Commentary

Hit the button

Updated: July 16, 2012, 3:54 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Losing isn't embarrassing; the way you lose can be.

One way we can handicap better is by learning from mistakes. It's the pooling of the bad habits that can make a person lose less. Sharing flaws is usually done with a best friend, or with somebody with counseling credits. With gaming, oftentimes there's nobody around but jokers with whom to share. Gaming is the same as hardcore rotgut gambling.

When discussing bad betting, I'm not talking about unlucky losses, a dead bug stuck on the nose of a horse that photo-finished you out of a big pot. The bad betting that is good to talk about is stupid betting: quadrupling up to catch up on the best Beyer in a $5,000 claiming race, a 1-1 choice seeming gift-wrapped in tape, or putting $100 on an expert's pick.

So with the intent of improving the breed (of handicappers), here are two things that pain me most every time out: the failure to shut it down after a nice win, and playing saver-type bets featuring wobblers.

One advantage to home wagering on the Internet, in addition to cleanliness, and beyond hard cash giveaways, and besides the irony of seeing on one side of the page on the Racing Form a piece about the sadness of the collapse of on-site attendance, and a pitch on the other side of the page saying we'll pay you to stay home and bet with us, is the record keeping. Everything connected with Internet wagering is on the books and can be reviewed and printed.

Want to see how you're doing this month? This year? Hit the won-loss key. All bets are right there. Want to see exactly how you're losing? Want to see flashes of brilliance and the personification of empty-headed wishful thinking? Hit the button.

Missing in the home-wagering experience is the unequalled thrill of live racing, and talking to all the idiots.

Money lost after a win is not "house money." That's silly talk for money you're getting ready to throw away. I have been losing money from my pocket repeatedly on savers, and after good wins.

A "saver" is something you bet after you hit the first two on a pick 4, one a double-figure winner. So by betting more on junk, you attempt to insure a payoff. You envision something that only moments ago you found to be laughable to be capable of beating you out of thousands. So off you go to cover what could break your heart. And all the "savers," usually save is a degree of happiness. A successful saver is something like a double-deep closer: It wins so infrequently, you can't forget it. Once you play a dog in a 20-1 exacta saver at the last second, and hit it, it makes a person ignore all the losers in similar situations.

Next up on the list of throwing away money with awesome regularity is betting after a nice win.

Hitting a good one doesn't mean you can't lose.

It means the race you hit fit your mind's eye.

It's possible that a horse player simply can't quit on a good win, that it's in the DNA to let a little something ride.

So here's the play after a good win: Bet tiny.

Almost all of what you pass on loses. That actually means you're pretty good.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.