It began as pitching pennies in the boys room in grade school. Learning the art of the “leaner” was better than a first kiss. – We started playing 5 card draw in study hall back in the day. The matchsticks we used had a value of 5-cents, and the teacher didn’t mind as she thought we were using basic math skills as a learning tool. – Shooting pool in someone’s basement became the best night of entertainment for a dollar-a-game. You know it always gets to $5 by the end of the night, and that’s when someone’s feelings got hurt. – Cutting grass is a great way to save for college. My efforts and hard work earned me money for a noble cause. Betting the ponies on the weekend. – Other kids in school used to read the paper for box scores and who was pitching that night. Not me. The library paper was a conduit on keeping up with who was winning at Santa Anita, Arlington, and Belmont. – Yeah, it’s fair to say. As far back as I can remember all I wanted to do was be a horse player.
I can remember the smells and sounds of the backroom bookie hall. Men would stand around listening to an a.m. radio giving the pre-recorded stretch calls from 20 after and 10 til the hour. – You could get a bet on at the bar, and most of the wagering was done on the cuff. There were not many kids back there, but the few of us that were just stood next to dad or grandpa and watched. You didn’t bother the men in the inner-sanctum. It was the holy place of wagering long before tracks wised up and the simulcast explosion took hold.
Big race days were like golden nuggets. The action of running around with the old man collecting bets from the family and neighbors on the street was exciting. They didn’t bet much, and everyone is a racing fan on Derby Day. – Most looked at the old man as a gambler all year long, but had no problem calling him three nights before asking if he could get them a bet. – The excitement was intoxicating, and the realization of how the masses viewed gambling would stay with me the rest of my life. When it was time to go to work in the industry, these thoughts helped me to bridge the gap and soften the view on gambling. It continues to work to this very day when I talk to folks about going to the track. I always lead with; ” You don’t have to make any bets. Just watch the folks around you jumping and yelling for their horse and you’ll have a great time watching the horses and people winning money. – BINGO ! – That was all it took and it wouldn’t be long before they would start asking how to make a bet. They weren’t going to sit on the sidelines and let the easy money go by.
As far as work, there was no better place in the world. How many people can honestly tell you they love what they do ? – Now take away the few that make big money and how many are left ? – That’s right, you could fit them all into a phone booth. – I had access to all of the handicapping information for free, started watching more than ever, and there were some tough days early on. In the end you’ll either learn to control yourself, or it will control you. – Tracks were the only places to get a bet on back in the day before the lottery, casinos, or any other form of gambling. Working at the races was an honor for the few that loved the game. You can always tell who they are just by listening to the stories and how the races have been shaping up. – By 5:00 pm on race day there was an energy that pulsed through the old building. – If you were a horse player, this was as close to heaven as you would see on earth.
Everyone has taken a shot at doing it for a living. They may not talk about it, but trust me I saw more than my share. – The “$2 Nellies” made a bet here and there and were out for the night. Old men smoking nasty cigars would be seen walking around stoically with a Daily Racing Form rolled up in their pockets. It never failed to see at least three or four “stoopers” who would walk around flipping tickets on the ground with soccer-like accuracy. – There was a man and wife team who contacted the track about helping with cleanup (free of charge) at the end of the night. All they wanted was to sweep up the tickets and take home the bags and sift through them the next day. – The race track was a melting pot of humanity. You could see CEO’s talking with the track touts, and men of industry making bets with both hands. You’ll never see anything like it if you live three lifetimes.
But as time passes and your perception changes, you start to see the truth. Gambling has been one of America’s past times, and the stigma that was once associated with going to the track is now seen as a way to spend your discretionary dollar. It’s your entertainment, and who has the right to say this is wrong ? We don’t tell others to stay out of bars, stop shopping, or quit buying that fancy car you can’t afford. – The game that was the only one in town is now the bottom of the barrel choice. The new guard has sanitized the word to “gaming” so you don’t even think of it as making a bet. You’re just enjoying a few games like your kids do when they have that zombie look. – But I digress. If you want to make a few bets, be sure to educate yourself before heading out to the races. You can learn on-line and watch how-to videos. My son wanted to go out to the track with me one evening. He started watching videos three nights prior and had more than an idea of what’s going on. – If you’re going to bet more, I would suggest watching race replays, and follow the charts of a couple of select tracks. Anything more than that, and you’ll need a data provider that will assist in making selections as they do it day-in-and day-out. This will allow you to have an educated perspective on what’s going on. – For the whales and big time players the old saying still applies about listening to others’ words of wisdom. ” Wise men don’t need it, and fools won’t heed it.”
I was having lunch with my dad. We talked about everything under the sun, and he started talking about giving up his old habit as he has lost interest. He even insisted that I do the same. – Now on most occasions he may have a glimmer of truth to his words. – But I love the game. It doesn’t matter if I have a $2 bet, or a giant pick-four ticket in the works. I love it. – These players are rare in the gambling world. How many people do you know have to keep the same seat in front of a slot machine for a certain game ? Or, how many bingo players only go to a particular venue without fail as it is their lucky place ? – Horse players are a select group. It is like the game show Jeopardy as it takes a cerebral approach to not only selecting the runners, but how to bet them is of equal importance. – Just like in school when the teacher would ask where do you see yourself in 10 years, or 15 years ? – I want to raise my son and prepare him for college. He’ll go on with his life as that is what we do as parents. When he is on his way and finds his calling, I’ll probably make my way to Las Vegas to live. I’ll be the old guy in the front row who gets there early, and has the same seat everyday. I’ll still be doing what I’ve loved all of my life, and what a life it will be. – I’ve seen so much it would fill an outdated phone book. I’ve had the opportunity to work around the industry I love. Radio shows, internet blogging and writing, on-air handicapping, racing seminars, creating player programs to grow a fan base, and having the distinct opportunity to call the races and be an odds-maker. The friends I’ve made along the way, and the incredible people who I had the pleasure of working with. – If you’ve never really known a happy person who loves everything about what they do. – You’re reading the words of one now.