Just don't do it

Updated: July 22, 2005, 7:18 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Somebody wrote from Pennsylvania this week saying he hasn't cashed a ticket on a Triple Crown race in five years and was going to look for a less expensive pastime unless I could tell him how to hit the Belmont Stakes.

Here's how to get to a winner.

Don't bet too many race tracks at once. It's like trying to swing two golf clubs at the same time. What do you think this is, bingo? Playing two or more tracks simultaneously suggests you're in it for the action and that you could use some soft-leather chair time at the neighborhood counseling center.

Don't ignore your instinct. If a race looks difficult after two passes over the numbers, relax and let them sort it out on the track. Why play a race that's difficult to handicap unless you have more money than you need. When I see confusing race: I make some picks and don't bet them -- haven't hit one in years.

Don't expect too much service. They're doing you a favor, taking 20 percent off the top and sweeping up overnight. Just prepare well at home and go about your business in a calm and sober manner and don't pop off to track security, which seems to operate on commission.

Don't keep making the same mistakes. If you write down your bets, you'll see cheap favorites losing all over the notebook.

Don't give money back. A high percentage of gamblers, slots to horses, are usually ahead at some point in each individual wagering experience. It can be difficult to quit when you're slightly ahead because of the effort and expense required to get to the casino or track. If you can't quit when you're a little ahead, maybe you and the person who plays three races at once can start a group discussion.

Don't socialize. What do you think this is, fun?

Don't get money from the ATM more than once; second time ATM money is dead money.

Don't get drunk. Drinks at most tracks are expensive, which is their roundabout way of promoting sobriety.

Don't play the obvious unless it can't lose. (Joke.)

Don't rely too much on an expert handicapper's opinion. If you put your name on a public pick, there's a tendency to be overly conservative.

Don't bet on technical, or historical, trends. What do you think this is, the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

Don't bet more than you can afford to win. (Bonus joke.)

Don't bet the outside post position in a quarter horse race. You've heard the expression run to daylight. If you have the outside gate in a 440, daylight is frequently sideways.

Don't taunt, tease, confuse, irritate, debate, anger, question or otherwise interrupt a slot machine player, let them pound it unobstructed.

Don't be a good loser. If you lose $750 when the second favorite runs second by half an inch to beat your 25-1 shot, you should be heard through the facility. Losing gracefully sounds habit-forming.

Do what's left and you should win occasionally.

Belmont Pick
This one almost sounds like something Deadwood's Al Swearingen would enjoy, a mile and half is like a period piece.

There one of everything in this trail ride, maiden, maiden winners, tenacious allowance grinders, even stakes winners.

The 6-5 very early morning line on Afleet Alex probably won't see the light of the first day before becoming odds-on.

Late runners need not apply.

1. Afleet Alex

2. Pinpoint

3. Reverberate

Watch the Belmont on NBC this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET