There are no written rules posted at the race track, yet there should be. From behavior to attitude, there are a lot of things the average horseplayer should know.
Thus, I present to you my 10 commandments of playing the races:
#1 Thou Shalt Be Considerate of Other Horseplayers
I can remember standing in a long line at Monmouth Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon with five minutes to post. I figured I had enough time. I was wrong. The lady in front of me placed a couple of wagers totaling ten bucks. Although I was getting a little anxious, I figured I’d be able to make my bets and be back to my vantage point before the race went off.
Wrong again. She pulled out a change purse that was the size of a small country and proceeded to pay the teller with nickels and dimes. It was too late to abandon ship and get into another line. By the time she finished, the race started.
Likewise, the first time you look at the track program and/or past performances should be before you get in line. I am a strong proponent of handicapping the night before the races and only making adjustments for scratches and changes on race day.
Be considerate to the other horseplayers. If you know you are going to take a long time at the window, go up a little earlier when it is not as busy.
#2 Thou Shalt Check Your Tickets Before Leaving the Window
You’ve done your homework. You’ve been tracking this horse since it was a yearling. You know you can’t lose. You are superstitious and went to your favorite teller, Mary. The stars are all aligning in your favor. Your horse wins easily and you nailed the exacta too!
Wait a minute… your ticket says Parx and not Saratoga? Who is that four horse anyway, you wanted the five, right? There is a lot going on as the clock ticks down to post time, tellers can get distracted or your fingers can hit the wrong buttons.
It only takes a minute to check your tickets before leaving the teller window, self-service betting terminal or your computer screen. If there is something wrong, you can get that ticket refunded and create the correct one.
#3 Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Friend’s Ticket
How did your college roommate nail that monster trifecta anyway? There is no logical way you would have had the seven on your ticket.
Keep doing what works for you.
How could you have ever guessed that playing his high school locker number would hit big in one race?
#4 Thou Shalt Not Talk Smack
You are on a good streak today? I would suggest keeping your enthusiasm to a minimum and not talk down to a fellow horseplayer who is on a bad run of luck. Don’t be a Mr. Told-You-So to everyone you see. The karma bus has a funny way of finding those that get a little too proud. You are only one troubled trip away from being in the red some days.
#5 Thou Don’t Have to Play Every Race
No one makes money playing every race. Go with what you know and where you think you have an edge. If you are like me and are routinely short on time to handicap the entire race card, triage the races to find where you might have the best opportunities.
#6 Money Is Worth the Same No Matter What Track You Play
I have a friend that only plays Saratoga and Del Mar and professes that is where the real money is made. I play a variety of tracks based on my schedule and time to handicap and watch the races.
It doesn’t matter which tracks you play, the money you win from Penn National is worth as much as the money won at Saratoga. Play the tracks you like and where you have success. Don’t knock the guy next to you that is playing Mountaineer, he might be cleaning up there right now.
#7 Thou Shalt Know When to Stop
You can’t seem to pick a winner. You were close two races back, but lost a photo and an inquiry. It’s just not your day today. Instead of continuing to throw good money away with less and less confidence, go home and regroup.
Tomorrow is another day.
#8 Thou Shalt Ask for Help If You Need It
A little known racetrack fact: Most horseplayers will offer up advice if asked. Whether it is how to place a particular wager, where something is at the track or what a term means, most of us are actually rather friendly people.
Years ago when my friend Walter and I would spend a lot of evenings at the Meadowlands, we would always field questions about how to place a specific wager or explain how to figure out what that wager would cost. It was always fun to see those people back at the track and even have them come over and thank us for our help after they managed to make a few bucks!
Some tracks even feature Betting Ambassadors. These are usually volunteers that either roam the apron or set up at a stand to offer wagering and handicapping assistance to anyone who has a question. It is a great way to learn and understand more about racing and betting in a comfortable environment.
#9 Thou Shalt Have Fun
Unless you are one of the few professional gamblers I know, you should be having fun at the track. If you aren’t having fun, chances are you are also not winning and should take a break before you either burn out or blow through your entire bankroll.
#10 Thou Shalt Not Bet Over Your Head
Don’t bet money you don’t have or money that you need to pay your bills or support your family. If you think you have a problem, get help. Contact 1-800-GAMBLER and get the support you need.
These are my top 10 commandments for horseplayers, what are yours?
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 email@example.com.