Who Do You Like?

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 8, 2021 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Who Do You Like?

A good friend calls me on his hour’s drive home at night. I enjoy our catching-up times and we cover many topics. – We’ve been handicapping buddies for quite some time, and truth be told he may have bested me in that department. It was until we knocked around a subject on a drive home one evening that got me thinking.

“What do you think is harder, Ed?  – Contest play, or cash gambling?” Well, it’s a tricky question to ask a gambler especially one who has played in every contest in the country. – “Brian, in my humble opinion, it would be the contest arena. There’s only one way to play and it leaves you very few options.”

He listened and I could hear his wheel spinning. – “Ed, I disagree. Playing for money is harder.” – Now, this is like picking your favorite parent. A no-win situation as someone is gonna be the loser. But after this hour-long drive, we came to a standoff. Here was my explanation.

Playing for cash is just that. You can play place parlays, exactas, a pick-six if you feel lucky. – You bet a little or go all-in. The essence of betting for cash is you get to call your own shots. – Quite when you want, or extend beyond your plans of playing. It’s all up to you.

Cash betting was where betting started for the majority of players, and it was how we all cut our teeth. – Contest play is a completely different animal. – Talk about a good start, I won the very first contest I ever played in for the NTRA / NHC in Las Vegas. So, I had a great start in my journey and have a little understanding of both sides of the coin.

I loved hitting the track back in the day and playing nine live races and heading for the door. You knew exactly what you had to work with, and then the game was done for the day. – With the advent of simulcast wagering long ago, the game went from under-hand toss to 90 mph fastballs. – You could play from noon till midnight. You had a buffet of races from a multitude of tracks. Cash playing is king. You can pick and choose to call your own shots.

Now, the contest element is a bit different. There are rules for rules. – Maybe you can’t bet exotics, some are cash bankroll, and others are just a fixed number of races from one track. You have limitations placed on your gambling right from the start. – Now, I’m not about to say I’m not in love with the jack-pot payoffs and the added competition. But, for this gambler, the contest arena is tougher. There are just more rules and you really have to be extremely focused. Overall, you find yourself playing a 15-1 shot just to stay alive where you would have been happy as a pig in mud with $10 to win on a 3-1 shot. All good fun, but you have limitations on your game.

I’ve always felt there were good handicappers and bad gamblers. But the contest format has always been an opportunity for good gamblers to make their mark. – I’ll let you have three 2-1 winners for my one big 15-1 shot who may set me up for a big run. That’s the difference. Not only are your handicapping skills put to the test, but they are also teased by forcing your hand into finding that double-digit score to put out their lights.

In the end, we laughed as friends and agreed to make a trip to a tournament soon. – Here’s one that will give you a little more insight into my friend.

We were playing in a big contest at Churchill Downs. It was the first race and we both liked big price runners to start the day. – As they turned for home we’re neck and neck and ten on top of the others. Both horses were over 20-1 and one of us was going to get the big score. That was when my friend of 20-years looked at me and said; “Ed, one of us is going to win and I’m happy either way.” – It may have been magic or just the honor of a good friend telling me the truth about how he saw the day starting. – As they hit the wire together, I already knew the better man had won. And, he did. He was in Las Vegas later that year playing for the big money. – I got the old “did pretty well excuse, and I’ll get em’ next time story.”

Both styles of playing still make me get goosebumps, and bring more excitement than any slot machine ever could. – We’ve been friends for many years, and I’m sure that is the biggest winner this gambler could ever have. I guess that makes me a winner no matter what.