Favorites Always Change
Back then I was still looking for something. Something that family and women had never given. Something that God and career and booze and books and all the other stuff had never given either.
Then, like now, I was fighting against influences. We need to be independent. But there’s also things to be learned from those whose shadows we inhabit. Or, at least those whose shadows we observe from the sidelines.
That summer I went to the racetrack almost every Monday. I’d gone down there just to have a look around. See what things were like.
Turns out it was an okay thing to do. Something being better than nothing. It was cool seeing the same old men sitting together every week. It was cool seeing the delivery men dash in, still in uniform, to place their lunchtime bets. But I’ve never been lucky, so I’ve never been a gambler. So I needed more of a reason for returning.
I did a little research and found this thing – this rule or principle – when it came to betting on the horses. It went something like this:
In a succession of 6 races, the favorite is almost guaranteed to win at least once. That being the case, the betting logic goes:
Race 1: place your bet on the favorite. If it loses, double your bet on the favorite in the next race. Repeat through six races, in which the favorite in one of those races is almost guaranteed to win.
It’s a small return, since it’s a small risk, with the doubling of each bet meant to recoup the losses of all previous bets.
I wasn’t in a huge need of money. What I really needed was something in this godforsaken world that could be counted on. Or, more properly, more of the things that could be counted on.
So I went down there week after week placing those bets. But I came to learn real quick that the favorite at post doesn’t always hold after post. Sometimes the favorite is going neck and neck with another horse playing for favorite. And there’s a lag between the odds that are shown and what’s happening in real time. So once they close all the bets, the favorite can still change while they’re formulating the odds from the final bets.
They’ll tell you to place your bets 10 minutes before post. Not bad advice unless you’re trying to pick the favorite, cause a lot can change in 10 minutes, even the last 60 seconds.
It seemed like the principle would work but there’s still the element of chance on whether the favorite is gonna hold all the way past post. And that wasn’t always the case. It was far too often not the case.
That principle had a flaw. I tried salvaging it by picking random races from the simulcast instead of the live races. I chose those races on simulcast that seemed to have very clear favorites. There was nothing explicitly stated in the principle that they had to be races from the same track. Maybe the principle would hold that in any succession or races – random or not – a favorite was nearly guaranteed to win.
It was a longshot, for sure. One that didn’t work.
That summer I’d hoped to something. But I didn’t get it, even though I exercised the discipline in showing up every Monday and placing the bets the way they were supposed to be placed. I tried but I failed. Too bad that principle turned out to be a minor kick in the balls. I wasn’t asking for much, just a little something else to count on.
But I still go down there a couple times a year. The track’s since been purchased and cleaned up and a casino’s been added. I liked the griminess and seediness of the way it was. Gone are the dollar beers and dollar hot dogs, replaced by dollar bet slot machines. But what the hell. It’s still good to get out and watch the horses and have a few drinks. It still beats most other things, even without the bets.