By Ray Wallin
There are many unwritten rules of the race track. One of the most important is being considerate at the windows.
We’ve all been behind a guy like our friend Rail Guy. Post time is ticking ever closer and the line seems to be moving. Rail Guy is in front of you and as he steps up to the window you know you’ll get your bet placed in time.
Or will you?
As Rail Guy steps up to place his bets with your superstitiously favorite teller, Tommy Too-Fast, he starts off with his usual “Gimme da…” only to pause and lean back to look towards the monitors. Is he deciding what he wants to bet now? Didn’t he tell you how great that “five hoss” was in the paddock for the last 15 minutes? Now he is second guessing that choice?
As the field loads into the gate, Rail Guy looks like the college quarterback that got under center only to stand up and look to the sideline. Any hopes of placing your bet start to fade. You can only think one thing.
You don’t want to be like Rail Guy.
If you follow these four simple rules, you won’t piss off those who make their living playing the races or even the weekend handicapper who is stuck behind you in line.
#1 Be Relevant
I know how much you love talking to Tommy Too-Fast. Heck, he got his nickname for being too fast punching bets in. Yet when you are at the windows with under five minutes to post and a line growing behind you, it isn’t time to ask how his wife and kids are doing.
When it is your turn to place your bets at the windows as post time is quickly approaching you need to be all business. The small-talk about the wife, kids, dog, and vacation spots can wait until after the race goes off.
Do everyone a favor, be all business when the race is close to post time.
#2 Be Clear
In my nights spent on the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand there was no one as confusing at the windows at the Marine. He would be confusing in conversations with me and my faithful track buddy Walt. Often the Marine would ask us a question and we’d meet his inquiry with a “huh” or “what” before we could understand what he was actually asking us. One night he was trying to ask us what colleges we went to, but it sounded as if he asked “what collagen we used.”
He didn’t fare much better at the windows. He mumbled. He kept his nose in the program so that muffled his bets. You could often hear the tellers ask him loudly “what track” or “what horse” over and over.
Point is that you need to be clear when you are placing bets. The tellers aren’t mind readers. You need to clearly state the track, race, wager, and horses. If you leave it up to them to interpret what you want you will get a ticket with the wrong horses, track, race, or even wager type.
#3 Be Concise
We’ve already established that your favorite teller, Tommy Too-Fast, is almost like your extended family. As a matter of fact you spend so much time at the track that Billy the Bartender may end up being the best man in your wedding. Regardless of your relationships with the folks that work at the track you need to be concise at the windows.
Take our friend Rail Guy. He loves to talk. You know that he loves to talk to anyone who will listen. The tellers are there to do nothing but listen, granted it is only for the wagers you want to place, but that doesn’t stop Rail Guy. You know that he’ll talk your ear off in the paddock and then find another unwilling soul to latch onto while he is standing at the rail during the race.
When it comes time to place your bets though, be concise. The teller doesn’t care about why you are placing this wager. They could care less about your opinion of Journeyman Joe the jockey or how you think the pace will set up in this race. Say the track, race, amount, wager, and horses. That is all they care about.
#4 Be Gone
You have finally gotten to the window. You have been clear. You have been concise. You have avoided the small talk. You have your bets in. Take your tickets and go.
Think of the folks behind you. Think of when you were stuck behind Rail Guy last and no the horrendous body odor.
Be considerate of your fellow horseplayers. You are trying to take their money. Let them get their bets in and your odds will get better. If you really want to find out how Tommy Too-Fast’s wife and kids are doing, catch him after the race is official. They’ll be enough time before people start lining up to bet on the next race.
Regardless of your level of horseplaying there is one fundamental rule of etiquette that you should follow. Be considerate of others at the windows. You would expect the same courtesy to be extended to you so you can get your bets in for the race. So remember to be relevant, clear, concise, and to be gone to ensure that your fellow horseplayers can get their bets in. Who knows, maybe their wagers will help you win more money on that race. You can always go back in between races to find out what Tommy Too-Fast is up to this weekend or what other hot tips Rail Guy has in “da fifth race.”
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.