Friday, April 01, 2005

Gambling: A Day At The Races

Back when I was a kid, my brothers and I would watch the Santa Anita races on channel 56. Before the race started, they'd pan down a list of the horses on the racing form, and we'd each pick one, usually based on a cool name like "Unrequited Love" or "Mugging Grandma."

But pretty soon, I started to figure something out. Instead of picking a horse based on a name, I started picking the horses based on a number. Not the number they wore on their side, but another number. It was usually the last thing on the chart, and for some reason, they'd usually subtract one from it. I didn't know why.

10-1. 4-1.

Why didn't they just write 9, or 3?

I didn't know. But I did start to figure out a good way to pick winners. Pick ones that had a really low number right there. I didn't win all the time, but I was winning way more often than my brothers.

I'd learned the sad truth of horse racing. If you want to win, you have to bet on favorites. And if you bet on favorites, the odds are so low that you barely get back what you paid, and even a few losses can tip you negative pretty quick, with no way to recoup it.

There's lots of horses that would pay you more, but those usually aren't the horses that are going to win.

Unlike gambling, there is a bit of logic can be employed here. I'm told the best way to pick a winner isn't to know horses, but to know trainers. If you know trainers, you can trust them to know the horses.

But that's not any more foolproof than any other "system"--underdogs are horse racing heros.

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