All or nothing

One of the most inventive uses of the “All” button occurred over the weekend when somebody I know in passing, as in passing the hat for a loan, had “it.” It in this case being an exacta that paid just under $300.

Horse racing is a form of gambling that can enable a person to wager against him or herself and occasionally collect. A person running bad in football will have a hard time picking who he or she likes and then wagering on the other side. Picking sports is streaky. What could be unluckier than betting the other side of what you liked and getting slaughtered again? Picking horses badly is more ingrained. Some people can pick lousy favorites anytime, anywhere: Eleven in the morning at Santa Anita, sundown at Mountaineer, some people can put the cheap 2-1 favorite on top and watch it run second time in and time out, meet in and meet out.

After years, just missing can get old. It can get embarrassing. So here’s what the man I know in passing did over the weekend.

He realized that just missing was, in its own creepy way, skillful.

He wasn’t missing by a mile, by four or five place positions. His cheap favorites weren’t running last. They weren’t running sixth or seventh. They were usually running second and were paying $3 to place. And he didn’t have enough money to make a straight place bet on a favorite that would produce enough. But he had come to realize after a tsunami of seconds that he was either very unlucky, very bad, or he was making the wrong bet.

So in a maiden race, he put the one he loved, the favorite, second. And he put them “All” first.

This is the sort of ticket you usually find beer-soaked and left behind by somebody made of money or going through a divorce.

The track was wet. The ticket cost $20. The favorite broke fast and quit faster. A nobody came from out of a squall line to win and pay $90-some odd. The favorite was a disappointing second to most and paid the standard $3. The exacta was almost $300.

It was one of the best worst bets ever made.

The man who had all of the dog pound first and the favorite second said the big win had confused him to the extent that he couldn’t tell who he really liked in any more of the races, so he took the money and went home.

This exemplifies the lure of the “All” button.

True, you’d expect a $90 winner to pay more than 15-1 on a $20 “All” exacta ticket.

But finding yourself in a can’t-lose situation is the horse player’s dream; it’s so difficult to attain, it’s almost a fantasy.

The closest I have ever come to horse race wagering heaven is hitting the first three on a Pick 4 and then having all of six in a wide open cheap claiming race in which any of those entries appeared equally suspect. The favorite won easily in my fourth race, which is usually the way it works when you have no worries. The “All” button in a Pick 3, 4 or 6 race seems connected to the paddock and magically invigorates the sleepy favorite. Making a big win bet on the favorite to insure your “All” ticket is one of those wagers that works at cross purposes to the original strategy and usually causes the second choice to win.

The “All” button usually explains how all those people had it, had the big payoff that made no sense. Actually they didn’t have “it,” they had “them,” had them all. Goofy people have minds too. They realize that horses with no form and no breeding often get there. They realize that weather can change everything. They realize that training can change everything.

The best “All” play is for a race in which all horses shows a performance that could win this one. It’s when the favorite stinks, when the second choice is weak. The best place for an “All” play is in a Pick 3, 4 or 6, flanked by what appear to be strong plays.

Unfortunately lots of dummies play two-spot “All” tickets, favorites with “All” in the exacta, or favorites with “All” in the Doubles.

All winners have value.

Don’t let the dummies chase you off a pick, unless they’re professional dummies. All the dummies in the general betting public should prompt you to do is bet a little more.