I originally wrote this story in 1998 in Usenet. It was picked up by a gambling site and reprinted.. It stayed on their main page until they went under. I thought some of you might be interested...
About 25 -30 years ago, my best friend was Harry. I was about 18 and Harry was
a few years my senior. We had met at the track one day and we both shared a
strong interest in racing, and in gambling. In those days, both Harry and I
were living with our parents.
Well, we attended the races whenever we could scrounge up the money needed.
Harry, if I recall, was working at the time, I was not. He was very generous
towards me. If he had the money to go, he would request my company and I would
usually say, "I'm tapped" Harry would reply, "That's okay, I'll take care of
you." When we'd get to the track, Harry would usually pay for everything and
give me $10 or $20 to gamble with. Sometimes I would have a run of luck and
make a few hundred but mostly I would lose his gift money, and he invariably
would tap out also. I usually would save a few bucks of the money he gave me
so we could at least grab a burger on our way home. Harry had no talent for
saving even a single dollar if he was having a losing day.
One day Harry and I went to a VW dealer and Harry attempted to buy a new
Volkswagon. The salesman told Harry that there was a $1000 rebate he could use
toward the purchase of his new car. I do not remember all that much after that
except Harry's credit application was denied. No new car for Harry.
Fast forward a month or so. Harry and I were hanging out at his parents home.
Probably looking at the Form, (only cost 75 cents or so back then) wishing we
had the money to go to the track. I think Harry was unemployed then also.
Maybe not. Well, Harry hears a noise at the door and goes over to grab
the mail off the floor. He sees something interesting and he opens it.... He
starts smiling and laughing... Hey, "Volkswagon sent me a $1000.. Let's go to
the track! Obviously, there had been a bookeeping mistake at VW corporate,
because Harry had been given the rebate even though his application for a car
had been denied.
I lectured Harry all the way to the track. "C'mon Harry, Let's do this right.
No sloppiness, just smart bets. We'll just bet two horses to place and go
home" Well, I got through to Harry. He did as I suggested. We won both $200
place bets and one of them paid a fat $6.20 to place. It was the Oak Tree Meet
at Santa Anita. Harry and I went undefeated thru the remaining 12 days of the
meet. That's right, 26 winners in a row! Harry had in the pocket of his torn
jeans, upwards of 6K. He doled out a hundred or two to me every third day or
so and paid for every single thing we did. But it was his money, that was
clear, it wasn't ours. I gambled a bit with the money he had given me and was
well up also. They were mainly my selections, but the capital was his. I gave
Harry a pep talk every night. "Let's keep it going. We're doing it smart.
Let's keep it up" Ah, we were on a roll and having a great time.
So, we decided to take our talents north to Bay Meadows. We got a room prepaid
for two weeks at the Hillsborough Inn (I think that was the name) right across
the street from Bay Meadows... It was raining cats and dogs when we arrived
and continued for days. I told him, "We'll wait a few days" But it kept
raining, with no end in sight. I said, "Okay we'll go, but we'll cut our bets
to one a day, just a single $100 place bet to make expenses until the track
dries up." I knew that King of Cricket was to run in a week or so. That guy
was a rocket, tough as nails and loved the mud. He was to be tested for class
but I knew he would handle the raise. I suggested to Harry that we would put
half our bankroll on Cricket and not bet anything else until the sun came up.
Harry was reticent but seemingly agreeable. Cricket later won that race easily
and paid in the high $4 range. Harry loved the action and this staying in
the room and waiting was very hard for him. We went to the track one day and
made our single bet. The horse lost. Harry and I sat quietly in the freezing,
dark grandstand. He asked if I wanted a coffee and I answered in the
affirmative. He left to retrieve it. A minute or so later, I had to make a
call to the restroom. As I proceded to the appropriate area, I saw Harry at
the $50 window. "Ah sh*t, we've got a problem" I thought. But I didn't say
anything right then. I went back to the grandstand and watched the next race
with Harry. After the race concluded, I said, "How'd we do? He acted surprised
by my question... He lied. But then Harry had already shown me many times that
he had the gamblers sickness. After I told him that I saw him betting, he
admitted it. I asked how much money he had. He wouldn't tell me. I pressed. He
pulled $3500 out of his pocket. He had lost quite a bit of the bankroll.
He acted a little disgusted to have to perform this act of proof...
Well, the following week, it rained cats, dogs, cows and horses. I wasn't use
to it, being a Southern California boy. I had a young girlfriend in San Jose. I
called her and we arranged to meet. I elicited a promise from Harry that he
would only bet the one single, agreed upon horse, as I spent my day in San
Jose.I got home late that night. Harry was reading the Form. I said, How'd it
go? Harry wouldn't reply. "C'mon Harry, tell me, quit f**king around" But he
wouldn't say a thing. It went on and on for perhaps a quarter of an hour. I'm
out of patience. "Harry, I'm going to kick the sh*t out of you in about 10
seconds, tell me what happened." All of the sudden Harry erupts from his prone
position on his bed, jumps up, reaches into both of his pockets, and
starts throwing hundreds of bills around the room.. into the air, this way and
that. I watch as they hit their landing places. All of them are hundreds and
there's lots of them... lots and lots of them. I calmly watch his outburst. He
begins berating me, "You need to let me be, I need my freedom. F**k this place
betting sh*t" Over and over, he tells me, it is I that is holding him back
from really realizing true profits at the track. I just listen.... "We're
f**ked" I'm thinking.
We count the money. Over 17K. He proudly recounts his winning day at the
track, bragging, telling me of his skills, and hands me ten $100 bills. I tuck
them away deeply in my wallet. The next few days we lost. I had lost
control of my friend and the situation. He was in the throes of the gambling
sickness. I decided to go visit my girlfriend in San Jose again. I asked about
the funds. He had a little over 12K when I left for San Jose that morning.
When I returned that night, I again asked, "How'd it go? He was very quiet,
not toying with me like he did previously. When he finally answered, he was
humble. "I lost it" he said. I reply, "How much" He says, "All of it." I'm
hoping he's kidding me but he wasn't. He had a single $20 in his pocket. He
inquires about the money I tucked away in my wallet. I lied, telling him I
lost it. He knew I was lying, but he didn't press the matter....
Another friend had joined us a few days before. His car had some mechanical
problems and was getting fixed. We packed our bags and left, though we still
had a couple of free days at the room. We drove in front of the racetrack on
the way to the repair shop. At the traffic light, Harry jumped out of the car
like a lunatic and sprinted towards the main gates. It was nearing first post.
I yelled at him, but he kept going. I took my friend George to the mechanics
shop and he retrieved his car. He came back with me in a separate car and we
waited for Harry across the street from the track in a parking lot of some
sort. After the 2nd race, Harry came running through the parking lot and
crossed the street to the car. It was Harry's car, but I was at the wheel and
George was sitting with me, keeping me company. Harry was slobbering, "I won
the double, I got $400. I screamed at him. "Get in the car" He would have none
of it and told me so....Harry walked away. As he waited for the light to
change so he could cross the street, I yelled at him, "I'm going home Harry.
I'll go with George, your keys will be under the seat" He waved goodbye...
Harry and I remained friendly for many years until he picked up a drug habit.
To this day, he lives the same sort of life that I just described, but now he
does it high on cocaine. I saw him some weeks ago at his brothers wedding. In
a way, I still felt close to him... We went though a lot together, Harry and