a whole host of independent rail ticket websites, ranging from National Rail Enquiries (run by the Association of Train Operating Companies) to the more prosaically named redspottedhanky.com
So that’s it then, choose your website and buy your ticket, it’s all the same trains so the prices will be the same – you’d think so wouldn’t you, but no, they offer a wide variety of prices.
And buying a straightforward return ticket is always best value – again, no, especially if your journey involves changing trains.
This is where the strategy comes in. For example, if your return journey involves one change either way it can be cheaper to buy four single tickets or possibly a return for part of the trip plus two singles – endless combinations and that’s without throwing in added options such as off-peak and peak travel, railcards and group tickets.
Tick all the right boxes and you’ll be yelling ‘HOUSE!’.