When I was in junior high school, the parent-teacher sessions always included my mother hearing, “He has a lot of trouble with general math. He doesn’t seem to grasp the new concepts, like Algebra, either.”
By the time I got to high school the math teachers were less merciful.
“He is terrible at mathematics,” every teacher would tell my mother, as if they all had a memo that morning with a script. One teacher improvised, though, and said bluntly, “I don’t think the child has any talent with it comes to math, no matter the kind of math.”
My marks were always on the brink of failure, but I got through high school.
College was no different when it came to math, though the parent-teacher meetings did not exist. Forget about Calculus, I still couldn’t find a clue to correct answers in basic Algebra.
But a year or so after college, something happened to me. I began to look at math with a whole new spin to it. I became interested in it because it had an application no one in any grade ever showed me. My “new math” presented itself in the form of wagering on harness races.
In the beginning my penchant for playing harness races presented moderate success, at best, but I found that the more I explored the mathematical elements—involving money and odds—my success increased.
When I got to California I found a community of handicappers that were professors, owned doctorates, men who had excelled in every aspect of academia. I learned how to use the math of pari-mutuel handicapping and wagering from them.
When I went off to Great Britain I had an edge playing the ponies, even though there were no pari-mutuels. It was like an advanced course in math that worked for me because the players were not savvy; I thought like the bookies because of math and I won.
Stateside again, the odds were on my side. I knew how to handicap like a pro, making odds lines, I understood the Kelly Criterion and developed my money-management system and then, like a graduation gift, fate handed me a large bankroll and I began to play both breeds with big bucks, successfully. To this day the puzzle of pari-mutuel play is a series of equations and I have been able to solve enough of them to make the profitable years worthy of amortizing the lean seasons of play.
And it is all because of math; a subject that my teachers forecasted could be my downfall in every aspect of professional life. That is because, in essence, none of them could teach me math as thoroughly, enticingly and exactly as pari-mutuel racing has done.
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