11/18/2002 12:00AM

Twin double came before pick four


NEW YORK - As everyone continues to learn more about scan bets like the pick six than they really wanted to know, it's amusing to see the pick four, which is another scan bet, sometimes referred to as a relatively new wager.

The fact is, the concept of the pick four predates the pick six. The pick four also predates the pick three, the superfecta, and even the trifecta. In fact, the concept of the pick four goes back at least to the late 1960's, when I was first exposed to Thoroughbred racing and when you were lucky to have a daily double on the first two races, an exacta on a middle race, and another exacta - what a bonus! - on the last race. Old-timers of that era, making like grumpy Chicken Littles, whined that exotic wagering would be the ruination of the game. Who knows? They may yet prove correct, even if for the wrong reasons.

Back then, the pick four was called the twin double, and most of the time, there was only one difference from today in the application of the bet. You would begin the twin double by betting the first two legs of the wager as though it were a daily double. Then, if you were alive after the first half of the twin double, you would exchange your tickets at a designated window to play the second half. I guess this was what a scan bet was 30-odd years ago.

Of course, you would try to stay alive in the first half with multiple tickets so that you could spread enough in the second half of the twin double to have a reasonable chance of success. But, that was the only difference between today's pick four and the old twin double, which also required you to pick four winners. And, in at least one jurisdiction, there was no difference at all. I remember in the early 1970's playing a twin double at Shenandoah Downs, which was right next door to Charles Town and which has been out of business for more years than I care to remember.

There was no exchange in the twin double at Shenandoah. You had to bet all four legs up front, exactly the way we play a pick four today. It was a little cumbersome back then, however, because unlike with the betting machines of today, the parimutuel machines back then could not punch out part-wheels. You had to call out every single combination to a mutuel teller, who would punch out long, skinny tickets that didn't feel right in your hand, or fit into your pocket.

But, most of the time, the twin double necessitated an exchange after the first half, which spawned a black-market industry at the track. Every day at exchange time, near the designated window where the exchanges took place, bettors who were alive after the first half of the twin double would bump into bettors who either weren't alive and really wanted to be, or who were alive but who wanted to increase their number of live tickets so they could expand their play in the second half. Frequently, amid whispers of "You buyin'?" and "You sellin'?" deals would be struck, and tickets that were alive would change hands at a negotiated price.

There were big-money men who never played the first half of the twin double. It was their philosophy to roll in and buy tickets at the exchange, and go for the quick score in the second half. I'm sure there were also some bettors who only played the twin double to get alive and sell their tickets during the exchange. But those with more courage than that would occasionally find themselves alive and looking at a second half where their opinion was weak, or with an insufficient number of live tickets to play properly. In those instances, this "marketplace" was a blessing.

Sometimes, buyers at the exchange had to acquire live tickets from several sources to cover the second-half play they had in mind. Sometimes, there would be bidding wars over live tickets. Sometimes, on chalky days, live tickets couldn't even be sold for cost. It was all completely against the rules, and it was conducted entirely in a gentlemanly manner.

Perhaps to circumvent this twin-double black market, Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island, which has also been out of business as a Thoroughbred track for longer than I wish to remember, came up with a twin double with an option. The option allowed for you, if you were alive after the first half of the bet and did not wish to go on and play the second half, to cash in your tickets with the track and get paid off like a daily double. The money men who liked to buy tickets at the exchange did not like this version of the twin double, because in order to acquire tickets, they had to pay more than what the track was paying for the option. Without the support of the moneymen, this particular twin double was doomed.

Sure enough, the twin double with the option, as I recall, disappeared quickly. The twin double itself soon followed suit, only to be revived many years later as the pick four. But, before the twin double with the option became extinct, it was given a rather disparaging name. It was called the "Chicken Twin."