Hob-Knobbing With The Swells – Tales from the Saratoga Springs Horse Racing World

It was a dark and stormy night. Whoops, wrong story. It was the early 1980’s and my girlfriend and I at the time were hanging out a lot with our good friends Rick and Shawna, the original owners of Madame Jumels restaurant in Saratoga Springs, New York. I’m not sure what’s there now, but Madame Jumels was at the bottom of Caroline Street and quite the popular place in it’s day. I was a big fan of the early morning radio show on WPYX hosted at that time by Bob Mason and Bill Sheehan, a gnarly pair of shock jocks known for their over-the-top pranks. (It is now known as the Wakin’ Up With the Wolf show, hosted by Bob Wolfeld.) They came up with the idea of having a Marylou Whitney look-alike contest. For the ill-informed, Marylou Whitney is the widow of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and a local celebrity, socialite, philanthropist, and all-around nice gal. The thought of spoofing her in a look-alike contest was more than I could stand. I set out to talk my friends into joining the contest.

Rick and Shawna were more familiar than I with Mrs. Whitney as they also ran a horse-drawn carriage business that Marylou had used the services of. The event was to take place at Siros, a popular upscale restaurant and watering hole near the Saratoga Racetrack. Everyone agreed this would be a blast. As seasoned veterans for several years at the infamous Bolton Landing Bed Races on Lake George, we had a fair idea on how to make headlines while having a good time. It’s kind of a Ratpack thing. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Angie Dickinson; we had learned from the best. Back when men were men…and booze was your buddy. Growing up in the sixties surely had it’s benefits. We set about making our strategy.

It was decided the horse and carriage would help make our entrance memorable. As Rick and Shawna would be manning the carriage and I was ugly enough as a man, let alone the well-preserved Whitney, that left my girlfriend to be Marylou. The girls came up with a flashy gown as one might imagine Marylou dressing up in for one of her annual soirées at the Canfield Casino. Rick and I decided on leotards (kind of a court-jester look) and long trumpets as part of our garb and props for our parts as “Her Majesty’s” entourage. It was also decided that “our” Marylou wear a blond wig and gold tiara, as well as a garbage bag “slicker” to mimic a press clipping of the real Marylou wearing the same during a rainstorm at the Saratoga Racetrack. We enlisted a few family and friends as “press agents” sporting fedoras and press passes. We also equipped my nephew Ken with a VHS video camera, a bulky contraption back then as you virtually had to carry an entire VCR on a shoulder strap. With our costumes complete, it was time for the big day.

Our gig officially started at 6 a.m., coinciding with the WPYX 6 to 10 a.m. morning drive show. We decided to arrive fashionably late (or maybe it was a hangover). Anyways, our timing turned out to be impeccable as we were, as I recall, the last contestants to arrive. Our horse and carriage pulled up in front of Siro’s with as much fanfare as we could conjure. The grounds were packed with spectators as well as various guys and gals dressed as Marylou. Rick and I jumped off and rolled out a red carpet for our celebrity. We did our best trumpet rendition of the opening racetrack riff and held “our” Marylou’s hands up as she descended the steps of her carriage. The crowd went wild. All the local TV news cameras rushed up to record the spectacle. We escorted “our” Marylou through the crowd as she pressed the flesh and threw fake money into the air. Rick, Shawna and I remained dutifully in character as we tended to “our” Marylou and fended our way through a sea of people and inside Siros. The reporters scrambled for interviews and “our” Marylou had them eating out of her hand as she recited: “Trash, flash, cash; nobody rides for free.”

We were led to the table with the D.J.’s as a side-splitting back-and-forth ensued between the good-natured Mrs. Whitney and our imposter. The judging began and in spite of the many outrageous and wonderful costumes, we won hands down. No brag; just fact. Mrs. Whitney graciously invited us to stop by her box seats at the track later in the day where we were promptly thrown out for improper attire but not before we were introduced to a few of Marylou’s friends. Our reward? Two all-expense paid airline/hotel tickets to Universal Studios in Los Angeles and the L.A. Coliseum for Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA tour under a warm and moonlit night.

Marylou Whitney; one hell of a sport.

Different Types of Card Games

There are limitless types of card games to be played. People think because two games use the same deck of 52-cards that they are similar games, but nothing could be more different than Barbu and Speed, or Pai Gow and Pinochle.

Here’s a list of twenty different kinds of card games, and some facts about them.

1.Bridge

Bridge is a popular contract bidding game. Bridge has a culture — there are websites, newspaper columns, and even radio shows devoted to bridge strategy. There is a world-wide obsession with bridge, even though it has been called the hardest card game in the world. With a complicated strategy and steep learning curve, to many bridge is not just a game, it is a lifestyle. I wish I were exaggerating.

2. Whist

Whist could be called “Bridge, Jr” — and though it is not as big a game as it once was, and is dwarfed in popularity by big-brother Bridge, Whist has never really died out. Card gamers love trick-taking games — beating out your opponent in such a visual way is one of the more exciting part of any card game. Whist has some of the complexity of Bridge without any bidding.

3. Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is something of a legend — a poker variation with a story as rich as a Spaghetti western. This version of poker, a drawing and betting game, was invented and then made popular by old time poker sharks in Texas, hence the name. This is easily the most popular poker variant right now, and is bringing more new people to card gaming than any other game.

4. Hearts

It is said that most of the professional poker tour players are hardcore Hearts players and that they bet big money on cutthroat games of Hearts in dark mysterious rooms during tournaments. Romantic as that may sound, it would make sense for these card sharks to love the game of Hearts – an otherwise childlike game of matching cards (and no bidding) usually turns into a competitive nightmare. Because of the game play, there are lots of ways to screw your opponents in Hearts. Trick-winning and passing card are big elements of Hearts.

5. Spades

People don’t realize it, but spades is a variation of bridge that simplifies the game even more than Whist and changes the outcome of the game as well. Spades is really popular in large groups, on college campuses, and in tournaments around the world. There may be as many variations of Spades as there are groups playing it — thanks to “jailhouse rules” which penalize tactics like point sandbagging and the existence of multiple versions of “house rules”. A strategic game you can play without paying much attention if you want.

6. Go-fish

This is the simple children’s card matching game we all remember from our childhood. You can play Go-fish with as many players as you have cards. Some people claim Go-Fish is a variation of Rummy but the simplicity of the game and the children’s game gimmick make it likely just some toy company’s creation. Strangely enough, Go-fish is known as Literature in some parts of the world. Write in if you understand that one.

7. War

Another children’s game (or time-killing game) War is a straight luck based game. Depending on the flop of the card, you either win or lose a war. Most people under the age of 30 learned War before they learned any other card game. You’ll see War played a lot in lines at airports.

8. Oh Hell!

Substitute your own dirty word for “Hell!” and you know this party game. Most of the fun is the fact that you get to cuss a lot and people laugh at you. What keeps this game popular is that it is a strict betting game. The object of Oh Hell! is to bid the precise number of tricks you will win. You have to take only the number that you bid, no more and no less. Play is precise, and because of the structure of the game, one player always blows it big time. There. That’s what’s fun. Screwing your opponent.

9. Blackjack

A skill game that in some casinos is the best bet you can make, if you can play a perfect hand. This is one of the most popular casino card game, and has a place in popular culture as THE “Vegas” game. The point is to build a hand that adds up to a total of 21 points without going over, and ending up with a higher number than the dealer. Players compete against the House directly, adding to the fun. Little known fact — there exists somewhere in this world a blackjack player’s hall of fame. Safe to say that this game’s got a cult following

10. Baccarat

James Bond’s favorite game (don’t believe the hype — it wasn’t poker or blackjack — read the books) Baccarat is a basic betting game. Players bet on who will win a given hand – the player, the banker, or if there will be a tie. Sure it looks easy, but Baccarat is a skill game. A small sidenote about Baccarat — the name comes from the name of the worst possible hand. This would be like calling your video poker machine “High Card Poker”. Just doesn’t have the same ring as “Royal Flush”.

11. Solitaire

The most varied card game in the world. In England, they call this game Patience, and for good reason. Solitaire requires little set up beyond putting cards in specific places, and is usually played by yourself. Solitaire is another popular airport line waiting game.

12. Rummy and variations

There are lots of different kinds of Rummy, more than are probably written down on any list. I’ve written for a website that had me list 500 variations or other names for Rummy, so I’ll spare you the reading and just say there’s lots of kinds of Rummy. The more popular versions are called Gin Rummy, Liverpool Rummy, and Contract Rummy. The feature that makes a game a Rummy is a player matching identical cards into pairs and other groups. Some experts believe the Chinese game of Mahjong is part of the Rummy family, though I’d bet the Chinese are just fine with Mahjong as it is.

13. Pai Gow

This is an old Chinese domino game that has been passed down through the years as a poker variation. You’ll see Pai Gow at casinos in both as a poker and a domino game — it is probably the casino game that the least number of people understand. This is a game of fast bets, player versus dealer. Pai Gow strategy is just as rich as any other poker betting game, and the culture of Pai Gow is similar to the Blackjack culture — super-fast bets and edgy behavior at the margins.

14. Spoons

A silly card game probably invented to keep kids out of trouble, Spoons is a bluffing game (with some elements of matching) that uses simple kitchen utensils as an added play element. The first player in the group to draw a poker style four of a kind reaches to a pile of spoons in the middle of the table, signalling the other players to grab for one. Since there’s one less spoon than players, one player will be left out every time. So its a social interaction game, and not a game chock full of card strategy. its still fun. Great date night game.

15. Speed

Speed (sometimes called Spit) is a matching game that is unique because both players play simultaneously and as fast as they can. In Speed, a player tries to ‘get rid’ of his or her cards by matching them to cards placed face-up on the table. This is a face to face game, though there’s actually little interaction between the two opponents. The last few moments of any game of Speed reminds me of solitaire on fast-forward, with hands and cards flying around and rows forming and draining like water pipes. Strange game, Speed.

16. Crazy 8s

This is another children’s matching game, you could say it is cousin to the popular game Uno. The 8s in the deck of standard cards are considered “crazy” not because they need to be medicated but to indicate they are wild cards. In some variations of Crazy 8s, not just Wild Cards but other “rule cards” exist, making the game more complex for older players.

17. Slapjack

If you want to teach more complex card games to younger kids, Slapjack is the perfect vehicle. The object of Slapjack is to acquire the whole deck of cards by matching and slapping pairs. Kids like to slap stuff, and the game can be played over and over again.

18. Old Maid

You don’t need an “Old Maid” deck to play this kid’s card game — any standard 52 card deck will do. Just remove one of the Queens. Old Maid is a matching game where players find pairs You trade cards with your opponent until that player is left with the unmatched Queen. Matching games are popular, and the novelty “Old Maid” packs are fun for kids.

19. Cribbage

This is a hybrid board and card game with complicated rules that generally intimidates people, even hardcore card gamers. You play cribbage by forming groups of cards that are worth different point values, and moving a peg on a board that represents your progress accordingly. Requiring a specific board (or a quick hand with a pen and paper) cribbage isn’t the best travel game, but as fans of cribbage will tell you, no two games are alike. There are solitaire versions of cribbage, and other varieties of cribbage game play to choose from if you’re bored with the standard version.

20. Pinochle

Pinochle is popular because it is a trick-taking game that you play with a 48 card deck. In Pinochle, you try to make melds or tricks, much like in Gin, but there’s a really complex scoring system making the game fun to learn and to master. To be good at pinochle, you have to play for a number of years, and lose plenty of hands. Though it is less popular year after year, Pinochle is one of those “heritage games”.

Quantity vs. Quality in Sports Gambling

We have all heard a handicapper or sports gambler boast of their ability to win at a 60% or better clip. Is it possible to win at that percentage over a short period of time? Absolutely. If someone is able to maintain that winning percentage over the course of years – enjoy your riches, and I wish you all the luck in the world. Now the truth. It’s not going to happen – forget it, 60% is nearly impossible over any substantial length of time. 55%, maybe, but anyone who claims a 60% win rate over multiple sports and seasons is simply lying – or they are betting a very small number of games. Don’t give up yet however. Below I will show that winning 54 out of every 100 games (54%) can turn a nice profit.

The example below will examine the attainable profits from different amounts a games wagered and different winning percentages of those games. For the sake of argument

someone could claim that they have hit 60% winners betting on sports the past three years, for example. But if they only bet 10 games a year – 30 total over the three year span – and they win 18 of those, I guess they have the right to claim they can handicap sports at a 60% win rate. Technically correct, but a very weak claim.

Wager size $110

Betting $110 to win $100

60% winning percentage over 30 games

18 winners = $1800

12 losers = $1320

Profit = $480

For someone who claims to pick 60% winners over the past three years, and is betting roughly $100 a game – a $480 profit does not look all that impressive. So much for that impressive 60% winning percentage.

Let us now look at a different example. A guy claims that he has hit a conservative 54% of his games over the past 3 years (52.38% is the break even point). However, over the course of that time he bets roughly 3 games per day on all major sports. His total games bet would be 3285 over that time span. Let’s examine his numbers using the same bet size as the so called 60% bettor.

Wager size $110

Betting $110 to win $100

54% winning percentage over 3285 games

1774 winners = $177400

1511 losers = $166210

Profit = $11,190

You can see from these simple examples that it is important to not only look at winning percentages, but also the number of games wagered and the bet size to realistically analyze potential profits. Be sure to take this into account when analyzing your bets, or when you hear outrageous claims of 60% or better winning percentage over a long period of time.

Good luck with your wagers, and I wish you the best of luck this year!

Similarities Between Playing Craps And Investing

Do you know the difference between playing craps and investing in the stock market? In my opinion, absolutely nothing! There is very little difference between playing craps and investing in the stock market. Some stocks have a high risk factor with a possibility and expectation of a greater return, while other stocks have a lower risk factor, but also with an expectation of a lower return. Similarly, some craps bets have a higher risk factor with a greater win pay-off while other craps bets have a lower risk factor with a lower rate for the win pay-off.

There are many similarities between various types of stock investments and playing craps. For example, investing in stock options is extremely risky compared to investing in conservative, dividend paying securities, like Disney, Coca Cola or MacDonald’s. Stock options will allow you to make huge profits, but with a lot of risk. Investing in the conservative companies will have a lower risk, but will give you much lower profits. Of course, you can still lose money investing in conservative companies.

In craps, you can bet on a 2 or 12 which will give you the highest profit (pays 30 to 1), but it also has the greatest risk of losing (less than 3% probability of winning). Or, you can bet on the 6 and 8 which have lower win payouts, but also a lower risk of losing. As in investing in stocks, a craps player will have a chance to lose even on low risk bets.

Webster’s New World Dictionary, Compact School and Office Edition, defines “Invest” as “to put (money) into business, bonds, etc., in order to get a profit.” Webster’s Dictionary defines “Gamble” as “1. to play games of chance for money, etc. 2. To take a risk for an advantageous position.” By comparing the definitions of “Invest” to “Gamble,” one can ascertain that if you invest, you are putting money into stocks (business) or bonds or bank certificates of deposit in order to make a profit. If you “Gamble” (play craps), you are putting money (a wager) on a portion of the Craps table layout in order to win money. Depending upon how you invest and how you bet playing craps determines if you will have a greater chance of making money or a greater chance of losing your money.

If you listen to radio financial talk show hosts and their guests and you watch financed-based TV programs (CNBC), as well as read investment magazines and publications, you will notice similar philosophies for investing as we suggest in playing craps. Some of the comparisons are as follows:

1. “Investing always involves risk.” – – Don McDonald, nationally syndicated talk show host, 1/24/01. Bob Brinker of Money Talk has also said something to the same affect.

Translation: Playing craps always involves risk.

2. An advertisement by American Century in Smart Money Magazine, January, 2001, page 58, states in part as follows:

“It’s knowing teamwork and a disciplined approach can deliver solid, long-term results.” See also, Money Magazine, December, 2000, page 30.

Translation: Playing craps with a disciplined approach can deliver solid, long term results.

3. TD Ameritrade in their disclosure to investors about options (2008) state in part:

We know that options can be an important part of your investing strategy. . .

Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading may expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses.

Translation: Playing craps is not suitable for everyone. Playing craps may expose individuals to potentially rapid and substantial losses.

If you apply investment techniques and sound business principles to playing craps, you should be able to minimize your losses while maximizing your profits (wins). Just remember – – as there is no foolproof strategy to investing, there is no foolproof strategy to playing craps.

What Is A Pro 'Capper?'

It must have been about five years ago now, I was asked to do a guest spot on a sports handicapping radio show, to talk a little boxing and football. The host was a guy named Tim Trushel, who I had met a couple months earlier when I was an in-studio guest on the show. In this, our second conversation, Tim introduced me as "a man of many hats – a writer, bookmaker, fight reporter, and professional handicapper."

I told Tim I was uncomfortable with "writer" as it was not something I planned on doing when I came to Vegas to hang around for a couple months and catch some fights. Despite having my columns appear in four or five different magazines that year I did (and still don't) consider myself a writer. And I said I felt the same way about being called a professional handicapper. It began a discussion on "What is a professional capper?"

I've heard it described many ways; Here are a few, with opinion added:

Is it someone who quits their job to handicap and bet sports full time?

I don't think so – I've seen too many of them that end up losing their bankroll and returning to the work force.

Is it someone who sells picks for a living?

Nope. I've seen too many of them lose, too.

Is it someone who bets sports for a living and has NOT had to return to the work force because he has had a successful year?

Is 1 year enough? Most would say "no" and rightfully so.

So, what is the acceptable time frame of profitable seasons? Ya got me.

Is it a title awarded on tenure, as I see bestowed on many long-time Vegas gamblers?

It is, but it isn't. There does exist a good ole boys circuit of self-proclaimed "pro cappers" out here, for which membership seems to be nothing more than they have sold picks or been asked by some member of the media – be it print, radio or TV – who they like in a contest.

I did not have an answer for what a pro capper was back on that day, and I don't have one today either. It seems to me that it is very open to interpretation. All I can do is tell you what I am, what I do. I'm an investor. I bet on sports. I have been successful, and for proof all I need is to offer this – I am not stupid. My corporate accomplishments are testament to that fact. I have been wagering on sports for a long time. If I was losing money I would not do it. I am not an addictive person. I have never had a cup of coffee. I have never smoked a cigarette. I started out as a gambler, and learned to be an investor.

I am not self-centered, so I do not say "my way is the right way" as I see many charlatans propose as they pose as pro's. I only know what works for me, and more importantly – what does work. It's knowing what doesn't work that keeps me in the black.

I've just finished my "second sport" season with Sports Memo – basketball season. I only played one NCAA game, because I know it is not my strength; though others can do multiple sports at the same time I find that an undivided focus works well for me. It goes back to what I was saying about knowing what I can't do.

I finished with a nice profit in my second season – NBA – after making adjustments following my first season – football. I am done with baskets for now, as the way I cap does not lend itself to the playoffs. I may play a couple games, and if I do I will use them at SM, because I post what I play and vice-versa.

But I will not have day to day play anymore. This season is done. A profit has been banked, and more importantly, another season of data has been added to my data banks, and I will use it to win again next year – and to win more.

It is time now to battle the Beast – baseball – and I'm off to a good start, scoring 10-9 rounds in each of the first two weeks ending up with a profit in each week (I treat baseball like a fight, each week being a round, rounds start on

Monday, end on Sunday, the goal being to finish out each 7 day window on the + side).

I'm 11-5 in Green Light plays, with no Fav over -170, and my best dog thus far bringing in +140.

Ride with me, as I follow up a successful NBA campaign by beating up the Beast and kicking bookie ass in MLB, too.
Discuss, debate, or disagree with this or any topic in the Sportsmemo posting forum