Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rooting Against Yourself

I'm sure I am not alone in this most self-depreciating of horse betting pastimes which includes:

  • precious time spent handicapping 
  • a bet planned
  • a bet changed (usually my changes include betting less)
  • the results of the bet coming in or about to come to in
It's during this "about to" stage when a few handicappers among us start this contrarian practice of actually rooting against a horse you should have bet, but for some reason left off your tickets. While this can and does happen in just one race, for me, over the course of the last two weeks, it has played out over the four-race sequence of the Early and Late Pick 4s at Saratoga. This allows for a special sense of dread that builds to a crescendo through at least 90-minutes and four races (if you're alive to the last race). By the final race of the bet left behind or the horse left off the ticket that was originally planned; the win that would have been begins to unfold, you hope just won't. 

On opening Saturday while in attendance at the Spa, I figured out a $48, 50-cent Early Pick 4. This would have been the most combinations for any Pick 4, I've ever played. Usually, to justify any Pick 4, I live by a rule of getting or betting one single in the sequence. This automatically keeps bets at or below the $48 mark I had planned three Saturdays ago. 

The problem I had with the bet a few Saturdays ago was the 96 combinations and the fact that it was about to eat almost half of my budget for the day. So....I removed two horses and changed another while getting the bet down to $30. 

I was out of it right off the bat on the bet I made because of one of the removals. With nothing to root for and too pissed off to bet anything else, I watched as the next two horses in the $48 bet won. I went for a walk and spent some time with the Mrs. at different parts of the track trying not to pay attention. 

I arrived back at our seats just in time to see the fifth race kick off with none of my horses starting in contention. As the majestic beasts narrowed toward the stretch, one of my originally "bet" horses hit the line a nose in front of 11 others. A moment I should have been relishing was wasted. The net result was that my $18 saved turned into $750 lost. I vowed never to bet again.

I played just once more that day - a miserable, swallow attempt at a Pick 6. 

My non-betting continued through the last two weeks until Sunday. With a day of rain in the Boston area, where I bet the world from my computer, I mapped out the Late Pick 4 at the Spa. It was to be 1-2-8-9/3/2-6-8/1-2-6-7 and would have cost me all of $24 for a 50-cent play. I balked. The 8 won at 7-1, the 3 romped as the single at 9-5, the 6 won at 17-1 beating the chalk by a nose, and I was left looking at four, probable Pick 4 payouts ranging from $3,000 to $1,000.

As we humans are apt to do - I started to think that my change in play two weeks ago and my non-play yesterday were more than just the shortsightedness of part-time handicapper. I started to believe them to be signs from God. In this relative, narcissistic view, The Great Almighty just wants me to stop doing this thing I love to do and move onto to something else more productive. (As if He doesn't have bigger matters to worry about).  As I was siding with the omens in front of me, my cloud of doom seemed quite large and ready to rain down on me. Alive to four in the final leg - a bettor's dream or in this case nightmare.

Thankfully, I think, none of my four choices hit the line first. I sighed relief. I'm not sure why, but I did. Because isn't the point of all this that we do with figures, forms and tips, is win? Rooting for a loss feels like a loser's thing to do. I think I have to put up, shut up or just be more choosy with my bets. I think.

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