Sunday, March 25, 2007

Playing the ponies

I have never been a particularly lucky person. Don't get me wrong, I have a great husband, a wonderful family, blah, blah, blah. I'm blessed. But the only thing I have ever won was a coloring contest for children 10 and under. I was 12. It was one of the only times in my life I've appreciated my short stature. However, my lack of a relationship with Lady Luck has never stopped me from thinking I'm Nathan Detroit when it comes to any situation where gambling is involved. I think its the lingo -- double down, let it ride, flat busted -- that I really love. Also, most gambling involves some sort of drinking, which is always a plus in my book.

On Saturday we went to Santa Anita to watch the races. It was dollar day, meaning entrance, programs, popcorn, hot dogs and beer were all just one dollar. ONE DOLLAR. And people say America isn't a great country. When we entered the grounds I was pleasantly surprised. I expected a den of iniquity -- but instead it was more low brow Disney. Sculptured bushes, a fountain, clean paths, it was lovely. Of course, this was at 11:15 in the morning before the races had ever started. By the end of the day almost every inch was covered in losing bet slips and tears.

Once we had gotten our first dollar beer of the day (priorities), I prepared to make my first bet, realized I had no idea what I was doing -- and that there was MATH involved. You had to figure out the odds, and the percentages, and how much to bet in order to win more than 30 cents. All I had wanted was to pick a horse with a funny name and win a lot of money. But now I had to THINK! Fortunately, I was not the only clueless one at the track, and so there was a tutorial going on. About twenty of us sat there with our mouths hanging open, listening to the talented Howard explain things like
Trifecta, Exacta, Win, Place, and Show -- pretending that we spoke the language. After about a half an hour Howard finally realized none of us knew what he was saying -- and simply went through the races, telling us which horse to pick in each race.

Kent picks his ponies

For the first race Ryan and I decided to bet on "So Long Sonoma." Five dollars to place. We felt pretty ballsy because we were going against Howard's recommendation -- and going with the advice in the betting guide. I went off to get more beers. By the time I got back the race was over. Those horses are fast. "So Long Sonoma" had come in second -- and we had won three dollars and fifty cents. I saw my future spreading out before me, weekends at the track, fresh air, cheap beer, and the money rolling in. Then "Brite Red State" crashed all my dreams.

This horse is fast. I didn't bet on it.

It was not the horse Howard had picked in the fifth race. He said "Lady La Belle" was a lock (see how I love the lingo), but I just had a feeling about "Brite Red State", after all, I'm from Utah. I meant to bet five dollars to place. But then I heard the guy next to me bet ten dollars "straight across the board" and I really wanted to say that too. So I did. What I didn't realize was betting "straight across the board" was actually three bets -- and fifteen dollars. I didn't want to bet that much, but I also didn't want the lady in the betting booth to think I didn't know what I was doing. I mean, she would probably tell everyone and then I would just feel stupid. So, I took my ticket and oped for the best.

The best sucked.

"Brite Red State" stayed in the back for the first half and then made his move -- to fourth. No win, no place, no show. "Lady La Belle" came in first. Damn Howard. Ryan and Kent wanted to stay for the next race, but I knew when I was beaten, so after one more cheap beer I held my head high and walked out of Santa Anita, poorer, but wiser.

Maybe I'll go back some day. I just have to see how I do in my NCAA pool.


Tara said...

My boyfriend is hot. Even with that big number 8 on him.