12/29/2007 2:53PM



It took 363 days, but I think we finally have a winner in the always fierce and crowded competition for the most preposterous statement of the year by a gambling executive.

In an interesting piece about a team of blackjack card-counters in Saturday's New York Times, the president of Foxwoods casino justified their policy of banning card counters as follows:

“Our position is that card counters disrupt the fun and excitement of other people playing the game,” said John A. O’Brien, the president of Foxwoods.

Huh? Card-counters do nothing to "disrupt" the flow of a blackjack game. All they do is win 1 to 2 percent instead of lose at that rate, and this of course is why O'Brien does not want them in his casino. To claim he is protecting other players, as opposed to his own profit margins, is baloney.

In addition to banning card counters, casinos have been changing blackjack rules and payoffs in recent years to tilt the game further in the house's favor. Some casinos now permit you to double down only on 10 or 11 rather than on any two cards, eliminating such favorable bets as doubling a soft 17 against a dealer's 3, 4, 5 or 6, and some have reduced the payoff for a two-card 21 from the standard 3-to-2 to as low as 6-to-5.

--Brad Free posed a fascinating question in a recent DRF column about the new Super High Five wager at Santa Anita: Will the bet carry over more or less than the pick six?

He speculated that there would be fewer SHF than pick-six carryovers. His reasoning was that between having five rather than six slots to be filled in, and at a $1 rather than $2 minimum, the SHF would be hit more often and should carry over only once every two weeks. I respect his logic but would bet the other way. The SHF will usually be run on a large field of last-race maiden claimers where it seems like there's a better chance for chaos to rule all five slots than for there to be six chaotic win results in a pick-six sequence.

What do you think: More pick-six or more SHF carryovers at the 85-day Santa Anita meeting?

After two days, the tally is SHF-1, pick six-0. The opening-day SHF pool drew $54,653 in bets and was not hit, producing a $43, 350 carryover into Friday. That attracted another $150, 369 in Friday wagers, and a very chalky outcome (the favorite won with the 2nd, 4th and 5th choices in the combo underneath) yielded 22 winning $1 tickets at $7391.90 apiece. It was "only" an 11-horse field and it was a maiden-special on the grass rather than the usual maiden-claiming sprint.

--When Todd Pletcher sent Nite Light to Monmouth to run in a $35k maiden claimer in July, it's unlikely he imagined that the 3-year-old son of Thunder Gulch and Lite Light would be a multiple stakes-winner by year's end. But the son of a Belmont winner and a CCA Oaks winner has run to his long-winded pedigree, and Saturday completed a sweep of Aqueduct's two December marathons, adding the 13-furlong Gallant Fox Handicap to his victory in the 12-furlong Coyote Lakes Handicap 24 days earlier. Both races ended with the the identical 1-2-3 finish, with Nite Light leading the field into the stretch and holding off the the Gary Contessa-trained duo of Successful Affair and Malibu Moonshine.

In the Coyote Lakes, the Contessa entry was 1.35-1 and Nite Light paid $10.80. In the Gallant Fox, the entry was 4-5 and Nite Light paid $8,80. Now instead of being sold to Turkey or Korea as a stallion prospect, maybe Nite Light will stay in training and be pointed for races like the extended (from 9 to 12 furlongs) Brooklyn Handicap the day before the Belmont Stakes and the new Breeders' Cup Marathon next October.