Winning money is thrilling; betting for thrills is chilling

by Frank Cotolo

This Bettors Banquet (BB) column touches upon an accusation I make about anyone betting pari-mutuels races, especially harness races. Though it is easy to accuse someone of doing something, to prove it is not always an easy chore; not so much in this case, however. I feel confident accusing the majority of bettors of something they are doing; something that impairs their success; and I can prove it.

The accusation is this: Most players bet on too many races to be financially successful. I am talking the raw number of races played, having nothing to do with the amounts bet (yet even wagering the minimum amount on “too many races” will yield losses).

Now, if you are a pari-mutuels bettor, believe me, it will serve your betting future greatly if you provide an honest answer to one question:

“When you wager, what are you chasing — money or a high from winning?”

I bet I would have won a bet that you did not think that was going to be the question. After all, what does that have to do with bettors playing too many races? We will get to that. Foremost, take all the time necessary to answer the question truthfully; understanding that the answer is either “money” or “a high from winning.”


If you answered “money,” then the subject of the first two BB columns on playing for profit are important to review (episode 1 here) (episode 2 here), as well as you can learn more about that subject in future BB columns.

If you answered “a high from winning,” thank you for being honest; it is a bettor’s first step walking away from the poor house. Betting just for a high (thrill) of being correct is counter-productive to being successful. Why? First, if your primary need to bet is to produce a thrill, then only cashing a ticket provides the thrill. Receiving a thrill from a win, then, continually drives your betting, so if you are given the chance of being thrilled nine times a night, why would you want the thrill less than nine times? What about being offered the chance 15 times a night? If a thrill is available 15 times a night, what stops you from trying to obtain it 15 times?

If the thrill is always the desired result of wagering, the player’s measure of success is not money made from a wager, it is merely the act of having a ticket to cashing. Danger looms, though, because a thrill is rarely satisfied. It needs constant attention, perpetual presence. What to do?

The solution to the infinite number of thrills needed, then, is to cash more tickets. To cash more tickets, one has to win more races — winning, after all, equals a thrill. These days and nights there is no shortage of races that propose thrills. The volume of available prospects for thrills is sizeable, and in that climate thrill-seekers are doomed, bound to be burned, because no one can successively win enough to survive manufacturing infinite thrills.

Look at the following example of someone playing as many races as possible for thrills over five racing programs. Our fictional player, Delaney, bets (left column) and cashes or not (right column).

Programs Bet Cashes

1 $46 $12.20
2 $26 $34.40
3 $56 $–00
4 $36 $5.60
5 $48 $20.00

Delaney’s bets on every race over five programs, costs him $72.20. That is not the cost of his thrills because over the five programs he wagered $212.00. The cost of his thrills was $139.80 — which is the amount he lost, which is the amount he paid for $72.20 worth of thrills. Each time he cashed wagers his thrill sent him ego-pumping messages like, “You are so good at this game” and “You are great at picking winners,” and “Wow, that felt good, do it again.”

Anyone who wins a wager has the right to be thrilled, but that sensation is flippant, unlike the sound property of money, which is a sound, productive asset.

By contrast, look at the rundown of a week’s plays using specific, selected races, from five days of programs by another fictional player, Ollie.

Programs Bet Cashes

1 $12 $–00
2 $20 $–00
3 $30 $98.60
4 $10 $–00
5 $25 $175.00

Ollie wagered $97.00 over five days, selecting races he thought could make him the most money. He was thrilled when he cashed tickets but ultimate satisfaction came from the financial results of the five-day campaign, which returned $237.60 for his $97.00 worth of bets—a profit of $176.60.

Because he plays for insatiable thrills, Delaney’s losing moments are miserable and demeaning. Because Ollie selects races to play with care and a higher goal than an ego-boosting thrill, he does not flinch when he loses races and can sustain the dreaded losing streaks all bettors suffer.
My accusation is proven — if you wager for inner glory and the thrill of being correct, you are playing too many races. As BB columns ensue, the elements afforded to assist the profit-seeker will be explained to further the strengths of success.

… to be continued.