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Unwritten Rules of the Racetrack

by Ray Wallin

I love going to the track. I especially love sitting out on the grandstand apron at Monmouth Park on a lazy, sunny Friday afternoon in the summer.

We are all there for the same purpose, to make a few bucks and have a good time. Yet there is one thing that can ruin a racegoer’s day faster than a pop-up thunderstorm — someone who doesn’t follow the “Unwritten Rules of the Racetrack”.

So, whether you play $2 show bets or you make a living playing the races, don’t be the guy that ruins the day for everyone else.

#1 Be Humble

Your horse won the race; in fact, you nailed it. It is okay to be happy. It is okay to cheer. But you don’t need to carry on like you won the Mega Millions for winning a $50 exacta. You also don’t need to continue to brag between seeing the payouts and the next post. Be considerate of the guy next you that missed that race big time. Rubbing it in will only cause the karma bus to hit you harder later!

#2 Be Considerate at the Windows

We’ve all stood in that line, anxious as the start of the race is getting closer and closer, waiting for our turn to place our bet. Your next in line as Rail Guy steps up to the teller.

He leans in and says, “Gimme da…”, only to lean back to stare at the monitor, like the college quarterback that gets under center, only to then stand up and look to the sideline. Is he really deciding what he wants to bet now?

He sure is.

Know what bets and how much you are playing before you get to the windows.

#3 If You Need Help, Ask Early

The only thing worse than being stuck behind Rail Guy as you hear “the horses have reached the starting gate, it’s post time” is to be behind someone who has no idea what they are doing. My favorite was hearing the clearly confused guy, Newbie Nick, say to the teller that he wanted to “play that bet that has, um, like two horses or, um, three horses that can all win the race” as the horses were entering the starting gate.

Once he figured out that he wanted an exacta, he was shocked at the cost of the ticket and wanted to make it cheaper. Needless to say, there were a lot of upset horseplayers in that line!

If you don’t know how the bet works or what it is called, go to the betting windows early. Many tracks have “racing ambassadors” to help educate the newer players on what the bets are and how they work. Other tracks have tellers designated for bettor assistance. They expect that you will have questions and need some guidance.

Don’t be shy either. Ask a horseplayer. Many of us don’t mind helping someone out, as long as it isn’t under five minutes to post!

#4 Cash Out After the Race

Here we are back in line to place our bets. Rail Guy finally made up his mind and Newbie Nick finally got the hang of betting an exacta. Now, Big Bucks Billy is in front of you and has decided he has had enough for the day, with two minutes to post before the next race.

As Big Bucks Billy hands over all his winning — as well as some losing — tickets, which are more crumpled than a single that the vending machine wouldn’t accept, you realize that you’re never getting this bet in either.

If you are done for the day, respect those that are still playing and wait until after the race to cash out.

#5 Don’t Make It Rain

You lost. In fact, you got beat bad on that race. Do us all a favor and instead of tearing up the tickets and making it rain confetti outside on the apron, throw your tickets away in a trash can. Have a little respect for the folks that are there to clean up the mess you leave!

#6 Don’t Mess With Someone’s Stuff

We all have a spot that we like to sit at. We shouldn’t need a security officer to make sure that someone doesn’t steal our program, pencil, lunch, or half-finished beer. While we can take some of our stuff with us when we bet or hit the restroom, we shouldn’t need to bring everything with us.

Really, what did you want with half a chicken finger and some warm beer anyway?

#7 Don’t Stop Others From Having a Good Time

This is within reason, of course. If they are drunk and menacing with those around them, they should get a visit from track security. Yet, if someone doesn’t want to be bothered, stop harassing them about which horse they like in each race. Likewise, if they don’t want your advice, don’t give it.

Find Rail Guy instead, he always wants to chat!

#8 Control Yourself

We’ve all seen that guy who has to scream the entire race. His urging will certainly get his horse to the finish line first, right?

Probably not. The only thing that will move faster is security getting ready to toss him out!

It is okay to cheer for your horse, but don’t make a spectacle of yourself. You’ll not only embarrass yourself, but your spouse, kids, or elderly grandmother too.

In the age of social media, you know that a video of you being a jackass will surface somewhere on the web, right?

Enjoy your trip to the track and be considerate of those around you that are there to do the same thing.

What are some of your unwritten rules of the racetrack?

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