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Talking Track Part 3: 10 Steps to Making a Bet

Well ladies and gentlemen, we’ve covered the track history and how to handicap a race.  But once you think you’ve got it all figured out, what then? This is ‘Talking Track: The Novice’s Guide to the Saratoga Race Course.’

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Bets: First, let’s explain the basic bets:

Win:  Really?  You want me to explain this one?  Just X-out.  Seriously.

Place:  Betting the horse to finish either second or first.  If either happens you win.

Show: Betting the horse to finish either third, second or first.  If any of that happens? Winner winner.  Chicken dinner, baby.

Exacta:  Here you bet two horses to finish first and second in specific order.

Trifecta: Betting three horses to finish a specific first, second and third order.

Superfecta: Same as the two above but with places 1-4.  There seems to be a pattern here.

*Exactas, Trifectas and Superfectas are bets that can be boxed.  Boxing is a simple way of saying you want to bet every possible outcome.  Be careful though, these aren’t free.  You have to pay for each possibility.  So a $2 exacta becomes a $4 exacta box.  A $2 superfecta becomes a $48 superfecta box.  However, if you can afford to box it, BOX IT!  Hell hath no agony like betting a 2-5 exacta and watching it come in 5-2.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  Moving on.

Betting Strategies: You need a betting strategy, and there’s a few to pick from:

A) You can bring no money at all and just watch.  This is a recipe to be the person who has the most and the least fun at the exact same time.  No excitement making no bets, but no painful look at the bank statement in the morning.  But come on, that’s amateur hour.  Step your game up!

B) You could also bring a set amount of money that you are prepared to lose and bet only that much.  This, while probably the smartest way to go (and the way I go), seems a little unimaginative and a lot unadventurous.

Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images

C) Finally, you can just get straight up crazy on it.  Break out the debit card and make it rain, baby!  Gotta make the paper!  And what do you do when you lose?  That’s not even a question.  YOU BET MORE TO MAKE UP FOR IT!  It may not be the smartest way to attack betting, but you can’t argue with the adrenalin rush you’ll get when you’ve got I.O.U.’s out to two of your buddies and the next three months rent on that 15-1 shot in the last race.  That’s the way a man does it.

How to Bet: Now.  Once you’ve figured out the bets and what you’re personal betting strategy will be for the day, it’s time to bet.  But how?  Well here’s how!

  1. Settle into your chair, crack a drink and get to work on studying that book.  Yes, you will need a drink for each race – things are going to get crazy by the end of the day!  Pick out some horses you really like and move on to step two.
  2. Check the odds and find out that the four horses you picked out are all 2-1 favorites.  Curse the odds but do it with a slight sense of self-gratification because you studied the book and picked the four best horses in race.  Well-done sir.  You’re ready for step three.
  3. Begin to re-think the whole race.  I mean come on, who wants to sit around and bet favorites all day.  Daddy needs a new pair of shoes! Find that long shot and let it ride!
  4. Shoot the breeze with your friends while casually checking the book, but then you spot it!  THE HORSE!  It’s the hidden gem long shot you’ve been looking for.  You’ve got your bet!
  5. Just out of curiosity check the odds board.  Hmm. Those are lower than they were a few minutes ago.  Repeat this process three or four times.  The jig is up.  Soon your hidden gem is the favorite.
  6. At this point you’re too angry to pat yourself on the back for picking the good horse.  Exasperated, you decide, “screw it!”  You close your eyes and point to the page.  All right, the five horse, that’s who you’re betting on.
  7. Julian Herbert, Getty Images

    But that’s not satisfying, is it?  You’re a handicapper damnit!  Plus the five horse is at 70-1.  So yeah, you’re not betting that.  At this point you seek a professional consult.  What does the consult consist of?  Well, it’s you eavesdropping on the two cigar-smoking gentlemen in front of you.  Don’t be ashamed.  It happens to all of us.  Remember, often times tank top + cigar = genius handicapper.  I mean, this guy on the left, is one of the best handicappers in the world.  Must be the power of those glorious mutton chops.

  8. Their bantering gives you an idea and you quickly fly through the book to find your second hidden gem of the race!  His odds don’t fall though, and you’re sure you’ll bet this horse!
  9. Walk to the paddock and check out that hidden gem of yours.  You look for a steely gaze, that look of a champi- Ok you have no idea what that looks like, so you just look to make sure he’s a strong looking anim- Ok you know what, you’re just trying to make sure he’s not a donkey.  Is he a donkey?  No?  You’re good.  Bet him.

10.  And such is the last step.  You walk to that betting window with all the guile and confidence you can muster.  Then…well, just follow the directions next to the window.  It’s really pretty simple.  No reason to have ten steps I guess.  It’s really just read the sign at the window and do what it says.  You know what, even if you screw up what the sign says a little they’ll probably get it.  So…whatever.

And those are your ten steps to placing a bet at the track!  It opens tomorrow, so get ready!  Next week I’ll talk about more of the logistics of the track, – how to get around and what you can expect to see.  But for now, go forth and handicap – you know what you’re doing…kind of.  Happy Saratoga, everybody!  Good Luck!

Talking Track Part One

Talking Track Part Two

Talking Track Part Four

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