Bet On It

Those who have visited Daytona Beach know there are actually two race tracks on U.S. 92.

The big one, of course, is where they run that 500-miler every February. But just outside Turn 1 sits a little dirt track, roughly a quarter-mile oval. There's a big green wall along the backstretch that rivals Fenway Park's Green Monster.

But, instead of posting inning-by-inning results, along with the proverbial "out of town scores," the Green Monster at Daytona Beach Kennel Club posts odds.

I always wondered how nice it would be if, on race morning at the big automobile track, you could walk next door and plunk down a few bucks on, say, a Gordon-Jarrett quinella. Well, a couple weeks back, I got word from a guy who told me I could do just that.

No, I can't plunk down my cash at the kennel club, but I can do it on my computer. Nope, the Internet isn't just for term papers and naked celebrities anymore. Now, if you're a gambling sort, you can put your Gordon-loving-money where your Gordon-loving-mouth is.

Man, you gotta love modern technology. Think about it, at one time you thought it wasn't exactly manly to leave the work bench to wander inside and sit in front of the computer. And now, whaddaya know, you can now combine two of man's greatest instinctual loves: Racin' and gamblin'.

A couple years ago, Hank Mahanke would sit in his Tennessee home, watching races with his Tennessee friends. They'd make the usual little sidebets here and there. But Hank, who once worked at a dog track while going to college in Arizona, began wondering how a pari-mutuel betting system might work within the confines of auto racing.

Fast forward a few years, and now you have something called, Hank's little contribution to man's challenge to either put up or shut up.

"I always wanted to be involved in NASCAR," says Mahanke. "I can't be a driver. I'm not patient enough to be a mechanic. I don't have the money to be an owner. It was either this or sell souvenirs. But if I sold souvenirs, I couldn't watch the race, and that would defeat the purpose."

The charm of pari-mutuel betting is that you're betting odds determined by other bettors, not by a bookmaker. Pari-mutuel odds are determined by who's betting on whom. You and I might know Rick Mast is 250-to-1 at Darlington this week, but if a few of his cousins are willing to drop a $2 win-ticket on him, the odds will come down.

Just like the puppies and ponies, you can bet on a driver to finish first, second or third (win, place or show), as well as quinellas (the first two finishers, in any order), perfectas (the first two in order) and trifectas (the first three in order).

"It's for fun more than anything else," says Mahanke, noting the ability to make a bet for as little as $2. "If you're looking to win big money, you need to go to the casinos."

The big drawback right now is the hurdles you must cross to set up an account and start betting. The lengthy sign-up page is a real turnoff. However, Mahankes says that will change dramatically as soon as he gets on line with some credit card companies.

Think of that combination: Your laptop, a Mastercard, and 80-to-1 odds on that Buckshot Jones-Bobby Hamilton quinella.

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