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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Chp 739. Betting on Horses

One more point to tick off my bucket list - to go to a race course derby and bet on horses!

So the other day, I spent the better part of the day at Pune Race Course, also known as The Royal Western India Turf Club. It was a special invitation from an expat who was currently in India and who happened to be a member of the Club. Actually it was my friend Rini who was invited, and I went along as her "plus one".

Though I was extremely hungover from the previous night's drinking session (I was at home watching Narcos Mexico marathon by myself until I passed out), when Rini called me up the next morning and asked me if I was interested in going to the race course. I immediately said yes and got ready because I had always wanted to visit the place… plus it would make a good topic to blog about :D

Yeah you can see how hungover I was that afternoon when we reached the location :D

Oktoberfest was also going on at the venue, so there were lots of craft beer everywhere.

Since the person who invited us was a Club member, it was easy for us to enter the premises. Mobile phones with camera had to be left at a locker outside, or else we had to pay extra to carry our phones with us. We did the latter. We were also given special colored bracelet-badges to wear, to indicate that we were guests with permission to carry our phones with us.

After a few more craft beer at the private Club section, I was starting to feel fine again, and so we headed to the horse betting section. This section is open to the public (entry fee charged) and one need not be a Club member to enter this area.

Our host generously explained to me all the process of how the betting system works.

First, we looked at the handbook, also known as the Cole racebook.

In that book, all the races of that day were listed, along with all the horses taking part in each race. The information also contained the name of the horse's parents, the history of the parents, the owner, the breeder, the jockey, including the jockey's name, age, weight, height, color of jersey and crest symbol.

The booklet also listed some very important information like the horse's performances in previous races, and what distances were those particular races etc., as apparently there is a big difference between even a 1000m race and 1100m race!

We headed to the pre-race viewing section, where the announcer over the mic called out each horse one by one and they paraded around the gallery. They were led by their respective stableboys. Once everybody had a good look of the horses, the announcer called them out once again, and this time, it was with their respective jockeys riding them.

As everybody studied the horses deeply, I too tried to act as if I was a professional gambler who understood horses and I started gesturing to the horses and calculating with my fingers in the air while mumbling "E=MC2" now and then :P

As the horses left the arena and made their way to the race track, it was time to place our bets!

All the bookies immediately started listing out the odds for each horse, based on many parameters from the Cole racebook. They scribbled those odds with chalk on a board in front of their counter, and people roamed around from one bookie counter to the other to see which bookie was giving the best odds for the horse they were planning to bet on. The higher the odds, the larger the payout, if that horse wins.

Our host told us to go to any counter as it wasn't going to make much of difference as most of the odds were similar, and with the amount I was planning to bet, a few points variation was hardly going to make any difference :D Those small differences in odds mattered to those who were betting lakhs and crores of rupees.

And so there I was, placing my bet! :D

There were different types of bets, like if you go for a "Win", it means you get back the entire amount you bet (minus 10% tax) along with a high payout (based on the odds) if your horse comes first. Betting on "Place" means you win if your horse comes first, second or third, any of the three, but the payout is low. And then there are "Quinella" bet, "Perfecta" bet and so on.

I went for a "Win" on my chosen horse.

We all moved to the public gallery to view the race after that, but it was too crowded, and so we went to the Club's private area.

And then the race started! The commentator was non-stop shouting on the mic as we looked at the giant screen and cheered. Initially, since it was my first time, I felt a bit awkward shouting out my horse's name (which happened to be "Steppenwolf") at first, but our host quickly told me people shout out the name of the jockey to cheer and not the horse's name :D and so I switched to shouting "NEERAJ, NEERAJ!" quickly.

And yesssss, Steppenwolf… I mean, Neeraj, came first!

It was at that moment that I truly understood how chronic gamblers felt. The adrenalin rush was super AMAZING, especially at that very last moment your horse speeds up from third place after saving on energy to overtake and clinch the title.

The whole race lasted just under a minute or so, but the experience was awesome. After that it was another 30 minutes of the same horse parade and betting before the next race begins.

We went back to our bookie's stall to submit our tickets and collect our winnings.

Rini was betting on the same horse that won, but she was playing safe and went for "Place", and so she won just this amount…

Meanwhile, since I was betting on a "Win", this was the amount I won :D

Truth to be told though, this was what I posted on Facebook. In reality, I never won any of the other races again after this. I kept losing and losing. Overall, I actually lost more money than I won.

Our host told me stories about the number of friends he knew who had lost entire family fortunes to this gambling addiction, and to me, that was a really good wake up call to never continue this again. But yeah, it was good to experience this at least once in a lifetime.

We eventually had some of the Oktoberfest snacks at the Club area…

…and then we headed home. I think it was quite worth it. A day well spent. Hope you found this blog post interesting. Cheers for now. :)

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