April 27, 2010

Gambling Addiction

Betting is what makes people come back to the track. That dream of that elusive big win. And it gives you something to cheer for during each race. But betting isn’t easy. My parents set a good example, so I was betting on my own at about 13. And I do the same bets today that I did then. Hey, if it works.

First you have to choose a horse. I wish I could tell you more about how to read the program, but I really pretend to know what I am doing and then choose a horse based on name and the color of the jockey’s silks. I also often bet on the gray horses. And if a horse has a cat themed name – winner. And the more absurd the name, the better. I believe Stud gave up betting against me when I won betting in one race on Precious Kitten and Sparkletime. Something like that. Below is an example of the results from a race yesterday at Churchill Downs – Purrfect Alibi – I would have totally bet on that. But there are things you can check. I like to look at the distance of the race (measured in furlongs) compared to the horses past performances at that distance. You can go across and see all the splits, but that’s too much work for me. The Daily Racing Forum has a great little interactive tutorial if you are interested in learning how to really handicap a horse.
Once you have chosen your horse, or horses, you can head up to the betting window. Here is where it can get technical. I like to bet safely. So I usually bet $2 Across the Board, or for the horse to Win (1st), Place (2nd), or Show (3rd). If my horse wins, I get the payoffs “Across the Board” - $7.40 + $3.80 + $3.00 = $14.20. Pretty good on a $6 bet. You can also bet win, place and show individually, but you only get that pay-off. Then there are exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. Exactas are picking the horses that win and place. Trifectas are choosing win, place, and show, and superfectas are picking the first four horses to come in. You are choosing these horses in the correct order as well. Unless you want to box the bet (always a good idea) which means you increase the amount you are betting, but order is no longer an issue. I like to do three horse exacta boxes. So I would have bet “A $2 exacta box with 3, 4, and 5” and I would have won $40.20 since the order didn’t matter. And then you can bet a wheel in which you choose one horse and bet it with all the other horses in the field “A $2 exacta all with 4.” That would be betting an exacta and it doesn’t matter who comes in first, as long as 4 comes in second. Good idea for races with only a few horses. I doubt this makes any sense. And you must phrase your bet correctly as well – amount, bet type, and then the horses by number, not name. Here is a pretty good link to all the vocab and another one with simple instructions on how to bet. I particularly like the last step.

So a brief tale of betting success. It was Derby 2008 and I took the weekend after finals and before beach week to rush home with two friends to attend the Derby. This was the year I was fortunate enough to have third floor walk arounds and the year I went to the Backside Derby morning. Neither of my friends had ever been to a horse race, so we were betting and I was trying to teach them the ropes. It’s the Derby and there are about 25 horses running and they are all the best – it is a VERY hard race to bet. My friend WhitTritt heads up to the betting window alone, I trust her at this point and makes her Derby bet. We head out, watch the race, and as soon as the horses cross the finish line, we sprint out to catch our ride home. As we are sitting in the full van learning the tragedy of Eight Belles, WhitTritt pipes in, “I think I may have won some money on that race.” Our driver, a race horse owner, whips his head around (I would have preferred he keeps his eyes on the road, but whatever) and immediately begins peppering WhitTritt with questions. She reviews her bet.

WhitTritt: I voted for Big Brown because he was the favorite. And I voted for Dennis of Cork because I liked his jersey. And I voted for Eight Belles because she was the only girl.
Horse Man: Wait, you bet all three?
WhitTritt: Yes – trifecta?
Horse Man: Well, I am pretty sure you just won a lot of money.

When we get back to my house, we immediately get on the computer to confirm the results from the race. WhitTritt had indeed hit the trifecta on the Derby. She had bet, thanks to the woman at the betting window, a $1 trifecta box (total of $6) and had won just over $1,700. She had to pay taxes on her winnings. It was that much. You can read her recount of the story on her blog.

So the Derby is only four days away. Can’t wait!

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