Christmas came early to one Las Vegas horseplayer at The Orleans race book. On Dec. 22, the unidentified person wagered a $2 Black Gold Pick 5 ticket on the Fair Grounds simulcast and won $315,119.
Now that's the definition of betting a little to win a lot.
The beauty of constructing such a small ticket to win a large amount is worth sharing with you. The Pick 5 bet minimum is 50 cents, which more racetracks are doing to allow average Joes such as me and you to participate.
The Black Gold has a unique twist in which the entire pool is paid out only if there is one winning ticket. On days when many win the Pick 5, half the money is distributed, and the other half goes into a carryover pool.
For this particular jackpot, the carryover had built up over 18 racing days.
The Dec. 22 Black Gold sequence had no winning favorites. The single winning ticket was constructed "1x1x2x1x2," only four combinations.
The Orleans player started by singling in Race 5, Jilly From Philly ($7.20), and Race 6, Raised With Pride ($9.40).
In Race 7, he used two horses and caught long shot Shraded Edge ($47.40). It gets better. In Race 8, he singled Glamalert ($24.20).
Finally, in Race 9, he had two live horses and caught Strong and Tough ($74.20). The last leg of the Black Gold was an 11-horse field. Seven of the 11 horses would have triggered the lone pool payout.
The Fair Grounds has formulated a bet that should continue to grow in popularity. It has one drawback, though: a 25-percent takeout. Still, a Pick 5 bet with a 50-cent minimum is a perfect vehicle for players with small bankrolls to score.
I like the fact that Fair Grounds executives understand churn and that returning money to bettors is imperative to keeping them in action. In that vein, I would like to see the California tracks return to a consolation payout in their Pick 5 offering. What is good for their customers ultimately will be good for them, too.
■ 'BUCK' WHEAT DIES -- I was privileged to be among the many in horse racing who knew Julian "Buck" Wheat. The director of horsemen's relations at Churchill Downs died Dec. 21 at age 78.
Wheat was known as the "Mayor of the Backside" because if you needed anything at all at Churchill Downs, he could -- and would -- get it done for you.
I like to use the term "old school" when referring to the proper way people used to interact with one another. "Buck" Wheat definitely was old school, and I say that with the highest regard.
Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.