May 27, 2011
My first bet: 12yrs old

Derby got me thinking recently about the first REAL bet I ever made (other than gambling with friends of course). It was at Ellis Park, a horse track just outside of my hometown of Evansville, Indiana.

My grandfather owned race horses and our family would always go to cheer them on. He named each horse after a different family member, with “rock” in the name somehow. Rock was his nickname. My mom’s horse, Rockin Roxanna did very well. Mine, Rocky Landin’ did not :P

Every time we went to the track my parents would give Andy and I each $2 to bet on grandpa’s horse. We could pick win place or show, but we had to bet on his horse. It taught me a lot about risk vs reward, since wins pay more but are harder to hit than place or show.

His race wasn’t until later in the day and all day I was noticing the payoff board. I noticed that “$2 trifecta box” was paying $100, $200, sometimes $500. I remember thinking that seemed like a good bet. $2 for a chance to win hundreds. In the next race, there were only 6 horses and I decided to try my luck at picking the top 3 for the trifecta.

For those of you who are horse noobs, let me explain something quickly: A trifecta means you have to pick the exact order of the top 3 horses (ABC). A trifecta BOX is a cool way to bet a trifecta in which you just have to pick the top 3 horses, but the order doesn’t matter. Well, in reality, a box is just a combination of 6 different trifectas. A tri-box is just 6 different bets (ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA). A tri-box costs 6 times the amount to bet it. I did not know this crucial piece of info at 12 yrs old.

I had the $2 to bet on grandpa’s horse and I had $10, which was to be Andy’s and my lunch money for the day. I decided I would risk $2 of my $5 lunch money on this “tri box” bet on this race where there were only 6 horses. I looked at the handicap sheet and it told me that horses 1, 3 and 4 were the top 3. I went with it.

I had never placed a bet before and I was a little nervous. I knew the law said you had to be 18 yrs old, but what the hell. Andy had done it. I’ll do it!

With just a minute or two before post time, I walked up and said I would like a $2 trifecta box on horses 1, 3 and 4 in the next race. The man behind the betting booth punched it in. It appeared as though I was going to get away with it!

I pulled out two dollars from my pocket and placed it on the betting window for him to take.

He printed the ticket and extended it towards me and said “Twelve Dollars”.

I corrected him “No, I just want a TWO dollar trifecta box”

"That’s a TWELVE dollar bet, son."

My heart began to race. What had I done? What kind of voodoo math was this fellow pulling on me? Was I being scammed? Had I made a mistake? I remember him looking at me like if I didn’t pay up he would pulverize me. That’s how I remember it anyway.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the ten dollar bill. I held it in front of my face at stared at it. My lunch money. Andy’s lunch money. Andy would kill me. Mom would kill me. I held it up and remember looking at it and thinking “I can’t lose this. I need this.”

The bell went off, as the horses left the gate. The race had started. The man quickly reached across the betting window and snatched the ten dollar bill from my hands. He laid the ticket on the counter. He had my $2, but he also had my $10. I had no money. All I had was this ticket. I can remember being extremely nervous and scared. I didn’t know what to do. But I know I wanted out of there.

I then remembered that the race had started! They were probably already through the first turn by now!

I ran like the wind to the finish line. The track was fairly empty and I was able to secure a spot on the front rail. I told no one of my colossal error. I told no one I was broke. I told no one I NEEDED the 1, 3, 4 trifecta.

I watched the big screen, it showed my horses in 1st, 2nd and 4th.

As the horses rounded the final turn into the stretch, the big screen went off and I couldn’t tell how my horses were doing. Please. Please. Please let it hit. Oh my God, what will I do if it doesn’t? It’s not that I wanted the money of the win, I wanted to not have lost the $10. I could go without a coke or hot dog for my gamble of $2, but this $10 was eating away at me.

The horses thundered across my view, and I intently focused on their numbers as they crossed the finish line.

1st. Mine.

2nd. Mine.

3rd. Can’t tell, dammit!

For an eterninty the big board was blank. It seemed like ten minutes……..




Finally, the unofficial results were posted.1st = Mine2nd =Mine3rd =Mine.


Only then was I able to tell my parents, my brother, my grandpa, and my uncle what had happened. I can remember my uncle telling me that if it were him, and the man took money from his hands, he woulda punched him in the nose. I can remember thinking how absurd this was (to me). I was tiny. As I recall, the big ugly hairy man behind the betting booth was exactly like Steve the Tramp from the Dick Tracy movie. I was so scared of him.

Once the results became official, they posted the “$2 trifecta box” winnings. It was just under $100, not the payday I had hoped for, but after all, it was a 6 horse race. So the risk wasn’t as high—another lesson learned.

Other than the $2 on my grandpa’s horse, I didn’t place another bet all day. I was 1 for 1. I made a $2 $12 bet and it paid almost $100. I was on top of the world. And I was hooked. Gambling is awesome.

Now-a-days, I don’t gamble versus the house too much. I know the negative expected value. So I treat it like an entertainment expense. But I trade stocks, start companies and invest in others. To me, they’re all forms of the old $2 trifecta box.



Now on the big board, it lists the bet as a “$2 Trifecta” not “$2 Trifecta Box”. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one confused.



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