The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told

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The Book of the Week is “The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told, A True Tale of three gamblers, the Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel” by Mark Paul, published in 2020.

Sidenote: Speaking of gambling, in May 1988, Paul Laxalt, a Republican from Nevada, and in June 1992, H. Ross Perot, an Independent from Texas: jumped into the race for president. The latter exceeded many people’s expectations.

Anyway, the author described the American horse-race gambling environment of the late 1980’s. At that time, off-track betting was putting smaller racetracks out of business, because gamblers could watch the races on which they bet, live– simulcast on video screens at racetracks and casinos; in other words, wherever gambling was legal. They did not need to be physically present at the racetrack.

Through the decades, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got wise and cracked down on gamblers’ financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. The author described one guy at the racetrack who illegally paid cash to winning bettors who wanted their money immediately, who were willing to pay a twenty percent fee to him rather than to the IRS.

The suspenseful part of the author’s story began when he and his best friend identified a talented filly– a female horse– that was running in major races. Practically all horse races had previously featured colts because on the whole, they were bigger and stronger and so more likely to win races, and were worth more money because they could be hired out to breed more race horses like themselves at a much higher volume than could females.

The author and his friend took what turned out to be a life-threatening risk by driving down from California to a casino in Tijuana, Mexico, to place a bet months in advance, on the said filly that was to run in the Kentucky Derby. He explained that by placing bets on events to take place far into in the future, gamblers get tremendously advantageous odds; for instance, 50 to 1 odds three months in advance, rather than, say, 2 to 1 odds on race day, on a horse to win– because that horse has become the favorite. However, if the horse doesn’t run in the race, regardless of the reason, the gamblers will lose all of the money they bet.

Read the book to learn of the gamblers’ activities before, during and after their fateful bet on their favorite horse in the Kentucky Derby.