|Daily Racing Form|
|Tuesday, January 15
|Are we sick or just stupid?|
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
Not too long ago I met a man who had been a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles.
He was very successful over a considerable period of time, which is to say that he was competent at his craft, because people in Los Angeles are quick to quit what doesn't work, or doesn't look good in the mirror.
His specialty became the study of problem, or compulsive, gamblers.
He learned just about what you would expect.
Problem gamblers were addicted to the action, which produced a rush sometimes similar to what certain individuals got from drugs.
Many problem gamblers had a self-destructive bent.
Problem gamblers lied about what they lost. Didn't keep good records so they never knew exactly how far they were behind.
Denied they had a problem.
Didn't enjoy winning.
And so on. And so forth.
Most addictions seem to leave similar trails.
Playing the NFL.
Anything unnecessary that is accumulated in excess qualifies.
As the psychologist's study of gamblers grew, he noticed something slightly out of the ordinary: Not all gamblers were the same with their feelings and behavior.
You would think that a card junkie and a Keno nut and a roulette addict and a blackjack groupie and a horse racing psycho would have similar tendencies, divorce and suicide rates.
But the one member of the wagering community that didn't blend in with all the other problem cases was the horse player.
The average horse player didn't crave the non-stop casino action or need to have 18 bets on pro football games every Sunday.
The average horse player could be patient with his wagers.
Winning a little could suffice.
The average horse player didn't seem to get in a trance while dropping money.
He didn't want to slit his wrists after a bad day.
Whereas the average problem gambler craved the action, the average horse player hated losing and craved only a victory.
So the clinical psychologist separated the horse players from the other gamblers and learned that they were not so much addicted or fatalistic as they were dumb with their money.
The reason why they lost was not because they wanted to punish themselves. It was just the opposite.
A reason to be happy, that was all they sought.
They didn't bet football, basketball, hockey, the ponies, shoot dice and cut cards.
They wagered on horses, period. They all lost money consistently doing it. And they were terrible bettors, repeating mistakes, going too often with the obvious, mismanaging money.
So after studying the horse players in great detail, the clinical psychologist decided that they were not so much problem gamblers as they were bad handicappers.
They didn't want to lose. They wanted to win.
They were just dumb.
And in a wagering situation where the losers paid the winners, having what amounted to inferior competition sounded like a pretty good business in which to invest.
So the clinical psychologist left his practice based on problem gamblers and began putting out a pricey and sophisticated tout sheet for thoroughbred races horses that was based on thrust and torque and the like.
Everybody needs to read a hopeful story about his kind at the beginning of a year.
So the next bad horse player you see, the odds are he's not a problem gambler.
He's just a dumb bettor.