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The Tote Board Is Alive and Well (1981): The Fix Is Thin

Milt Gaines, The Tote Board Is Alive and Well (GBC, 1981)
[originally posted 21Mar2000]

photo credit: gamblersbookclub.com

My copy is trade, not spiral-bound. That I found this photo so readily is evidence that GBC still has this thing in print. I figured I would be reviewing an antique…turns out this review may be needed even more now than it was in 2000, if people are still buying this monstrosity.

Yet another book trading on the fallacy that horse trainers are capable of fixing races, and that they bet “inside money” using complicated betting schemes that emerge as betting patterns on the tote board. The idea is that if you watch the odds on every horse, you’ll find a few whose odds fluctuations suggest insider trading, as it were.

The fact of the matter is that it’s next to impossible to fix a horse race in the way these guys are talking about. It’s possible to drug an animal, for good or ill, and it’s possible for a jockey to put a choke-hold on a horse that will cause him to lose. But causing a horse to lose is not going to guarantee another will win unless you happen to be in a two-horse race, and they’ve never carded all that many of those (between 1995 and 1999, I’ve seen two). And the idea of a conspiracy containing every trainer on the grounds of any given horse track (there are usually between two and three hundred trainers working during any given meet) is just plain ludicrous, especially when you realize that for the vast majority of those trainers, the difference between first and second-place money in every race they run is the difference between the family eating a decent meal and the family having beans for the eighth day in a row. (Would you want to live in that house? Hope it has lots of windows.)

It makes for entertaining reading, but that’s about it. **

 


Night School’s tote-board handicapping video. Fifty minutes long. This is based more on Ziemba’s work, which looks at tote board fluctuations based on the public perception rather than assuming trainer intent, and is thus somewhat more worth checking out–but tote board handicapping is suspiciously close to voodoo in my book.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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