When a big score is not so big

Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm


Every once in a while, intentionally or not, somebody steals your thunder.

I had this column pretty much written. It was a celebration of sorts, exuding happiness over some good fortune that had come my way.

You see, I stumbled upon some success in the world of horse racing as the calendar year, and thus the betting year, came to an end.

I have a goal of not losing $100 in horse and greyhound wagers in a year, and have been able to stick to it. It’s a streak that began in 1999.

But because of a variety of factors, not the least of which was my trip to the Kentucky Derby in May, I was over that point for 2012. Way over that point.

On Dec. 28, my wife and I made a trip to Dubuque. We had a buffet supper, and then she went off to run some errands, leaving me at the greyhound track (apparently there’s a casino there too) for some fun and frolic.

It was one of my last chances to throw dimes at 10-cent superfectas in hopes of salvaging a better bottom line for the end of the year.

As I have written earlier, I have come to love the “supers.” To win, you have to pick the first four horses (or greyhounds) in their exact order of finish.

It’s a way to play a large number of races for a very minimal cost.

Of course, the flip side is that it is extremely rare to cash a superfecta ticket when you are only playing them a dime at a time. Most seasoned players use varieties of combinations to improve their chances.

So it was no surprise that I hadn’t won anything by the time Diane came to pick me up again, but there were still a few races I had bet on that hadn’t gone off yet. I took the remaining tickets with me.

We arrived home, and I got online to check the results. I glanced at the numbers from the 10th race at Delta, and noticed that the numbers 2-10-5-8 had come in.

I ran to my pile of tickets, quickly thumbed through them, and found the one for that race. Sure enough – the numbers matched. Amazingly, that combination paid $77.39 on a 10-cent wager.

I was thrilled. I had done it. My losses would be under $100 for the year. The streak would continue, I could start the year with a clean slate, and …

Wait a minute.

Because the end of the year was approaching, and I was flailing, I had been dropping 20 cents on each combination instead of 10. Didn’t I have 20 cents on this one?

I looked at the ticket again, and next to “total bet” it said “$0.20.” So the $77.39 payoff was actually double that for me, or $154.78.

It was one of the biggest scores of my entire life. And when all was said and done, I was not only well below the 100-dollar loss threshold, I wound up close to an overall winning year.

So I was all set to march into the office and pound out a column about my overwhelming success.

Then, the other day, Mark Spensley scratched off a lottery ticket.

It was worth $3,000.

Suddenly, my $154.78 looked like the peanuts that fall off a Salted Nut Roll.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ll gladly take it. Good for me.

Better for him. Much better.