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Too busy for the facts
Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - by Frank Cotolo

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A horseplayer does not have a template. Unlike the stereotypes portrayed in Daymon Runyon tales, horseplayers have taken many different shapes and forms over the decades since characters like Sorrowful Jones and Dave The Dude attempted to set the bar. Certainly, Runyon drew from actual post-Prohibition figures but for the sake of drama and entertainment, his characters were a definitive mix of gamblers, hustlers, actors and gangsters.

Things have changed and people have changed with the times.

Horseplayers in particular are more savvy and intentional these days in more ways than they were only 25 years ago. But that doesn’t mean some of the arguably charming elements of Runyonesque characters engrossed in playing pari-mutuels do not exist. Not only do these quirks of character still exist, they thrive, even in the atmosphere of a digital revolution that has streamlined every notion of handicapping and wagering.

The legacy of the Runyonesque common horseplayer comes down to what these players don’t care about. Usually, their disconcerns are the meat and potatoes of serious bettors, the details that so many others believe count.

For instance, there is still a fellow wandering simulcasting areas that bets on harness racing using a single factor. I know this man (of course, I will call him Delaney). He will talk to anyone about a race and say, “I look for these horses with Hanover in the name. They win a lot.” Certainly Hanover Shoe Farms produces horses that win a lot, but aiming betting money at a name alone certainly cannot assure long-term victories.

I know a Miss Delaney who cares nothing about particulars like post and class and such. She ravages each race with exactas based on numbers alone; numbers she has acquired from dreams, daily coincidences and “feelings.”

Another Delaney only plays drivers, though he has no idea about a “flat-bet profit” and couldn’t prove his wagers on particular drivers are winning him money. Ask him for opinions on class drops or driver strategies and you get nothing back. He doesn’t even know a trotter from a pacer. He doesn’t care.

Still another character plays harness races one way and one way only.

“You play the one horse or the two horse and you will win a lot,” he professes. “If you box them in exactas you win a lot more.”

He doesn’t care about anything else.

They still exist. There are patrons of pari-mutuels that do not respond to the handicapping and wagering elements concentrated in books and articles by professionals and math wizards and statistical data. Maybe there will always be that contingent of gambler too busy for the facts, who sticks to a hopeless plan that is deemed successful without proof?

Then again, maybe we all speak a little Runyonese (sic)?

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