Race, Bet & Scheme
There were five tables in the first round leading to a five-player
final. The former champions were placed at seperate tables and
an attempt was made to distribute evenly the number of neophytes.
As it happened, though, I was put at a table with four
"first-time" tournament entrants. As my first round
game played out, I began to realize that one of my opponents
knew the game quite well and how to maximize his betting chances.
However, I, like many other veterans, had little trouble playing
it safe and winning over $100,000 and a place in the second (final)
round--as we feared no race-tampering by the newcomers.
At one of the tables, an unusual incident occurred, involving
an aspect of game-teaching and good sportsmanship. Consequently,
the GM asked the five table winners if they'd allow a sixth player
into the final (all agreed).
The final resembled a reunion. Long-time aspirants, Ken Gutermuth,
Gerald Lientz and Jim Bell joined former champions Bruce Reiff
and Stuart Tucker. Veteran Charles Ellsworth rounded out the
very competitive field. Not trusting his fellow jockeys and owners
to run totally clean races, Stuart Tucker bet lightly on the
Daily Double, while the veterans spread their money around in
the usual "good bet" places. The First Race, however,
was anything but "normal," as five of the six horses
had rough trips. Tucker owned one of the favorites and managed
(accidentally) to get her tangled up right out of the starting
gate, ruining his first $15,000 of bets. A very unusual winner
in this First Race wiped clean everybody's Daily Double bets
as well ("thank you for playing" became a common phrase
this game). After two races, half the finalists were digging
deep into their pockets looking for more betting money, while
a few had managed to break even. After three races, Ellsworth
and Lientz appeared to be in the lead, with Tucker hot on their
heels. Meanwhile, Reiff and Bell were struggling and Gutermuth
was practically bankrupt. Sticking to his own handicapping advice,
Tucker chose not to bet on the tough-to-predict Fourth Race,
placing him in good stead against his nearest competition, who
all lost money in the race. However, the emerging story was Gutermuth's
ability to parlay his last dollars into a far-fetched ownership
victory in the Fourth Race, giving him enough seed money to bet
in the Fifth Race.
Tuckers' racing strategy skillfully kept the often-bet long-shot
from winning the Fifth Race, while banking a good amount himself
(and probably taking a slight lead in the game). However, it
was Gutermuth who again rode another long-shot to victory and
earned enough from his bets to remain a contender, at least mathematically.
Tucker pondered not betting any of his $66,000 in the Sixth,
but decided that he couldn't bear the ridicule that would accompany
a defeat at the hands of his favorite bet, Mona Lisa. Lientz
and Ellsworth owned lesser horses, but also bet among the favorites.
Reiff and Bell failed to pick the race correctly. In the end,
the Sixth came down to some trouble in the turn for Mona Lisa,
dropping her from second to fourth, while the 10-1 Captain Ahab
benefitted from incredible Bonus numbers to win the race and
propel Ken Gutermuth from last to first, ending with $84,000
to win his first Win, Place & Show Wood. Lientz, Tucker
and Ellsworth all ended with slightly above $50,000. Tucker walked
away shaking his head once again over how not betting in the
Sixth would have left him with the second place plaque and but
a single Bonus die roll away from owning the Wood. This makes
three years in a row Tucker has been close enough to smell the
Wood going out the door.
There was some side discussion of returning to the twelve-player
final format of 1999, on the theory that at least it was fun
for more people to be in the final, even if that format is a
bear to win.