Who needs morals

Now working in the gambling industry, I thought I had seen and done everything.  Witnessing heart attacks,  fights,  winning millions, you name it I have seen it happen.  That all changed one day on the grandstand level.  I was asked to work a special group event with my boss.  Most times working a window there’s a few people working windows on the line you are working, but working this special event there was just the 2 of us.  The particular event in question was for a group of handicapped people and the people who were in charge of looking after them.

Of all the people, I can recall, every betting in my window the handicapped people seemed to have the most fun and enjoy the entire race track experience the most.  They cheered for the horses really loudly, and ran over to the window to look at them run by the track.  After each race was over they would run to the opposite side and look out the window to watch the horses in the paddock.They really had a blast, and I wish that more people would enjoy themselves as much as they did.

That is about the time I realized I had been selling wagers to them for a few hours.  Before you go getting angry, they are legally allowed to gamble, and no rules were broken at all.  And truth be told, eventhough they were only betting simple bets that cost about 2 dollars each, they won times than anyone that ever bet with me.  At the same time though, it hit me.  This is what it must feel like to take candy from a baby.  Selling bets to people who couldn’t understand what they were betting and really didn`t care either.

I asked my boss if the fact the 2 of us were made to sell tickets to them meant that the higher-ups thought we had the least morals of anyone working.  Lucky for me my boss was always good at pointing out things to get you out of trouble.  This time he pointed out one simple fact.  He said “At least we aren`t as bad as the people here that were supposed to watch over them”.

That is when I noticed, we had not seem any of the “helpers” that day.  It turns out that while my boss and I were trying to help the handicapped people out and make sure they enjoyed their trip to the horses, the so-called helpers were there doing anything but helping.  They either stood by the bar drinking the entire time, or took money from the people supposedly to look after it, but it just went in their pocket or to the bar tabs.  I am fairly sure to this day , nothing has come that close to being “completely wrong”.

English: The "bookies" at the Woodbi...

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6 hours of living hell

Most people who have known me, have always assumed I was great at being a teller because of my family`s background in horse racing.  Truth be told, I was the first member of my family to work on the front side of a race track.  So being a good mutuel teller was something I would have to become myself, since my family knew nothing of that kind of job.

When I first started in mutuels, there was no such thing as OTB or simulcasting.  You bet on races for that track only.  Which worked out perfect for me, I could sometimes get a ride to work from my dad if i didn`t have college that day.  My first day(actually day and a half) I rode in with dad, and he told me “Dude, go talk to this guy in mutuels he will show you what it is about.  After the races are over we will go out and eat”  So off I went for my “training/watching” day.

First I would like to point out, I started during the middle of the meet, and back then that wasn`t normal.  People get hired at the beginning of the meet, makes teaching new people easier when you can train them all together.  But anyway, I went for training.  The first thing I got to do was sit in and watch one of the ladies work her window.  She ran a $50 window and also cashed IRS stuff so lucky for me she wasn`t very busy and I could watch her do things.  People who had that kind of window didn`T have near as many people trying to run each other over and call out bets over top of one another.  So I got the chance to really watch at a slower pace and pick up a few tricks.  Another note here, is that people who bet in $50 windows generally have some basic knowledge at least of how to bet, so getting used to the types of bets and where keys are was a bit easier, then someone who bets small bets and might bet on all kinds of things.

After sitting with her for about a race or 2, the guy who was designated to actually train me showed up.  He was awesome.  I think the reason I became such a good teller was mainly because of him.  The first thing he taught me was some of the lingo.  He said “Bettors have their own language.  Most of the bets have been around for centuries, so some of the terms have been around for a very long time.  To be good you have to know these terms, but also recognize what they mean, because sometimes bettors use them but don`t actually know what they mean”.  I realized that the second I had a lady say “Baseball me the 6 horse” She was using some terms she heard but had no idea baseball meant box, and you had to have at least 2 numbers for that.  What she meant to say was “across the board”.  So I got another hour or so of punching in practice bets from him.  Then I got the standard speech from almost every major event in my life “By the way, you start tomorrow!”  Most new tellers get a week or so of training I received 2 hours of it, but was probably the best 2 hours of teaching ever.

The next day I arrived at work, and boy was I relieved to find out I would be working right next to the guy who trained me.  Even luckier that he worked an IRS window so he could have a bit more chance to watch over me from time to time, if he knew I was getting a particularly difficult customer.  Which I had lots of them.  In most jobs on your first day, you don`t know what to do, but the people who are your customers do.  Like someone buying gas or a candy bar at a convenient store, they know what they want, where as betting you deal with people who don`t know what they want or the right way to say it(generally not all the time).  So it is like 2 times the amounts of chances to mess something up.

The first day of work went so slow, waves of people betting 2 dollar shows bets one at a time for 10 races.  I swore it would never end.  Each person having multiple bets for everyone in their group.  One guy gets designated to be the “go bet for us” person.  So each bet had to be on a separate ticket.  Not that I would`ve known how to put more than 1 on a ticket at that time.  Then just when you think you got a little break, the race would be over and time for pay outs.  And then the bunch of tickets they had would be flung in your window for you to cash One at a time!  It was almost enough to drive a person mad.  And on top of all that was the possibility of making a mistake and coming up short.  I was 24 dollars short my first day.  Sometimes it is easy to figure out what went wrong.  If you are short 1,5,10,20,50,100 you might have had bills stuck together, but 24 stuff just happens.

Like most places every now and then you get some idiot that will try to scam you.  People who are having a losing day and think they can get on over on you or the track.  About 7 races into my first day I had a guy come up and demand to speak to a manager saying I screwed him out of 100 dollar the day before.  My boss came to my rescue.  She looked the guy in the eyes and told him “First of all, who waits a day when someone cheats them out of $100?  Second, this kid just started working for us 4 hours ago, so there is no possible way he ripped you off yesterday.  next time don`t come up here accusing people of things, I don`t like when people try to cheat my tellers”  Listening to her talk to him like that and stand up for me, I felt so lucky.  Especially since before she got to the window I was shaking with fear thinking his lies would get me fired.  I was really glad to be on her line that day.  She always liked to give me a hard time but she wasn`t afraid to do the right thing when she needed too.

Somehow I managed to make it home that night, I was nervous and shaking and looked like a train wreck waiting to happen.  That went on for the rest of the meet.  Somehow though I stuck it out and learned the ropes.  One thing about it, ask anyone that’s really been a mututel teller.  They will tell you it is rough at first but once you get it down, it is a really fun experience.



Just a thought

I want to try to have a discussion of some kind about first day as a mutuel teller.  I am sure everyone has a really good horror story about it.  I think tomorrow I will write mine when I wake up.  Sad but I have to write this post just to remind me for tomorrow, too many years being a teller.  I can only remember things for 30 seconds then head goes blank!

So you want to be a Mutuel Teller

“It can`t be that hard, sit there and punch in numbers when someone comes up to bet”.  If I had a dollar for every time i heard that I would`ve been a millionaire by age 20.  The job itself looks easy on paper, but it`s a different thing when you have to actually do it.  Most people do not bet correctly.  Note, I am not blaming them or complaining, being able to figure out what a costumer wants is half of the fun.

To be a great Mutuel Teller, you have to know a lot of different things.  Things like, which race tracks you have running that night, what kind of bets each track has, and also the dollar amounts they have.  Most tracks have the same types of wagers and same minimum amount you can do, but not all.  I had many new customers come to the track and say ” I got this amount of cash, that I can spend on this race, what`s a good bet?”  A good teller will help you figure out what you want to try to also explain to you what is necessary for your bet to win.  You also have to have a sense of humor.  Any time you deal with money there is a chance you will get some pretty strange comments or questions.  One time a lady came to my window to cash in a ticket that won over $700.  Without even wasting a second she said “Where is the nearest department store I am going shopping!”  Her husband , who bet with me on a regular basis was behind her making hand signals to tell me to avoid giving her any info on places to shop.

Another thing for all of you potential tellers out there is people skills.  You will see the same people everyday of your life.  This is not like 7-11 or walmart, where you see a guy everyday and he comes in buys a pack of gum and leaves.  These people you have to deal with hundreds of times a day everyday you work.  Sure there will be some customers you just can`t stand, but for the most part the people who become your regular bettors you will enjoy.  Most of the people who bet with me on a regular basis I knew what kind of bet they were going to make before they even started, and some I even knew what numbers!

One big thing to think about before you get too excited about becoming a teller, is mistakes.  Unlike most jobs where you make a mistake, you might get yelled at, written up, and maybe punished, making a mistake as a teller sometimes costs you money.  If your drawer doesn`t have the correct amount of money in it at night you have to pay what it is short.  Without getting into details there are many ways to mess up, and I have seen people have to pay thousands of dollars.  Imagine not only not getting paid to work this week but maybe even the next year or 2.  I will be honest there is not a single person out there that works as a teller that hasn`T come up short at least once.   And it never fails, when you mess up and know you have to pay someone either your boss or a customer will come up and give you some line about “how come you aren`t smiling?”  I always got in trouble for my answer but I told them “you cough up a few hundred bucks for something and see if you are smiling”  Most times I got yelled at for saying it but my point got across and they left me alone.

This type of job is something you have to want to do.  I know I loved doing it.  Give it a try you might too.

Amusement parks are made for fights

This particular story was from about 20 years ago.  I am not really sure if our trip to the local amusement park was like a company picnic for all employees or if just a handful of them from a few different departments decided to make their own get company picnic.  All I knew was that a bunch of people all from the track were getting together to eat have fun and ride some rides at the amusement park that was just a little ways up the road from the track.

As always when dad drove us to the amusement park for anything, work related or just for a family outing, I always brought a friend along.  Made the mistake of trying to ride a ride with my father when i was little, the weight distribution on the octopus ride wasn`t good.  I was like 60 lbs and dad was about 210, so we spun like a top for 5 minutes.  That was followed by 5 more minutes of my head being in a trashcan, throwing up stuff i ate 6 years before.  After that incident I always brought a friend close to my own age, no matter what kind of ride I was going on.

Like most families at any amusement park we split up the second we got in the gate.  mom went to the picnic area to scout around, she doesn`t ride any rides because of motion sickness.  Dad on the other hand went with a few of the people that worked for him.  Somehow as if it was fate, My friend and I ended up at the same ride as my dad, but were too tired to go on it.  So my friend and I and my mom sat nearby watching dad and one lady that he knew, go on the ride.  Mom was busy people watching, and my friend and I were trying to think what to go stand in line for next, partially waiting on dad to see if the lady and him wanted to go on it with us.  When out of nowhere we hear some loud yelling and 4 people who looked like they were audition for a movie about street thugs show up and are standing right next to my dad.  My friend at the time looked over and said “Think your dad is about to beat the crap out of someone”.

I found out from dad and the lady when they got done riding that the group of thugs had tried to cut in line.  They were trying to sneak around my father and the first one, made the mistake of asking “What do you think you are looking at?” Dad`s answer had 4 letters and started with an S, and apparently the guy didn`t like the answer and wanted a second opinion.  So he yelled “Warcry!”.  That is when my friend and I noticed the others show up.  They threatened dad, and again received an answer they didn`t like.  Pops pulled out his pocket knife, which he keeps on him for emergencies at work, and proceeds to tell one of them “You might whoop my butt but I guarantee 2 of you will be holding your guts in, praying for an ambulance”.  So they took off to the front of the line, and tried to cut in front of a few rednecks.  3 rednecks then proceeded to beat the living crap out of the 6 thugs, and on top of that the park security shows up and tosses only the thugs out.

Seeing as how dad is a magnet for danger my friend and I decide to go to a different ride than them.  Sometime later , my friend and I end up back near the food area.  Nothing says break time, like some BBQ and grilled stuff.  I spot my dad about 100 yards away, and he spots us.  Least I thought so.  Down where my friend and I were , was some old lady, and that’s it, just the 3 of us.  Nobody else was nearby.  My dad at this point starts yelling “JAKE!! JAKE!!”, and waving and hollerin at us.  Now it is important to know neither my friend nor myself are named Jake,  and I am 100 percent sure the old lady wasn`t named Jake either.  My friend was like “Hey dude I think your dad is yelling at you”

Then it happens, the little old lady,starts in “Damn kids these days don`t even answer when people are calling you.  You need to respect your elders and do what you are told.  When I was your age……..” .  I hate to admit it, but being 15 at the time I let this little old lady have it.  I was like “If it`s any of your damn business, my name isn`t Jake.  Do you answer to people who can`t even get your name right?  I bet you don`t, so why don`t you mind your own business…..” At this time, my friend grabs me in a headlock and is trying to wrestle me away.  I got to hand it to my friend, being able to drag me 100 yards while im flailing around like an octopus is quite an accomplishment.  Like always dad finds yet another time to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  “Dude I was calling you why didn`t you answer?” My friend at this point says “screw this I am going over to get some food”.  I just stopped slowly look over at dad and yell “Who the @”$& is Jake?!”  I think amusement parks were designed just to get people angry!

Safety first at the track.

Usually I try to have some good stories or humor, but this time I would like to make a serious post.  The Kentucky Derby is still a ways away, but it will be here before you know it.  The Derby is one of racing`s biggest events, and draws a crowd of over 100 thousand people every year.  With that many people many things can happen, and it never fails at least one person will do something insanely stupid.  So I would like to take this time now to say “DON`T”  whatever it is you are thinking of please think twice.  Especially if you are going to do something like get drunk and run across the track.  This has happened a few times, and needs to stop.  Horse racing is not soccer, or some crappy award show for celebrities.  As a fan of horses and horse racing , watching people do this makes me angry.  You endanger the lives of both the horses and jockeys.  They should not have to pay for your stupidity.

Guest Relations can be a lot of work.

People often ask me what I think was the most work of any job on the front side at a race track.  Usually they are shocked to hear “Guest Relations”.    Now it`s not because you have to deal with customers everyday, or anything along those lines.  To be in guest relations requires learning a bit about every job on the front side. From serving food, to selling tickets(both betting tickets and admission tickets) You have to learn a little about the different jobs on the front side.

I have worked security keeping the peace and keeping people from going into the wrong areas, at concerts held on the grounds.  Sold T-shirts, and other items at the gift shop, answered the switch board phones filling in for people when they go on lunch break.  Also responsible for running photos.  Some tracks have a wall that they post the photo of every race on, and my job would be to run all the way up to the placing judges area get the photo and go hang it on the board.  We were responsible for video taping races so that people could watch them another day or even years later.  I go to supervise playgrounds and the spacejump thing, take down race results, you name it.

Even though I didn’t sell any real wagers, as a part of guest relations we were the first OTB.  We would take a machine to random places like the mall or park, and people would bet 2 dollars on a race from a previous time.  They just won T-shirts and other things no money, but still guest relations did it first.

Guest relations does a little bit of everything, and is really fun too.  I learned a lot about things and only worked maybe 1 year there before going to Mutuels.