Three Reasons Horse Racing is Your Best Bet

After all of the trips to Las Vegas, Laughlin, California, Florida, West Virginia, Indiana, and now Ohio. I have become a seasoned player in the world of glitz and glamour. It seems every trip I’ve ever made has me looking to break even by the end of the night. Oh, there have been a few sweet nights at the tables, but overall it has been an exercise to break even. Do you call that gambling? I used to take $50 bucks and would get to play some 25-cent video poker. If there was any windfall. Off to the $10 blackjack table I would rumble. That $50 has graduated into $200, and it never seems like it is enough. If I take $200 to the track. With a little restraint and a couple of winners, you can bet dollars to donuts I’ll hang around for the feature race.


1. – Bang for your buck

If you’re playing three tracks. One live, and two simulcast. You select the best races from each track, and in the end you’ll have around 12-14 races to play. This allows me to take a breath, and do some well deserved thinking. When I am at the casino, the winning hand I just had gave me just enough time me to rake back my chips as another hand was rolling out of the shoe.

Some decisions at your local casino are made for player comfort to extend the amount of time played, and some decisions are made simply based on casino income, as with any business. The casino expects the player to get 60 hands per hour.

Racing has post times around 2o minutes, and you have time to collect your thoughts. If you stick to the 12-14 race plan, and you take a $200 bankroll. You can make it stretch as long as you like. Unlike the casinos where there is a minimum, and you see the cards at a machine gun rate.

2. – Blinded by the light

Casinos develop everything from when you pull up to the doors with a fast paced music playing your favorite 70′s and 80′s songs. That is the target demo, and why not let them hear the Stones or Zeppelin? The bright carpet patterns would make Walt Disney toss his cookies. This is a design to keep you moving, and circle you into particular slot areas. Have you ever walked around and felt like you were in a maze? Yep, it’s all by design. A design that will part you from your kids college money before getting your free dinner buffet that only cost you $300.

Pari-Mutuel wagering is “betting among ourselves.” Simply put, you are wagering against all of the other players. The track takes a percentage called a takeout from each dollar wagered. Is usually runs about 17% on WPS wagers, and 21% on exotic plays. The casino rakes in all of the cash, and pays you out in a secret formula to allow you to accrue comps. Here is an example from Vegas Tripping, an award winning guide to Las Vegas. – You are a $1 video poker player, and you play in one hour sessions three times per day. Your stay this trip will be three days. – Here is how the casino sees you: Your video poker play is calculated at 500 hands per hour, three sessions daily and three days long. – Your donation to the casino is calculated to be $20.7 per trip, and your expected should be free drinks while playing.

At the track, the margins are different. Use an 18% blended takeout rate. Now split that 18-cents from every dollar in half. 9 cents from every dollar goes to the horsemen in the form of purses (prize money). The other 9 cents goes to the track for state and federal taxes, keeping the lights on, upgrades to the track, advertising, and paying salaries. – It doesn’t leave much on the table for free trips and spa sessions. This is why racing needed to saddle up with casino companies who purchase them and make plans to build for the future. At first, the news is about the creation of jobs, and how racing will benefit from added exposure. For every track that has shown an up swing in attendance, purses, and handle. There is a leveling off point, and business eventually gets back to the old formula. Who suffers the blowback? The racing industry with purse cuts, and the downsizing of racing dates. As a wise man once told me, “the devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t.”

3. – Win baby, win!

Casinos greet you at the door with a high powered “hello, and thank you for coming to XYZ casino.” That is not customer service. That is a stale greeting with no feeling, and only meant to get you engaged in conversation and feel good about coming.

As long as I have worked in racing, I felt you have 3 minutes as players walk in. “Joe, good to see you. Best of luck today.” “Ronnie, good luck today. Let me know if I can do anything for you today.” That’s it…. Greet them, meet them, get out your message and get out of their way. Racing fans typically do not want to be bothered, and you have already let them know you are there for needs. Turn them loose and let them play. Playing the races takes a bit more thinking than pulling the lever or tapping a button. Now, with all due respect to high limit card games and craps. Don’t bother them as well. Just when they have all of the numbers covered and have odds on each one, a waitress comes up and asks, “would you like a Jack and Coke, or a Rum and Coke?” – Stay clear, and don’t feed the animals. They know what them want, and how to get a ahold of you. Every time that lucky gent has the dice and all numbers are decorated. Up comes a $5 newbie or a waitress, and the dice go flying off the table.

Casinos have a plan. Win, and win it all. – This reminds me of an old farm saying that you can sheer a sheep many times, but only skin him once. Race tracks and any form of pari-mutuel wagering wants you to win every race! Now this is a tall order, but they make their money off of every dollar wagered and the takeout percentage. I know this may sound a little tough to believe, but just ask the pit boss to explain the comp system and you’ll swear you just asked for the recipe for the secret sauce that makes the new tax code book look like 2nd grade homework. Racing offers the needed creature comforts, and the game is changing to offer a better dining experience where you don’t have to sell your house for a  hot dog. Tracks are offering entertainment, music, drink specials, and a sports bar feel. Call it a learning curve, and the only way for them to survive, is to get out and support the game. Baseball, football, and every other sport has no problem asking fans to come out and show support. Why should racing feel silly about asking? Just think, if you went to see an NFL game and there was a betting window. I’ll go out on a ledge and guess they won’t have any problems filling the stadium to capacity.

The long and the short. It is up to you as the player. What do you like? Where do you think your discretionary dollar will last longer? I know racing can be a little intimidating, but this is not your grandpa’s game anymore. There is a huge movement for fan education, and easy wagers that can be made at beginner windows. Players can wager by phone, tablet, or computer at most tracks. This has allowed fans to enjoy the sport, and not have to stand in lines or wait for a seat at the tables. Education is key, and racing has a edge. It can come in the form of a free on-line tip sheets, handicapping webinars or videos, and the ease of motion of getting your bet down with no one looking over your shoulder. I had racing on the mat receiving a standing eight count. But if we look a little closer, maybe the evolution is slowly moving to cater to the next generation of players. – But don’t wait too long. If you do, you may be sentenced to sit a video slot terminal losing your car payment on your lunch break.

Action Behind the Action

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 18, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

... reading horse racing past performance forms. This is good beginnerWhen you went to the track as a youngster, you could expect to see about nine to ten races. Full card simulcasting was not yet in play, and every once in a while you were given a treat with a marquee race from a track far away. No, it wasn’t from Dubai, Hong Kong, or Australia. They were old dusty screens, with a limited view of the ancient TV’s that could have been in your aunt’s living room. But it was exciting. Once you got to know the lay of the land and the everyday players, you could find the “hidden” action. There was always a bevy of bookies on hand, and if you were a little short on cash they would be glad to get your action on the cuff.

Making a wager

Most tracks give you more than plenty of action. They offer a live schedule, and a full simulcast menu. But when that wasn’t enough, you could always head out to the fifth row in the Carroll seating area and get a bet down. There are rows of well-lit seats and each has an individual screen. There are about 10 seats in a row, and in the middle was a gent who was more than glad to get your action. Older men who did not want to make the walk to the windows would sit and shout down the row. “Gulfstream, $3 to win and place #9. Santa Anita, $1 exacta box 1-3-4.” You would toss down the money, and you were as good as gold. He would take in the wagers, and would pay as soon as the race was over. His area was filled with cigars, racing programs, and sheets of paper. His phone would ring constantly as he took sports wagers as well. – As the track would struggle on a daily basis, his business was booming. Once I asked him to make some wagers using his loyalty card. Since he was there everyday, it would show strong activity. This is where he would dump off the bigger wagers or ones with big price runners. He would just run it to the windows and receive points, and would still service his players. – A couple of days last year I grabbed a seat with the guys, and they would call me “kid” as I was about 30 years younger. I had a blast making last minute wagers, and at the end of the day I came out even. If the track paid a little closer attention, they would have found a sweet chunk of wagering action that was right beneath their nose. Hey, who am I to tattle on the boys??

Pin the tail on the pony

There was a bevy of action that could not be found on the wagering menu. Some of my favorites were “Race Track Roulette.” You would look at the card, and select a horse. You would add the numbers of the winning horses, and at the end of the ten race card. Here is an example of how it worked:

* You select a runner from each race and add up the winning numbers. Now comes the good part. You could “tease” the number a point or so, and this could help you get closer. The odds would lower with the number of points used. Here is a glimpse of some payoffs with added points.

*If you wanted to add one point. It could be used up or down. If you chose 78 for the card, you could have 77, and 79 as well. This would pay (15-1) with a $10 top wager.

* Two points paid (10-1), three points paid (5-1), and four points paid (2-1). – This was just another fun bet to play. The players had fun, a few beers, and spent the day doing what they loved.

In the Money

Another gem that allowed you to make a four, five, or six race wager. All you had to do was select a runner who ran 1st – 2nd, or 3rd in each race, and pick the winner in the last race selected. The bookie had the right to select which races could be used and odds didn’t matter. The payoff was as follows:

*The four race ITM = paid (10-1), a five race ITM was a whopping (20-1), and six race ITM was (30-1) . The minimum bet was a buck, and the max was $10. – I struck gold one night when I hit a $10 six race ITM on Aqueduct, and stopped back later that night to nail another six race bet.

Long ago there was the local book who would take your bets. No ADW’s, off-track shops, and computers were 15-20 years away. You would make a bet, and look for the results in the racing section of the local newspaper. Yes, you heard it correctly. The local newspaper had a “racing section” that offered full charts of the in-state track, and results from around the nation from marquee tracks. If you made a wager on Santa Anita, you would have to wait two or three days until the results hit the form. There was no internet, result line, or picking up the phone and dialing the track. They didn’t have telephones except in the main office, and they would guard the information with their lives.

Times were simple, and you thought the action was non-stop. I was introduced by my father to the local bookmaker.  They were two old men who used to take my dad’s and grandpa’s action. One would take the calls, and the other would meet at a local bar to square up. – I had a $20 per week limit, and all I had to do was stay out of trouble and make passing grades in school. This was pretty easy, and the old man knew what I wanted to do. He kept me in line not by grounding me like Ward Cleaver. He would hit me the hardest, and my $20 allowance would be taken away. I can still remember my first bet with the book. I had $2 to win and place on Lt. Bert. When I was on my way out the door for school, my dad laid the paper on the kitchen table folded open to the results. He paid $20 to win… Times were simpler, and you wouldn’t think of allowing your kid to take part of anything of the sort. But he knew what I loved, and this was his way of letting me follow my passions. – I am 48-years-old, and have worked at four race tracks. My part time work in the parking lot at 18, Race Book Manager, Player Development Manager, Director of Marketing, ADW Coordinator, and presently I am calling the races and making the morning line at Belterra Park. Things have a way of coming full circle.

The other day I was approached by an older gent who knew me as a younger man. “Ed, do you still love working at the track? It must be hard working weekends and holidays.” – “We’re not chopping wood or carrying drywall all day. We’re at the track. Hell, I would pay them to be here.” – Thanks, dad. Funny thing, I still get that tingling butterfly feeling in my gut as my car pulls into the parking lot. I haven’t made a million dollars, drive a new sports car, or taken lavish trips to the Bahamas. But, how many people get that feeling of wild anticipation when they pull in the lot for work ? I bet right about now you’re thinking about what you do for a living. But as the saying goes, “find a job you love, and you’ll never go to work again.”


Bombs Away/Place Parlay – Did You Hear That?

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 14, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

The target has been identified, and the command has been given. Well, maybe not that dramatic. Three guys started off a mild mannered place parlay, and it stands at $1750. – We are using the Winning Ponies E-Z Forms, and we’re ready to fire. Finally, we all come into agreement and the Saratoga card will be targeted on Thursday with any and all winnings to be directed at Arlington Park for the Arlington Million card.

When you have three differing opinions with solid cappers. It can be tougher than a nickel steak to get everybody on the same page. When I suggested the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms, and showed them how well they score. This ended the argument of who was going to have final say. Wish us luck, and be sure to follow up with our progress.

Race #4 -  The $100,000 Saratoga Dew – 1 1/8 – 2:04 P.M.

#2  – Little Rocket (10-1) = David Michael Lopez up for Michael Ferraro. This New York-bred affair may offer better value than appears. With a water logged sloppy oval at Saratoga on Wednesday, I would say there will be plenty of moisture in the surface. This 4-yr-old daughter of Yes It’s True is  4/6 ITM on the off going, and sports the “Should Improve and Moving Up in Class” handicapping icons. She ships in from Finger Lakes and the barn wins (31%) and is ITM (54%) with their road game. She owns a 52+ Last Race Rating and a 48 Composite Rating. She is going more ground which leads me to believe we can expect a much closer trip going from 1 1/16 to 1 1/8.  – $550 to place #2.


I was reading the past performances for Saturday’s morning line, and up jumped a story. By now it is old news, but news just the same. Larry Collmus is set to become the successor to Tom Durkin. Durkin retires on August 31, and the ultra-talented Collmus is ready to take the booth. I am happy about their choice, and they have one fine race caller who will bring the action to life. If you were a baseball player, would want to  take Babe Ruth’s spot in the lineup? How about bumping the Beatles to be your opening band ?

I know, I know, a little over the top. Tom Durkin had a voice that told stories. His vocabulary is never ending, and his colorful description is one-of-a-kind. Durkin has been NYRA’s voice since 1990. Mr. Collmus will no doubt put on the best show in the land, and in my opinion is one of the best in the world. I started listening when he was at Suffolk and he made cheap claimers sound live, and brought to life the marquee events. He brought energy to the Jersey Shore at Monmouth, and his voice at Gulfstream Park was a signal that big things were happening. It looked as if it couldn’t get any better until Churchill Downs must have been listening to NBC and how he was becoming the sound of racing. His call in the Derby still gives me chills, as I can still hear “Oorrrrrrbbb!” Larry Collmus was (1-9) in my heart when I heard Tom Durkin was hanging up his binoculars. I know plenty of great race callers, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you’ll be hearing some new voices step up to the plate. Keep your ears tuned to Florida, and you’ll hear one of the next big-time callers on deck. Back to Mr. Durkin. There are some that can accurately catch the field, and some that entertain us with clever quips. Tom Durkin could make the menu at White Castle’s sound like a four-star meal. His voice brought full color to the races, and if you only heard the race, you had the best seat in the house. I am happy for Mr. Collmus, and I always felt if you were “big time” you were in New York. I think they made the right choice, and if you disagree I’m sure there is a fair circuit mic with your name on it.

I will miss Durkin’s calls. For the rest of my life as a racing fan I will be waiting to hear there is a “torrid pace, moving powerfully, and someone is lumbering along.” Yep, it’s fair to say I’ll miss Tom Durkin. The race calls that still brings chills can be brought back to life by just a few words; “Hear comes Personal Ensign unleashing a furious run on the outside, and Arazi runs right by them… And he is pouring it on, and Jerry Bailey calls on Cigar for everything he’s got, and here is the incomparable, the invincible, unbeatable, Cigar.” I have chills running down my arm,  and tears gathering in the corners of my eyes. But as Tom Durkin would be first to say, “the show must go on.” It will go on, and new memories will fill our hearts as talented callers bring to life the sport we love. I have been listening to Saratoga on this sloppy Wednesday, and the voice of Tom Durkin is like I fine cigar I want to savor. Thank you for the many memories you have given the racing world, and the torch you are passing on is in the right hands.

Money for Nothing, and Your Action is Free

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments >>

This promotion is live until the 8th April and Begado Casino had ...

This past Saturday was a solid day of racing at Belterra Park. Now, I know its not Del Mar or the Spa, but it was the only track I was going to be in attendance. As I was walking in, a new player stopped me on my way up the elevator. He introduced himself, and I did the same. After we hit the top floor, he was more than interested in racing and made no bones about being a newbie. He asked me if I would give him the nickel tour someday, and I asked him if now was a good time? After a half an hour and talking with a next generation player. I started thinking about what attracted him in the first place, and what would it take to engage a newbie to leave the slots alone, and move toward the horses?

I explained about the three stake races, and the big money on the line. He asked a good question for a newbie. “You mean I can win $50,000?” Now, for the racing fans who may find themselves snickering. It was a good question from a new player. They aren’t familiar with the good horses running for the money, and they come from the casino side of gaming where players can win big money on certain machines or big promotional events. – This was food for thought as I walked him to the elevator for his ride back to the glitzy casino world.

I love the idea of a big winner. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to have a life changing payday? Racing offers very few, and for the ones that pay out the big dough. You have to smack down big bucks, or be one of the best cappers on the planet. So where does this leave the new player? Taking the elevator back to the casino.

How about a player pool? New players as well as regular racing fans could pluck down some money and have a shot. Yep, you could dance in the sun and not know much about the game. Wherever there is a large carryover, or a huge guaranteed pick-four pool. There could be a player’s pool at the track. Fans could take part buying a “share” of the pool, and would be entitled to a payoff depending on how much they invested. Just like every ADW does, and many betting sites. The track could offer up a host of handicappers from the DRF, Equibase, and the morning line odds maker. The pool would close the night before. They would start at $2, and it would be up to your comfort level on how much you want to invest. The tote company would sell “shares” to players by making wagers at the windows, on betting machines, or phone or tablet. The wager would be a group venture, and could be paid off by cashing in your ticket. – The wager would be designed by the group, and would be posted on the website, the tote board, the infield screens, and even the tellers could punch out a copy of the selected tickets. Sound easy, well it is…. The “Big Ticket” is a do-able venture, and it may catch the interest of gamblers who don’t know much about racing. They’re already there and that is the hard part. Casino players are more than seasoned to play for the big jackpot for a minimal wager. They know the odds are long, and they still play anyway. Why don’t we show them that racing has some great opportunities, and the odds may be better. I’ll bet if they hit just once they’ll want to learn more about racing. What do we have to lose? We have a built in captive audience, and all we have to do is get out the message.

At most racinos and casinos, there is a “bad-ass” sports bar. If not, they may be leaving plenty of money on the table. But I digress. How about keeping a roving clerk that will move around the bar selling tickets on the races. There will be a dedicated bank of screens, and the bartenders could sell programs and other data. How about a free tip sheet for the players who want to catch the big game, grab a brew, and watch a few races? Sound like fun? You’ll probably catch me in there from time-to-time. Good food, cold beer, football, and horse racing. What more can you ask for?

Most tracks make a chunk of their money from food and beverage. How about bringing them all together?  No more keeping right and left hand separate, now is the time to crank up the action. What could be better for any action junkie?? As far as the big ticket, you could have free drawings shares, and all they have to do is have a loyalty card and be on hand. The track could pony up from the advertising budget and buy in for $1,000. Gamblers from all walks love the idea of winning something for nothing. Why not give them the opportunity?

10 Superstition Breakers

Black Cat Superstition

Gamblers are a peculiar sort. They march into the track with the luck of the Irish, and leave with a pocket full of excuses. But that is the essence of racing. You can be having the day of your life and all it takes is one bobo to grab your seat by mistake, get you shut-out, or come up and ask you who you like as the runners are loading into the gate. Here are some ideas to beat back the demons and repel the attack of the unlucky.

1. – Never lie to go to the track. This is a sure fire way to part you from your wallet. Free advice is worth every penny you pay, but for me anytime you have told a tale to get to the windows. – Lights out! – You’re done before your first bet.

2. – Never lend money at the track. It will take away your mojo and toss it right into the can.

3. – When a fellow player comes up and asks your opinion of who you bet. Just remember these words: ” I didn’t make a play. I am just scouting for horses next time out.”

4. – No bragging. This is a one-way ticket to getting your butt kicked by the Wagering Gods.

5. – Do not bore your fellow gamblers on how you hit the big one. – Once again, just take a look at #1 for how this turns out.

6. – There is no such thing as a hot tip. If it was that good, you wouldn’t know. I was chatting with an assistant racing secretary, and he said over the past twenty years he has heard two stories of solid runners who lived up to the bill. He only gets about 30 a day, and it is better to shut out the noise.

7. – There are no real bad luck tricks. They are all in your head, and you make them come true. Just cut out the distractions mentioned above.

8. – Bet early, and don’t handicap in line. If you are still unsure at this point, grab a  beer and watch the race.

9. – The guy screaming in the back row is trying to show you how good he is doing. Have you ever noticed he is always right there at the top of the lane ? – I once asked a screamer about his winning day and he honestly told me he hasn’t made a bet all day. He was just getting in the zone. – Block out the noise.

10. – Do not play the blame game. It is not the jockey, the color of his silks, or the moon in the 7th house of Jupiter. – No excuses, and as the Dalai Lama once said, “Those who live their life blaming others, are bound to suffer greatly. ”

Try this and see how it works. Do your homework the night before. Know about the connections involved, and have a strategy on how you are going to put them to work. If you are serious about the day, I would download the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms to get you started in the right direction. If you block out the distractions, come prepared, and have a plan and stick to it. I think you are on your way to dodging black cats, peacocks, and the cracks in the sidewalk. Repeat after me: “It’s all in my head, and it’s up to me to determine my outcome.” Let me know if this helps you at the windows, and in the meantime you’ll become a happy handicapper!


The Many Faces of a Gambler

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 6, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

About now, you’re ready to go to that introspective place and see if any of this fits. That is not the case. There is no correlation between what one fan does and how others conduct themselves. I have always been of the opinion that working at the track is one of the best places in the world. The people have been the most fascinating aspect of the sport, and there is nothing to compare. Over a period of ten years, I have watched one particular player redefine the role for me. I always knew about the dark side of wagering, but little did I know it would be so close.

Paul was a waiter in an upscale restaurant. The kind of place where you told others you may have been, but could not afford the tab. He made very good money, and drove a nice car. He would drive out on a Saturday afternoon and play the races until 4:30, and then it was back home to get ready for work. I would see him rushing to the windows with his 80′s jacket over his t-shirt. His hair was fluffed back and his collar could withstand the wind as it was up high enough. He would “snap” at the televisions and you could hear him screaming, “that’s me, that’s my horse.” Paul was a man of the times and you would never see him stay past his time as work was his passion. One day he pulled his car into valet and introduced a bunch of teenage boys to his gal. “Guys, this is Becky, and she is my lucky charm.” I can still hear his words as they walked through the turnstiles and he had his arm around her waist, and a Daily Racing Form in the other.

He soon married Becky, and we would see them coming in for lunch and dressed to the nines. He was always great to the parking guys, and I would hear stories from the tellers of how much he tipped when he hit big. Times were good, and it looked like he was on easy street. Very few men can have the girl of their dreams, a job that they loved, and the money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. This went on for my years in parking, and it seemed over time that he would come out more and more without Becky. No matter to valet guys, as he always tipped well. It was about this time I had moved in from the cold parking lot to an inside job at the track.

I was working in admissions and would reconcile the turnstile monies, and calculate the program sales. Not bad work, and I was able to play the races. I started a new position with the new ownership,  and I was in charge of handling the needs for the biggest players. In a casino this would be your pit boss type or a casino host. But racing was behind the Vegas timeline, and I was making up the rules as I went along. I started a database with player info, created parties, trips to Las Vegas, and special rebate rewards. The Wagering Gods were smiling down on me. One day I was approached by a man who looked familiar. It was Paul, but he looked much older. His weight did not fit that suit anymore, and he was in jeans and an old sweatshirt. “Hey, Eddie! How have you been? I’m glad to see you working your way up, and they couldn’t have picked a better guy.” – “Paul, good to see you my friend. Let me know if there is anything  I can do for you.” Those words would come back to haunt, as he started coming to my office more and more.

Part of my duties was overseeing the cashing of checks from big players. I never had any “bad paper” on my watch, as I knew the players and we knew how to get ahold of each other. Paul came in one day, and wanted to cash a $1,000 check. My limit was $10,000, and as long as I felt good, management was on board. The check went through, and this went on for quite awhile. One evening, Paul came in looking a little rough. He looked like he was out on an all night bender. “Ed, can I cash a little check?” – “Sure, Paul. How much?” – “$5,000 ?” – I signed off on his first, and it went right through. Then it was more and more, and he asked if he could be put on the list to cash up to $5,000 per night? I gave the nod, and all was good for quite awhile.

The track was expanding and plans were full steam ahead at this time.  I had grabbed players from other tracks, and they started bringing friends. “Birds of a feather flock together” was my line in our weekly meetings. We would discuss who was coming in, and what was I doing in terms of expanding the program. I felt very blessed as management had given me the “green light” to pretty much do as I saw fit. I worked hard to gain their trust, and never wanted to let them down. The day I was called into the main office, I was sure they were going to tell me how business was up. But this was not the case. “Eddie, do you know there is $15,000 worth of bad paper from Paul?” – I played it off and told them I would ride over to his work and we would take care of this. When I arrived, I asked for Paul.  I felt my legs go numb when they told me he had been fired two months prior for stealing. – I knew the police would be called when I returned to the track, and called his cell. I had all of the big players numbers, and they had mine. But when I called, his number had been disconnected. I had one other out, and reached  to a friend who use to come with him on occasion. When he told me the sad news, I knew this was going to end badly. – “Becky left Paul about a year ago, Ed.  She was tired of his lying, and he had taken it too far.” I asked him if he could get him to call me today as I was going to have to get the police involved. – He agreed, and said he would have him call, but not to expect anything good.

After Paul started yelling and screaming on the phone. He called me every name under the sun. “I can’t believe you would send police after me about a little money.” – I tried to explain, and asked him to meet me to work this out. – “Don’t call me, I’ll be over on Friday and I’ll get you some money.” – Paul did come over, but his $7,000 was short of what he owed. The track wanted their money, and we couldn’t take a payment plan as this would keep the police from taking him in as we agreed to a payment plan on our terms. – I went to the president and asked him to let me work on this. I had a two month plan, and we would get him off the list. – I knew he was selling his home and would have the money. The track quietly backed me, and I got him square with the debt. It was over 15 years that I did not see Paul, and I assumed he had either cleaned up or disappeared.

I was walking out of the track the other day after calling the races. I love to stop by the race book and talk with some old friends. That is one of the best parts of my day, and every once in awhile I’ll buy a beer or two for an old friend. – I got up from my seat and was on my way home when a older bald man approached me. “Hey, Ed. It’s Paul.” – He looked like a shadow of his old self and it was as awkward as anything you’ll ever feel. “Hey, Paul. How have you been?” – Paul had been in jail for 12 months, and had trouble with bad checks at a few casinos. He coughed at the end of every sentence, and had a half glass of beer in his hands. After a minute or two at the most, Paul looked at me and asked if I could spare a $10 or a $20. – He would be good for it, and see me the next day. – I thought about his car, the job, and how pretty Becky looked. I thought about the path of destruction he had taken and how he looked like a shell of his old self. “Sorry, Paul…. Tapped.”

I was walking out and could still hear him asking another player to spot him $5 for the next race. The walk to the car was quiet. I knew that for every success story of big players and party rooms. There was a guy like Paul who slid through the cracks. He had fallen through the ice with nobody to save him. As I started my car and made my drive home. It was hard to believe, and I wasn’t a newbie who knew this couldn’t happen. It took me back to a story he once told me while asking for  a check to be cashed. ” I was up, up really big. I bought a few rounds, and told myself two more races. When I started losing, I bartered with myself that I would stay until I got even. When the losing got worse and the thought of getting back on top was not going to happen. I just blew the rest of the money. Why keep it? I’m back where I started.”  - For the many good players, gamblers, and professionals who made their way to live in Vegas. There are those who get caught up in the game. You see it in casinos, tracks, and the many who are hidden playing from home. They have a flaw in their make-up and for some there is no cure. I’ll bet dollars to donuts you can spot them anywhere a bet is being made. – They look just like you and me. They sit in the next cubicle at work, have a kid on the baseball team, and look perfectly normal. Until they reach the end.

Belterra Park / Place Parlay Wagers

It has been 50 days into the Belterra Park meet, and there is definitely some angles to take advantage of before heading to the windows. What was once the beautiful River Downs has now shape-shifted and rebuilt in the image of a glitzy casino and new race track. The track is smaller than most, but the game has dictated that “less is more.” If you take a look at tracks that are undergoing a facelift or coming up from the ground, they are smaller and more intimate. The game has changed, and the majority of handle comes from ADW’s and in the form of simulcast revenues. But that aside, there are some angles you’ll want to examine before downloading your first E-Z Win Form.

The track is a one mile oval and has a 6 1/2f chute. The turf course is taking shape, and next year the oval will be the only track in Ohio with a state-of-the-art greensward. If you’re going to make a visit, the grandstands are a bit smaller than you would expect, but offer an excellent view of the races. The River Downs Club is the simulcast parlor, and offers seating and tables with TV’s and access to bar and food service. There is a large patio area above the paddock and offers up a super view as the runners make their way into the casino turn. Stadium sports bar is a great place to grab a bite, and catch the races on one of the huge screens everywhere you look. Overall, the new oval is going to grow, and the needs of the players are being taken into consideration for future planning.

I have found a few items that may be of help before you dive into the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms. After 50 days and halfway through the meet, there are some running styles that need a second look in the tier levels.

* Be sure to play any runner that is shipping in from Churchill, Keeneland, New York, Florida, and Chicago. Presque Isle runners have done pretty well, but the poly-turf switch may not be conducive. Use some runners from Fairmount Park if they are dropping in class and coming from solid barns.

* Be sure to look for runners that are making their second start over the track. Double up if there was a troubled trip, and workout between races.

* Powerhouse connections of Billy – Donna- Justin Hays and trainer Joe Woodard are extremely tough off the claim, and double tough with Perry Outzs in the saddle.

* Use Yuri Yuranga in the saddle for Lynn Wilson. Eddie Zuniga for Claude Brownfield and Jamie Grubbs, play everything that Bobby Pate sends out. Anything Perry Outzs is rides will be a short price overall, but you’ll always get the best effort.

* Use out of town riders for big races and stakes.

* Don’t discount John McKee, Dean Sarvis, and Edgar Paucar.

* Always use Doug Cowan’s runners –  Ivan Vasquez, Sergio Baez, and Jeff Greenhill’s barn can win at any level.

* After seeing every race run. The track overall is unbiased. Be sure to use more stalkers overall, and without an exact length figure, I would try and find runners who 3-5 lengths off the lead. Sloppy tracks tend more speed runners, but be careful when the tracks starts to dry and it becomes muddy. This where the stalkers and closers get back in action.


The Place Parlay has not been forgotten as one of our partners has been out of town. We agreed to all have a vote, and we waited until the three of us can look over the E-Z Win Forms. – We started Saratoga with $1,655, and wagered $600 on out last outing. We have $1,600 and had a third and a winner last out. Here is our agreed upon play for Thursday:


Race #2 – Mdn Sp Wt – 1 1/8 – 1 p.m. EST

#4 – None Like Nolan (9-5) = John Velasquez up for Todd Pletcher, and they’re winning 41% as a team. This three-year-old is shipping over from Monmouth Park, and switches up from “Jersey” Joe Bravo, and with 80% rain expected the soft going may be to his liking. – This is our first wager since 7/19, and we decided to up the ante and take a shot. - $600 to place on #4.


Free Advice is Worth Every Penny

You’re sipping your coffee on the patio, the sun is brightly shining, and the wind that is gently blowing the trees and rustling your Sunday paper. For a moment, you feel like the king of all humanity enjoying the small pleasures in life. As a habit, you take the phone with you not to disturb your serenity. Just as you sit back in your comfy chair and taste the warmth of your morning pick-me-up, the phone rings. You hesitate to pick up the line, but you do anyway as you don’t want your karma disturbed. Fifteen minutes later and a headache that is beginning to pound behind your eyes, you’re only wish on this beautiful morning was to leave the damn phone in the tub while it was filled to the brim with water.

I have a pal who loves the races. He travels and saves up money to take his one-man-show on the road. He starts announcing his arrival months in advance, and it has the sound of a severe weather alert. You know what is coming, and you can’t stop it. The sirens should be blowing to alert the public, but this tornado has your name on it, and it will touch down any minute. You get up and spill your coffee down your robe and run to shave and shower before the big arrival. The hurried act is not for his benefit, but it is so you can use as it as an excuse and explain you have to head into work.

Just as you tuck in your shirt, the doorbell rings. There he is dressed like a tourist and bellows out, “what’s happening lazy ass.” – “Not much here, just getting ready for work.” As he belly bumps his way through the door and starts yammering about horses he has been watching. You think back to the bright morning sunshine and the gentle breeze blowing through the trees, and how good he would look tied to the tree with his list of hot horses stuffed in his mouth. But I digress, it isn’t the odd visitor who disrupts your harmony, it isn’t the bellowing voice that could wake the dead – it is the imaginary system he has “invented” to bring all the world the fruits of his handicapping labor. After a 15 minute machine gun attack, he looks at you and lets out his call to the wild, “So, who do you like lazy ass?”

I explain that working at the track takes up most of my time, and I don’t have as much spare time to keep up on the horses. He snorts, and takes off his blue-blocker sunglasses; “bull crap, you have all the time in the world.”  He is right, and we all have the same amount of time in the day. I choose to use my time creating the morning line and making notes about the races for the day. – I have had a secret weapon since 2008, and it has served me well. It saves me time, and allows me to focus my efforts on how I will bet instead of who looks good. My pal loves to take on the world with limited time, and uses the excuse of loving to bet as his calling card. When I asked him the golden question of the morning, he turned his head like a dog and look at me in the most curious manner.

“Dude, how would you like to have a process where the field is broken down into tier levels? How about handy icons to alert you to special works and changes? How about a one-of-a-kind rating system that allows you to see where the runner stacks up against the competition? And last but not least, you won’t have to pack around two folders of notes and two Daily Racing Forms?”  – ” Great, but it doesn’t exist on this planet!”  – I looked at the clock and saw that I have ten minutes before I hit the door. This should be about 3 minutes longer than I need, but here comes a lesson for the great lender of free advice.

I grabbed my computer from my bag and dialed up the Winning Ponies site. – I showed him how to log on, purchase Winning Credits, and take a look at his favorite track. We are 2 minutes in and he is viewing the color coded tier levels, and I show him the handicapping icons which grab his eyes and the rating system numbers. He is now scrolling like a mad man, and we are 4 minutes into handicapping. His smile shows me he is on board, and for a man who would not shut his trap, he now is looking at the detailed past performances with gusto. – ” t has everything in my bag, Ed. Notes, past performances, and notated Race, Composite, and Turf class ratings… I could save a ton of time, but how good are they?” – When I pulled up the $5, 924,200 paid out in 2014 for exotic payouts. He began to smile even bigger, and the best part was he was not giving out his one-of-a-kind advice. – “Could you print this out for me?”  ”Sure, no problem this one time. I want you to spend more time handicapping and less time trying to pour over the data. Just purchase your credits, and you can follow along any day. They put up every result in real time (or as soon as the race is official) and you can see how the Winning Ponies E-Z Forms are preforming.” He thanked me and grabbed the pages as they came off the printer. As soon as he had them all he started toward the door. “Thanks, lazy ass. I’ll see you at the races.”

Later that day, he came up and said he was $125 up and it was only the fourth race. For a guy who made his way by dolling out free advice and creating his own handicapping methods, he was winning with professional guidance. I think the next time we speak, I’ll look forward to his visit. We’ll have some data to discuss, and how we’ll plan the day of wagering. Overall, it lasted 9 minutes. It seemed to go quick, and it was even easier to show and use. As I drove home that day, my phone rang with his special ring tone of “the call to the post.” He said he has never enjoyed a day at the races like that in a long time. He thanked me for showing him the data, and I think another player has just taken his game to the next level. When you find a data service that puts out their selections in real time as soon as the race is official, charges for only the races used if you are getting a late start, and gives you all of what you were looking for in the click of the mouse look no further. I’ve never known of a data provider who allows you to change the weather tab if the track comes up muddy, or if they are off the turf. You’ll get a brand new set of E-Z Win forms to allow you to adjust to the day. No charge. How about using the easy to read color coded tier levels with handicapping remarks? Or if you’re a fan of detailed past performance notes on riders, trainers, and what their specialties are for the year. Look no farther.

The Hidden Costs of Freebie Comps

topics gambling seniors fixed income gambling industry casinos ...If you’ve been living under a rock, or been stuck on a remote island. Gambling is at a fever pitch. No, not that gooey-love-story chic flick. The fast paced world of gaming is growing outside of the box, and I don’t think we’ll ever get it back inside. I have had the pleasure of speaking with racing handicappers over the years and the million dollar question is “Do the tracks want us to lose our money so they can get rich?” Not so fast there Quick Draw. After all said and done, take in the whole story and decide for yourself.

Casinos have been around since the glory days of the Rat Pack in Vegas, and Atlantic City offered up the first volleys of junkets to get you fed, drinking, and gambling for days and then jet you back home with a significant weight loss. You don’t have to go very far these days, and within 40 miles of my home there are four casinos, two racinos, three race tracks, and the lottery. Oh, and toss in charitable bingo and church festivals who look to keep the coffers filled. Here’s an idea we could employ to stop civil wars, and terroristic warfare. Let’s drop mobile casinos complete with restaurants and top notch games of chance. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that its hard to shoot a gun while pulling the one-arm bandit, or filling your plate at the all-you-can-eat.

According to Al Moe gambling expert for About Home:

The most important influence on casino handle is what is referred to as “time on device.” Regardless of what is bet, if there are no players, there is no handle and no profit. Casinos maximize their income when they find ways to increase not just their house edge, but the average bet AND the amount of time each gaming device (table spot or slot machine) is in action.

As a business model, the overall handle is a product of capacity of use, game speed, and average bet. This is why all club comps are based on your average bet and the hours played, not on how much you win or lose!

A casino with 1000 slot machines is only successful if they are in constant use. However, the utilization of game space and betting minimums at table games can be deceiving. This is why it is rare to see a blackjack game with a low $2 or $5 minimum, even if players are wandering around wanting to play that amount while there are several $25 tables with no players.

This phenomenon is best explained by the math produced for expected win per hour at a blackjack table. With six players betting $2 per hand, a dealer can get out 375 hands to the players. The total wagers (excluding double downs and splits) will equal $750 and the house expects to win 2 percent, or $15. However, just a single player at a $25 table will produce $4,125 in bets per hour where the house expects to win 2 percent and a total of $82.

Obviously the $25 game will be dead at times, but that single player easily makes up the difference, and if all the tables have low limits and there are no seats available for the big better then the house is losing out.

So, some decisions at your local casino are made for player comfort to extend the amount of time played, and some decisions are made simply based on casino income, as with any business. The above example also probably illustrates pretty well why a $5 blackjack player can only expect to earn about 30-cents per hour in comp value from their play.

The casino expects the player to get 60 hands per hour, so their total bets per hour equals $120. Using the same 2 percent house edge, the casino will retain about $2.40 from their play. Giving back 30-cents equals a comp value of 12.5 percent, which is pretty good. Most casinos hold the line between 10 and 15 percent.

This takes me back to the movie where Bugsy Siegel brings back a sign from a Nevada gas station that has slot machines inside. It read, “You can play longer.” Translation, you’ll lose your shirt, but it will only be when your butt is getting numb from sitting on the seat.

One of my favorite beliefs of casino slot players is the 98% payback. Now, that is not 98% payback in the form of jackpots, but you’ll get a coin or two at an overall 98% rate. Just think, you wager $5 and get back 75-cents. They lived up to the bill, and you did get paid, but it was not in the form you had in mind.

According to Frank Legato of Casino Center: “Payback percentage” is one of the most misunderstood terms in the casino industry. Many players think it means how much of the money they put in a game that will come back to them in jackpots. Others think that the casino has a switch somewhere that officials can throw to lower the payback percentage on the machine they are playing, to cut down on winnings. Both of these assumptions are incorrect, and both are part of the circle of myth and misinformation that surrounds the slot machine. For the record, “payback percentage” refers to the portion of all wagers placed into a slot machine or group of slot machines that is returned to any and all players—not just you—who enter money into the machine or machines. In the case of the “Loosest Slots” issue, the payback percentages are based on actual statistics reported to regulatory agencies by the casinos. They represent the total amount of wagers placed in slot machines over a year that was returned to the players in the form of jackpots, segmented into various denominations.

Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing, Greyhound Racing, and Jai-Alai want you to win. Yes, you heard it correctly. They want you to win, and win big! Pari-mutuel wagering is set up a bit differently. Tracks are set up with a takeout rate. This fluctuates from state-to-state, and the exotic wagers have a different percentage than win, place, and show. In Ohio, the WPS percentage is 18%. That means there is 18 cents taken from every dollar wagered, and the rest is paid back to the players. No random numbers, lucky rolls, or hidden jackpots. The monies collected are split in half. 9 cents of every dollar goes to purse money for the horsemen, and the other 9 cents goes to the tracks for taxes, wagers, improvements, promotions, and salaries. That is a pretty slim margin, and now you know why tracks have needed the casino industry. Casinos offer glitz, glamour, and free comps. This allows racing to stay afloat in the meantime, and hopefully catch its breath.

According to Bill Burton, Casino Gambling Expert: Pari-mutuel betting is credited to Pierre Oller a French perfume shop keeper who in 1865 had the idea in to sell tickets on a horse race and keep all the proceeds in a common prize pool to be split amongst the winners. (Pari-mutuel means betting between ourselves) After the race was over Pierre would take a five percent handling charge and then distribute the rest to bettors based on the odds established by the bets made on each horse. Pierre set up his wagering system in the racing parks and by 1887 pari-mutuel wagering became the legalized form of betting in France.

Around 40 years later in 1927 after proposals led by Sir Winston Churchill, the English Parliament passed legislation establishing pari-mutuel wagering as the legal betting system at all tracks in the country. Around the same time pari-mutuel wagering was adopted at race track in the United States.
Around that time a young engineer name Henry Straus left a Maryland racetrack angry over the payoff he received during a race. He bet a horse with posted odds of 12-1 but only collected 4-1 on his winning ticket. At the time there was much corruption at track around the country as odds were calculated by hand. Straus along with some fellow engineers founded the American Totalisator company (AmTote) and invented an electro-mechanical device which would accurately calculate the odds of a race and assure an honest payout while displaying the odds on a lager electronic board. The first machine was installed at Pimlico race track in 1930.

Today the odds are calculated by faster computers and the tracks may take a slightly bigger percentage of the pool but pari-mutuel betting remains the same as it was over 100 years ago.

Time is of the essence. Racing has always allowed time in-between races, and you can catch your breath. I have always liked to relish a win and have a little time to decide which race I would play next. Time allows you to take it in and enjoy, and it is more of a cerebral game. I would like to think we have a little thought in our wagers. Whether you’re betting #5 in the 5th, the old grey nag, or the one who takes a dump on the track. You have time, and it can be on your side. You may decide to make a good wager a little later and grab a hot dog and a beer. Gab with some buddies and keep your head. The old saying of “bet with your head and not over it” echoes in the back of my noggin when I want to pick up the pace and follow the casino chase. The takeout alone allows you to see where the money is going and there is nothing random about how the track makes their money. – So, the next time you and the little lady want to spend the evening out enjoying a little “gaming.” – Think about betting the races. The beauty and pageantry is second to none, and I’ll bet you have never heard a player scream at the top of their lungs for two minutes straight at a slot machine. Unless they are begging for their kids college money back, and asking the machine for gas money for the ride home.

Commandments of Wagering

Clouds parted and thunder rolled. Something big was about to happen, and it would change the way gamblers would look at wagering forever. No more would we curse the darkness and wonder why the universe exacted payback for our mistakes. From this day forth, gamblers from all walks would have a guideline of how to ruin a good streak of luck.

Maybe it’s not as fire and brimstone as mentioned above, but gamblers now have an idea on how we can be our worst enemy. We all are guilty of one or more offenses, and if you cannot put yourself in any category. Just keep playing, and you’ll find yourself in a jackpot wondering how you deviated from the road of prosperity. Here are some golden rules that you may want to employ before making your next wager.


1. – Thou shall not lend money at the track. Usually about the time you are on a roll, you’ll have an old friend come up and ask to borrow some cash until payday. Now, they may be good for the loan, but from that point forward you might as well walk to the car. You’re done for the day.

2. – Thou shall not brag about the big win. You waited all day, and hammered the runner the public overlooked. The cash comes in wrapped bundles, and you can’t fit them into your pocket. The winning wasn’t enough or either was having the gold. You had to tell the tale on how you took down the big score. The Wagering Gods hate a bragger, and see #1 on what to do at this point of the day.

3. – Thou shall not borrow money to gamble. This is known as “dead money,” and you are better off going fishing or to the movies with borrowed money.

4. – Thou shall not try to bet your way out of the hole. We all have bad days, weeks, or years. There will be better days, but sometimes we are not content on waiting. We double up and try to win our way out of the wagering funk. The Wagering Gods hate a glutton. “The pigs get fatter, and the hogs get slaughtered.” Guess which one you will be?

5. – Thou shall not blame others for our loss. It was traffic, the lady reading the program in line, the jockey must have been out all night drinking. If you hear this little voice in your head, know that a money beating is soon to follow.

6. – Thou shall not put gambling before family, friends, or loved ones. If you find yourself telling the big fib to your wife, or the can’t make it into work because I’m sick tale. It is over before it starts. - Wait for another day, and you’ll be a happier horseplayer in the long run.

7. – Thou shall not wager on a hot tip, or inside information. First, there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy. Second, there is no such thing as the above mentioned items. If you had inside info, would you tell others to knock down your payout? If the tip was hot, why would you tell anyone who will tell thousands of others. You can find inside info at every track. You’ll see that 10-1 shot drop to 3-5 on the first flash. If it is not, the public will assume it is and jump on the bandwagon.

8. – Thou shall do your own homework. Don’t take the word of Joe the barber, Tommy the tout, or Gus the bookie. Do your own work, or seek the guidance of a professional service who does this daily and posts their stats for the world to see.

9. – Thou shall not use bill money or your mom’s birthday present cash to make a wager. If so, you are dead in the water before you start.

10. – Thou shall enjoy the game, be kind to fellow players, and keep a positive attitude. If you fail to obey the above rules, you’ll be condemned to bet from your basement on an old computer, and grind out long slow losing streaks.

It may not be as bad as told, or it could be right on the money. It is up to you to follow the methods of the proven gamblers, or you will have to suffer the consequences the hard way. You’re call. If you think this is just smoke and mirrors. The next time you’re at the track, watch for any of the above mentioned mistakes that will drag you into the worst betting funk of your life.