How to avoid your arm falling off? Go to the races!

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 Handicapper Art ParkerBy ART PARKER

At one time you either went to the track or to Las Vegas to gamble. Now, Americans can gamble in almost every state and the greatest opportunity to do so comes in the form of a slot machine, or video poker or electronic bingo. No matter what name is given to it, the activity features man against machine. The machine is often called by its popular nickname, a one-armed bandit.

I do not know why people like to play against the bandit. These machines are programmed to pay back a certain percentage of the amount deposited over the long haul. That’s how the casino makes money and stays in business. This method of gambling is known as “playing against the house,” which legally fixes odds in its favor. Thoroughbred racing involves pari-mutuel wagering, which simply means the participants play against each other with the winners of a race sharing a common pool of wagers.

One reason I was drawn to thoroughbred racing was because of my educational background.

A large part of America that gambles knows no other method than a slot machine or similar device. The growth of casino gaming came at the perfect time in America because it fit well with the video generation. That generation has generally ignored thoroughbred racing because wagering on racing requires more than pushing a few buttons or pulling a handle. Mechanical gaming appeals to current lifestyle and is accepted by a couple of generations with “easy to do” mentalities. That is the nicest way I can say “lazy.”

Thoroughbred racing has faced challenges in maintaining its share of the gambling market and capturing America’s entertainment dollar. A big problem for thoroughbred racing is that it requires the use of brain power to have any level of success. It is not for those that are lazy and refuse to accept a challenge.  

One reason I was drawn to thoroughbred racing was because of my educational background. A corporate finance major, I was required to read all kinds of financial statements including the stock sheets found in the Wall Street Journal and other financial publications. When you view the past performances you find a similarity to the stock sheets. Bid, ask, PE ratios, fractions, etc. and racing times, finishes and racing records provide statistical evidence for one to consume. All of this is information one can use to evaluate a corporation or an individual horse, depending on which publication is being held at the moment.

While the casino patron sits in front of a machine and must only decide to pull the handle again or quit, the horse player is using brain power, logic and deep thought to make a good bet, which doesn’t necessarily mean a winning bet. A good bet is one where you have an advantage based upon odds. When I bet a horse to win, I try to do the same thing as if I am buying stock in a corporation. I am looking for a bargain. I want a horse that is going off at 10-1 while I am convinced the horse should be 4-1. When I by a stock I want a corporation that is selling for $20 per share when my evaluation tells me it should be $32 per share.

I want a bargain. A slot machine never gives you a bargain because you do not get to make a decision on the individual wager. You only decide whether or not to pull the handle…again.

If people like to gamble, large or small, thoroughbred racing offers the perfect deal. You can go to the actual track, or a simulcast parlor, or you can play via Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) on the internet. You can have all of the recreation you want and you can decide if you want company or not. And while you are enjoying your recreational time you can do something mentally challenging and stimulating. I promise you, a slot machine provides no mental challenge or stimulation.

To top things off you can fall in love with the greatest sport of all. It is a sport that involves interesting people and athletes, plus all of the action centers around one of God’s greatest and truly magnificent creations, a horse.

If you have not tried to be a horse player give it a shot. If you occasionally play the horses but also sit on a stool in front of a slot machine, well, come on back to the track. Play the horses where you get to make decisions about investing your dollar. If you keep playing those machines you will either eventually lose all your money or your arm will fall off trying to lose all of your money.

— Art Parker is the author of the recently released handicapping guide “KEENELAND WINNING TRAINER PATTERNS” available now for the upcoming 2011 fall meet. It can be purchased here for less than $10, or for Kindle readers at Amazon.com.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 16-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He cashed on the NHC Tour for 2018 with a 19th overall finish. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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