Wednesday, October 30, 2013
From the first day I landed in LA, it seemed I hooked up with one gambler after another. Some were occasional, casual gamblers --
upstanding citizens, and others were guys who only felt alive when betting their last red cent.
But doctor or pauper, they all liked the horses, and with few exceptions, every dollar they bet only circled the drain.
For a time, I had these two friends, G and T, a gay couple that we called Gin and Tonic. Tonic was a nurturing mother-figure, and Gin had been raised by a very different kind mother altogether. Gin's mom lived at the track, in her clubhouse box at Del Mar and Santa Anita, and Gin had reached maturity on a diet of nachos and Pepsi. Thanks to Del Mar, though, he was also an excellent surfer.
When the mom died, Gin invited me and my husband of the moment to her house; his house now. It had a wide-screen TV and one chair in the living room, and that was pretty much it. "What happened to your furniture?" I asked. He looked puzzled. "You don't like the chair?" "Oh, sure, it's a great chair. But the room, I mean, what about a table or sofa." "Oh well," he said, "That was Mom. she didn't like to dust."
If we joined them at the track, Gin would bet every single race. And not just a single bet. He bet all across the board -- exacta, box, baseball, cartwheel, and any other exotic on offer. He effectively left no horse uncovered. After every race, Gin would pass Tonic his beer, then search his pockets and sort through the 18 or 20 tickets. "I can't believe it!" he'd say, jumping up and down. "I won!"
But I'm digressing. Because everything I learned about racing and handicapping I learned from Don. A professional. A college swim coach who quit his job once he found the secret. He considered handicapping his job, and the track was his office, and he bet on class. He had a system, a great head for numbers, and the gift of self-discipline. Don could go an entire season without laying one single bet. I'll share his secret tomorrow. He wouldn't mind. He'll always be in business. Betting against hotheads made him a rich man. At the track, only cooler heads prevail, and you don't need two hands to count them.