Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Betting class



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.



24 comments:

  1. Can't wait. Gambling is such a trip, good or bad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, I am expecting to profit from this system tomorrow, so I'll be watching closely.

    It's got to be better than my system of betting the same number in every race!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I went out with a guy (once) who was a professional gambler, at the track. I didn't really see a very stable future with him. (The pun was accidental, but it's staying in. *grin*)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, I'll do part 2 later today.

    Carolynn, in a way it's a fairly austere life. They may have houses, but they essentially live in hotels near the track, and travel each season. From Santa Anita, for example, to Gulfstream to Ruidoso Downs. And if they're going to stay in business, they don't drink. Not at the office, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love the bit about not liking to dust. Reducing 'clutter" is one way to cut back on it.

    I've heard that betting on horses is more profitable than a casino or the lottery - if you know what you're doing. And I presume it's not controlled by the mafia, as with casinos? If you win too often in Vegas, they kick you out.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm very curious to find out what handicapping is. All we have here is betting on the dogs and the state lottery and since I'm not a gambler I do neither. I hobestly don't know anything about betting on horses but watched both episodes of Jack Irish and tried to understand what he and his "associates" were doing at the track but was left merely pondering it. I finally concluded they made their profits by betting in order to ultimately skew the odds in their favor. We all have to make a living.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Our friend Greg (the chubby guy every year at Thanksgiving) has a brother who can't stay away from the ponies, and his ex-wife would bet on anything. She abandoned him and his kids for the track when the kids were 3 and 2, and never came back.

    But I'll be interested in seeing what the secret is, even though I'll never use it. I've worked too hard to gamble away even a portion of my life's savings. And I want to have more than a chair in my living room.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This has the makings of an interesting book...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Every time my dad's in town he goes to the track with cousin Don. I thought you might be talking about him, except he's not a rich man, and actually he's kind of a hothead.

    This is a really, really good. I definitely want more.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I ain't a gamblin man. But still a winner in my own mind.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My dad used to love racing horses... Every Sunday he used to go to Jockey Club in São Paulo.
    Sometimes me and my sister went with him and I remember the noise from the crowd...
    Amazing, your post make me remember this so vividly...

    ReplyDelete
  12. That’s some of your zippiest writing—very enjoyable, really moves the story along, and it makes me want to know these three characters more, even though gambling is one vice that doesn’t tempt me.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Karin and Karen went to the Breeders Cup today (it's split between Fri and Sat), and I left $26 to the good. Make that $12 to the good, because we spent half my ill-gotten gains on to glasses of beer.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I like good story telling, and that's good story telling.

    I'm not into horses or gambling (except when it comes to trying out new recipes on guests -- that's pre-warned guests), and I'm looking forward to what's coming.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm hooked. The idea of "the track" has always been a fascination. When I was growing up there was harness racing nearby - you stayed away from the place in the summer because traffic backed up for what seemed like miles. "Real" horse racing would have been worth the trouble.

    ReplyDelete
  16. idid I ever tell you how much I enjoy the reading experience of your stories. like sparkly gems.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Altadena Invisible FriendNovember 3, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    More.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great post! Although I don't gamble at all anymore, many would say I bet excessively in a former life. I used to have a friend (now deceased) who worked as a bartender at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos. He was also a bookie! Needless to say, I spent a great deal of time at both of these places. I met some of the most interesting people EVER at the track. My gambling sport of choice however, was football.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I forgot to add that it sounds like your friends (and the mom) were most certainly race track characters.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You are such a good writer. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  21. In my first "permanent" teaching job I worked with a guy, the Athletic Director, who used to take off at lunch and head to the track. He bet daily...and won more often than not. As a matter of fact, that was his second income. Of course, that was in the day that the school was a bit disreputable and he could get away with it!!! The four of us in the PE department went to Santa Anita once (after school hours)...he gave the other female PE teacher and me tips which of course we bet on...we went away $200 richer!!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ah, thanks for the nice words. It gives me much pleasure to revisit this part of my life.

    ReplyDelete