Friday, April 17, 2009

Waiting for Kilderry

My cousin Marvin called me today with a tip on a horse race: Kilderry in the fifth race at Santa Anita. Usually these tips don't pan out, but Marvin called me last year with one which went off at 10-1 and won easily. I won over five hundred bucks. Since there is three hours difference between here and California the race won't go off until six o'clock. I'll head out to the Borgata around five. During that time I'll probably speak to my friends Marty and Campy three or four times to hear their thoughts about the best way to bet this horse. There is an incredible amount of options in addition to the traditional Win, Place, and Show. There are the exotic bets including exactas, trifectas, superfectas, rolling doubles, and pick threes which make the process of betting a little more complicated these days.

I'm writing about thos now for a few reasons. If the horse wins I will have written documentation that I had the winner before the race. Also, I have been writing about a lot of philosophical and speculative ideas. Gambling is much more concrete. Either you win or lose. In a world where most things are unclear one needs a straightforward activity. Finally, gambling, especially horse racing, brings me back to my youth.

I lived fifteen minutes from Aqueduct Race Track. During the racing season, starting when I was fifteen (I think the legal age was eighteen) I hitchhiked to the track at least twice a week. I usually went with ten or twenty dollars. I remember how excited I was, the thrill of walking into the grandstand, eyeing the track. It was awe inspiring. And most importantly, there was always the chance of making a hit.


I did make a few hits. One time, I won over a hundred dollars. It was the first time in my life that I had a hundred dollar bill. I think it was the first time I ever saw a hundred dollar bill. I folded it in my wallet in a certain way that made it look like a thousand dollar bill. I showed the folded bill to my mother; she almost had a heart attack. When I told her that I had won it at the race track she panicked even more. She immediately thought that I needed to go to a psychiatrist. This was her response every time I did something she didn't understand.

After calming down she called my Uncle Dave. Uncle Dave was a legend in our family. He was one of the original founders of Gamblers Anonymous. Everytime my mother worried that I was becoming a compulsive gambler she brought up how Uncle Dave how ruined his life gambling, lost his first wife, and alienated his children. Uncle Dave had an experience which changed his life and made him give up gambling forever. He had gone to the race track every day for thirty-seven consecutive years. He followed the ponies around the country going to Florida in the winter and Saratoga in the summer. One evening after an especially tough losing day he was eating a spaghetti dinner in an Italian restaurant in Saratoga with some of his fellow gamblers.

One of them looked at him and said, "Dave all you have to do is drive the get-away car, we'll handle everything else."

Upon hearing this Dave said he became sick; he realized how low he had sunk and how miserable his life was. He stood up and pulled the table cloth off the table spilling the spaghetti all over everyone and walked out of the restaurant. He never gambled again; with a few other guys, he founded Gamblers Anonymous based upon the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. He spent the last days of his life crusading against gambling.

This story was always interesting to me. It never affected my attitude towards gambling, though. I have always enjoyed gambling and probably always will. My main concern right now is Kilderry at Santa Anita. Wish me luck.

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