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Help yourself

The same two good questions have come from more than a couple of readers recently, which means that thousands could be thinking the same thing.

1. How do you quit ahead?

2. When it comes to financing horse racing, will the slot money ever run out?

One.

It has been estimated that on any single wagering venture or adventure, be it a trip to the casino or to the horse race track, more than 90 percent of the individuals are ahead at any one time. Who estimated that? I estimated that. According to a personal log kept in case the IRS requested the company of my shoe boxes once more, I am almost always ahead at some point, usually early-on, during days at the races, either at a track or simulcast venue, or at home.

It is relatively simple to quit while ahead of the horses if you play at home. You turn off the computer and leave the room. Many days, a $50 profit taken in the home office can seem sufficient. On site, $50 goes to the single mother with the tray, or to a teller who had stuck to business. Many home bets are spot bets. Being there, at the races, is what keeps a horse player from turning into just another machine freak.

When you go to the horse races, what's enough profit to make an average person stop?

"How'd you do?"

"Won a hundred."

"Well. Beats losing."

Win $75 and you could get a downcast look and condolences. Losing $75 would probably be better received. At least you went down wagering, not hoarding small change. What kind of gambler in this day and age could be content to go home with a profit of $16 after expenses? All types of gambling, from game shows to the lottery, are focused on chasing the big win. People who complain about a sales tax pittance are more than pleased to chase impossible gambling odds with a hundred cash, weekly.

Winning $200 at the horse races is no embarrassment. But the way many people probably win it is: they get ahead $800 and gamble back six. Nothing is dumber than making good money on a race you like, then going slightly insane as you play it back on chalk and other junk because you think this might be your lucky day. It was your lucky day. Now it's not. I once won $2,000 on a chilly if not cold trifecta that cost but a few dollars. Then I played back all but parking lot money on shady tracks and dimmer riders. Never again. Never make a bet after a good win. According to my notes, I used to bet short horses after big wins, emerging victorious about one of a dozen times. Once you're ahead a sum that matters to you, put 80 percent away.

Slot players can't quit ahead, can they, because they're too far behind for the career.

Two.

Slot machines used to be regarded as the senior-sitters of gambling – park gramps and grandmother at a machine while you went after something that made about 10 percent more sense.

Who in his or her right mind would risk money on the worst house odds since room service?

It turns out the answer is tumultuous throngs love the slots.

I mean no disrespect, and wish only to feed racing's gift horse. But the average slot machine regular in my neck of the woods and irons (what casino doesn't have a golf course) seems a little nutty.

When last I was at an Indian casino that funnels cash into the state-wide horse racing industry, I asked a woman feeding c-notes into a five-buck machine if she knew what the house cut was on the slot she was playing.

She replied that she did not.

I then inquired if it mattered what the house cut was.

She said that it did not.

She gave the appearance of being here because it was something easy to do.

She won $600, then lost it and more within the half hour.

I asked a pit boss at this casino if he knew what the house cut on slot machines was.

He shook his head no.

They probably knew what the slot cut was down in the money room.

So there it is. Mindless gambling into a green hole of swirling dollars. Welfare checks cashed at your slot machine seat, with no shortage of business noted. Secondary profiting from the occasional compulsive, obsessive addiction: Better the trainer of a $5,000 claimer with the mad money than some casino junior exec, correct?

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com