Sunday, August 13, 2000

A Day at the Races

I went to Laurel Racetrack yesterday with Mensa. I'm sure that sounds like we figured we could beat the system, or makes people wonder what smart people are doing throwing their money away on the ponies. But, really, it was just a social event.

I had never been to the track before, so it was an interesting experience for me. I had to ask a lot of questions before starting to get how the whole betting thing works. It's neat; the final odds are not determined by a handicapper, but by what bets get placed on which horses. So if lots of people bet on a longshot, the odds come down. It take a little getting used to, but it's really a "free market" type of system, and those things are pretty darn efficient most of the time.

I decided I was willing to lose $20 (we figured to stay for less than 10 races, so that would allow at least a $2 bet in each race). I announced this fact, to everyone's great amusement. My strategy was simple -- pick the horses with the most interesting names (e.g., Party Guy, so I could yell "Party! Party!" during the race). The strategy worked for my first two bets -- but I kept letting things ride and lost $10 on the third bet. On my fourth bet, I wanted to bet the favorite but at 1-5 odds (or 2-5; it kept fluctuating), it hardly seemed worth it. So I went for the exacta. Voila, now I had another $10 to bet. But I lost that bet, and the next one. We decided to leave early, and I was only down $10. So on the last race, I put 2 $5 bets on the longshots, one to show and one to win. The 40-1 longshot I had to win was leading pretty late into the race, which was exciting, but he ended up fading to 7th. Such is the way of longshots. The other horse ended up 9th. Anyway, all in all it was pretty fun, and a fairly slow way to lose money.

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