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ales of Team Carborundum
Jesse May
Jesse May, multiple author in the gambling field and sometimes dubded the "voice of poker", writes a bi-weekly column.
Most people know Jesse as "the voice of poker" from his colourful commentary in CH4's late Night Poker. Jesse is also the author of the widely respected novel, Shut Up And Deal, which looks deep into the poker playing life. Its the hard faced 21st Century Cincinnati Kid.

Jesse is also the creator of The Gambler's Guide to the World, an insiders look at the action and games around the world.
Email : Jesse May
    Some people might remember a fellow by the name of Jimmy the Greek. Jimmy the Greek was an American sports TV personality in the sixties and seventies, drummed out of the industry in 1979 after he made some inflammatory racist comments on the air. In his heyday, however, he was considered a prognosticator supreme, the man who always appeared on Sunday morning television to be asked by Howard Cosell about his enlightened opinion on this game or that, the Superbowl or the Ali-Frazier fight or the '69 World Baseball Series. The man with a gift for the gab would always be there with an opinion and a knowing air that said, "Bet on this."

Funny thing, though. Not only was Jimmy the Greek often wrong, the man had no experience in sports. He was not a former player or coach, he hadn't read playbooks or strategies, the man was in fact, mostly just talk. And I always wondered, just what was it that made Jimmy the Greek famous? And then I found out. It was the lock.

It seems that when Jimmy the Greek was no more than twenty-five, he bet everything he had and everything he could borrow on the 1948 United States Presidential election. He backed the severe underdog Harry Truman to the hilt against Thomas Dewey, and when the smoke cleared Jimmy the Greek had netted himself $170,000. No small change in those days. And the reason he gambled it all, the reason he risked a life of misfortune for glory? As he said, he figured it was a lock.

Tell a gambler that you like a bet, and he'll reply with the age old question. "Is it a lock?" Is it a lock. Like the holy grail, the gambler trudges ever onward for that elusive acorn, the sure thing. The lock. The best bet, the bet it all, the cheese bet, the double platinum, the five star play, the can't lose hand. "Once I find that lock," thinks the gambler, "Then I'll be in high cotton. I'll bet everything I have." But I've got my own definition for the lock. It's what people go broke on. That's my definition. Something that's gonna break your ass.

Just once I'd like to meet a guy who went broke betting on a 100-1 shot. "Hundred to one?" I'd say. "How could you bet all your money on a hundred to one?"
"Well," he'd respond, "I only priced it at ten to one. There was just so much damn value." That's the way to go out, but that ain't how it happens. Get a gambler to shove all his money in, and he'll swear up and down that it's a lock. And then he'll go broke.

The first lock I ever went broke on was a horse by the name of Carborundum. I had invented the greatest horse handicapping system the world had ever seen, and was starting to hit 'em pretty good with two dollar bets over six furlongs. And when you're winning at gambling and working to boot, you think why not raise my bets and quit my job and make gambling my work? And so I did.

I quit my job and started going to the track, and I'd pick my horses at night and take the train to the track in the morning and sit up in the sunshine in my box seat with my shirt off and my binoculars and my calculator and my ice cream cones and my medium size bets, and I managed to win eighteen days in a row. And when you win eighteen days in a row making medium size bets, you start thinking about how much you could be making if you were making really big bets, and then you think that you don't want to lose any big bets, so you come up with the grand plan. Find the best possible horse there is and make the biggest possible bet you can make, and win the most money you've ever seen. The lock. And that's what I did.

Carborundum was the greatest come from behind horse I'd ever seen. They would practically have to pull him out of the gate, he started so slow, like a twelve ton freight train going uphill. He would get about twenty lengths behind before he started to pick up steam, and often as not he was still dead last when they would come spitting round that final turn. But Carborundum had a head of steam like no horse before or since, and when he hit the stretch run the other horses might well have been treading quicksand, for Carborundum would blow through them like they were standing still in his blur to the wire. Every time. I'd never seen him finish out of the money. He was a lock.

Every dollar I had went on Carborundum one sunny May day at Arlington Park, I left nothing to my name except the return train ticket which I only bought because I calculated that the amount I saved by buying a round trip fare was equal to what I would win if I put that money on Carborundum. I made my bets and went to my seat and computed how much I would win on my little calculator and watched the tote boards and fiddled with my binoculars and had no fear. No fear, because I had no doubts at all.

The gates went up and I followed Carborundum in my binoculars, as he started out slow and gathered his head of steam and built up speed and started to fly by the other horses, but then the wire came too soon and he was fifth. He had started his charge too late, and not ninety stunned seconds later I was vomiting in a stall of the men's bathroom.

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson. But the concept of the lock is so appealing, it has that quality like the meaning of life. The answer, the future, this is what's gonna happen so wager it all, every dollar you have. The problem is that gambling mirrors life. There is no sure thing and there is no ultimate answer. That's why it's gambling, and that's why betting everything all at once isn't real smart. You should save something, just in case. In case you get hungry or thirsty before the end of the race.
    Editor's note
Carborundum : finished 7th in the 1989 Breeders' Cup behind Dancing Spree