Do you pour over the past performance record of every horse in every race trying to find THE winner? That’s what I did for more than thirty years. Then one day at the track I noticed a rather plain, nondescript man sitting nearby. It was just after the first race, and the guy was doing something I had never seen a bettor do before. The man reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out two tickets. He tore a corner off both tickets and stuffed them into the left pocket of his jeans. It seemed a curious thing to do. Most bettors just toss their losing tickets on the ground in frustration, yet this guy seemed anything but disappointed.
His calm demeanor after losing a race in which the winner had won by a nose in a close photo finish piqued my interest. So, for the rest of the day I stalked him. As the horses were nearing the gates prior to the second race, the man got up and walked comfortably to the $50 window. He placed his bets, stuck two tickets into his shirt pocket, and returned to his seat.
He repeated this ritual after each of the next four races. He would buy two $50 Win tickets, return to his seat, watch the race, tear a corner off his losing tickets, then jam them into his jeans pocket. By now, I was feeling sorry for the guy. By my calculations, he had lost $500 on the first five races. Yet he seemed amazingly undisturbed by his situation.
The sixth race was different, however. After that race, he reached into his pocket, looked at his two tickets, and tore the corner off just one of them. He stuffed the ticket with the torn corner into his jeans pocket, then stood up and headed toward the cashiers window with the second ticket clutched tightly in his right hand. As he turned away from the window, I noticed him jamming a thick wad of hundred dollar bills into the left pocket of his jeans. He then went back to his seat in the grandstands. After both the seventh and eighth races, I saw him repeat the same process he had performed after each of the first five races. What an odd little man, I thought.
That took place on a Sunday. There was no racing on either Monday or Tuesday, so by the time Wednesday rolled around I had forgotten him entirely. It wasn’t until after the third race that I saw him calmly heading toward the cashiers window, and my curiosity was once again aroused. I followed him back to the grandstand and sat down a few seats to his left, determined to find out what made this man tick.
Be sure to read Part Two tomorrow.