|Daily Racing Form|
|Friday, November 2
|Time to go pro? Think again|
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
Something every horse player wonders is whether he or she could sustain life doing nothing but gambling on the ponies.
Obviously this concept comes to one's mind after a pretty good week.
Not all horse players see wild luck for what it is -- a miracle.
Everybody has had some miraculous good luck.
But trying to earn a living by collecting miracles on an eight-to-five basis is pretty difficult.
Most horse players see themselves as smarter than they are lucky, and if they receive some wild good luck, well, it's about time.
Gambling full-time on horses is not like gambling full-time on cards or dice. A person doesn't have to wait long for exceptional gambling opportunities in a casino.
But the same isn't true with horses. Even at a simulcast venue, you can look at 100 races without finding the right kind of opportunity. Same thing the next day. And the one after that.
Finding one great betting race a week is not a bad average.
And then say the jockey doesn't have a clock in his head. Say he's sitting on his clock. And you lose. One race, one week with a loss for the professional horse player.
Patience at a casino gamble can be measured in a day or two.
Patience at the horse races is usually a week or two.
No matter how good a handicapper you are, betting most of the races is recreational gambling.
A professional horse player either puts out a tip sheet, or bets for reasons unique to the race.
The best bets aren't love at first sight. You don't open a Form to an unfamiliar track and run a pen down the past performances and come upon the wagering opportunity of a lifetime. Most times, you have personal histories with the best bets. You have seen something now that will mean something later.
And let me tell you something about seeing something important. Betting can blur your vision.
If you have a $50 Exacta box working up front, and you lose it by a few inches, you might see a bad ride where there wasn't one, or trouble when it was clear. It can be difficult to focus on any part of a race, other than where you have let your money ride.
But it's amazing what a person can see in a race when he watches it with an objective eye, without a penny at risk.
It's like you're vision suddenly improved from 20-200 to 20-20.
If you don't bet a race, bad rides seem italicized.
A troubled trip seems to flash in red.
A person without a bet can watch a race and observe major pilot error and say to somebody who had a $4 Quinella, "Did you see that?"
And if the trouble didn't happen to a horse involved in the $4 Quinella, the answer is usually, "See what?"
So patience at the horse races is doubly time consuming. First you have to wait for something to happen, then you have to be alert enough to see it. Then you have to wait for the participants to get back to the track.
I once took a solid summer to see how I could do at the horse races if I didn't have things like work or acquaintances to worry about.
An enormous amount of discipline is required to sit and sit and sit and not bet and not bet, wagering only $10 to place and $20 to show, anything to stay busy.
Early during this period, I found a race with two reliable sources, one in which a barely visible bad ride and a track bias had kept the best horse from winning. So I waited and waited and waited. When it came back in three weeks, I emptied my pockets and shoes. At an unbeatable 5-to-1, it flipped in the gate and was scratched and I went to soak my head.
If somebody gambling on horses full-time can't find the ideal bet, then he or she is prone toward shaving off a little of your personal handicapping technique here, fudging a bit on money management, there, anything to make a game once in a while.
According to my figures, I made more than the minimum wage during the summer-long focus on the horses.
The majority of the can't-lose propositions didn't lose. But there weren't enough of them.
And unfortunately I put on about 15 pounds. Track food. Make it quick and fry it.
Playing the horses with patience and discipline appears to be ideal as a part-time income supplement.
To successfully bet the horses full-time, you'd need a ton of money going in, which sort of runs contrary to the nature of the beast, doesn't it.