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It was gambling on horses. But we called it racing.... to make it profitable was more than a full-time job and I had no time for that. But I justified it to myself because-I wrote it... Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
CHAPTER 1: WHY LOSE?
Because you can't win. If you could, you wouldn't be reading this article. If you could win and wished you were a loser, you would have skipped this chapter because you'd already have a reason for losing.
Here are some other possible reasons for losing:
1) It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
2) Gambling is sinful, losing is a penance.
3) It helps a writing career. Look at Hemingway. Look at Dostoevski. Look at me.
CHAPTER 2: WHY INSEMINATE?
1) Race horses are shy.
2) It is very artificial.
3) It makes long distance relationships possible.
CHAPTER 3: WHERE TO DO IT
In the grandstand. The clubhouse is strictly for winners. Foxboro has the best benches around, but Suffolk Downs has a nice grass infield where you can recline among the cigar butts and discarded tickets. Wherever you sit, be sure to bring binoculars. They allow you to catch the fix on the back rail, a key to enjoying an afternoon and evening of losing.
CHAPTER 4: HOW TO TALK LIKE A LOSER
A real loser, whether a gambler, a writer, or both, uses the language of the trade. Here are the key words and phrases used around the track:
Bookmaker--Any gambler who supports his gambling by writing.
Carrying Weight--the payoff given each jockey before the race. The amount must be large enough to satisfy his greed, but not so big it will weigh down the horse.
Handicapper--The track thug responsible for disciplining jockeys who ride to win.
Morning Line--The injection given horses before the afternoon races.
Pacer--The prominent member of a group of racing afficionados who sets the pace for beer consumption.
Perfecta--The cry of a successful fixer.
She's a bute--A horse doped legally with phenylbutazone that feels no pain despite its injuries. A good losing bet if the horse looks lame during warm-up.
$6 Combine--The machinery responsible for keeping the track in superb running condition.
Sulky--A jockey expecting a visit from the handicapper.
They're off--Another fixer's cry, signifying that the injections have taken effect.
Trotter--The prominent ;member of a group of racing afficionados who leads the way to the restrooms.
CHAPTER 5: HOW TO LOSE
Losing isn't easy. Even though you've always been a loser, someday you might get lucky and win. With any one of the following systems you are guaranteed to lose.
1) Play the track favorite. If someone can pick winners they don't need to make a lousy living telling other people. Even if the favorite wins you lose, because the payoff on an odds-on horse won't even pay for the first bite of a hot dog.
2) Play the long-shots. A good way to lose since they are long-shots for a reason. Horses with casts or eye patches are my particular favorites.
3) Play lucky numbers. One of the oldest systems for losing and usually very effective.
4) Play lucky names. Requires no knowledge of horses whatsoever. Yankee Go Lucky came in dead last in the fifth race at Foxboro Sunday.
5) Play the post positions. Posts one through three win more often than four through eight, but not often enough to stop the cash flow. A good losing proposition.
6) Play the Superfecta. If you can pick the first four hourses in the correct order you are too lucky ever to be a successful loser.
7) Play the program. Pick a sure winner and watch it trip.
8) Play the tips. Forget betting and dump your dough on code books and breeder's guides. Then spend the change on tootsie-fruitsie.
CHAPTER 6: HOW TO HIDE YOUR LOSSES
Act like a winner. Here are two surefire techniques:
1) Pick up someone at the track. There are enough bettors who are overweight, alcoholic, and divorced to keep you busy til all your assets are gone.
2) Take your partner to Wonderland Dog Track on Wednesday nights. The Butterfly Lounge across the street has an amateur striptease night with $100 top prize. Patrons occasionally get shot for "talkin' down on somebody's woman," providing colorful material for short stories and New Yorker profiles.
CHAPTER 7: WHAT TO LOSE FOR IN THE FUTURE.
Dostoevski, a compulsive gambler, once wrote that he had had an orgasm while losing a large sum of money on a bet. To each his own....
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