Even Oakland city officials are into gambling revenues. But in contrast to a casino, the track is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon outdoors with the family, watching the ponies run. Best of all, it doesn't feel sleazy, unless you start going by yourself on weekdays. People from all backgrounds and all walks of life come here to try their luck; some watch down near the finish line, while others prefer to wine and dine from the luxury of the Turf Club. It's easy to spot the gambling addicts, who also engage in off-track betting and spend half the time slapping their programs vigorously on their knees and yelling at a closed-circuit TV monitor, but the majority comes here to enjoy the live action every half hour. Since the races last about two minutes each, you can spend the other 28 socializing with friends and family -- kids love this place! Eat a bowl of chili, drink a beer, admire the horses in the paddock, reminisce about that heartwarming scene in Seabiscuit, or analyze the Daily Racing Form. Whether you attempt to handicap or simply pick a name you like, you can still have a sporting chance, although it sure can be rewarding to hit that long shot exacta that pays $289. Admission is $3, and a couple more bucks get you a program and form. Then you can place $2 minimum bets or $1 exactas and trifectas. The season returns in November.
Oaks Card Club
4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, 510-653-4456