I’m always on the hunt for something new and exciting to do on the weekends in Korea. In Seoul, it’s been go, go, go with new and exciting opportunities popping up all over the place. This past weekend was one of my most luxurious and exquisite weekends yet. If you’re looking for a real Seoulcialite experience in Korea, read on…
As someone who used to work in the online gaming industry in Vancouver, where “Thoroughbred Day at the Races” is a major yearly event, you’d think I would have spent more time watching the ponies. While I understand the logistics, odds, and mechanics of table games (and know that the slots are your worst odds in Vegas), horse racing was completely foreign to me. What do a Seoulcialite, a Fashionista, a Southern Belle, a Tree-hugging Mom, and a Nerd have in common? Foreigners were exactly what the Korean Racing Association wanted to see at the brand new Sheraton Walkerhill Off-Track Betting Center in Seoul, and we bloggers got to enjoy all the benefits last weekend! To be clear: we were invited to join a blogger open house at the Sheraton Walkerhill Off-Track Horse-Racing Center. The OTB experience that we had is not limited to press, it is what you will get when you visit Walkerhill yourself. Let’s Run: A case where going “Off Track” is a good thing.
The new facilities, which opened Friday June 3rd, 2016, are clean and quiet. This is a far cry from what I would have imagined having been to some of the casinos throughout Asia. A few juicy details to note before jumping into the nitty-gritty:
– Entrance is free until the end of June
– Food & Beverages will be free until the end of June
– A free betting voucher of 5,000 Won will be provided to try out betting (at a 100 Won minimum bet this means you may bet as many as 50 times for free!)
– Parking tickets are provided for those with cars (don’t drink and drive, however, ladies and gents!)
– There will be on-going promotions after the current promotion ends, so make sure to sign up for a silver or gold membership to keep apprised of all the exciting events!
Hardly like Vegas, this small, well-lit space offers tons of screens with all the statistics you’ll need, and shots of the horses racing for the 10 minute in advance of each race. Walkerhill even has a classroom for those of us who need a little extra attention and like to take an educated approach to gambling.
There are a variety of bets you can make!
Here’s the horse-betting guide for dummies:
Win: Choose a horse you think will win. If it comes in first, you win! Hoorayyyy…
Place: Choose a horse you think will place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. If that horse places, you win. This is your lowest risk bet. Lower risk means a lower reward, so choose this option if you’re nervous about betting.
Quinella: In a Quinella, you’ll bet on the two horses you think will come in 1st or 2nd. The order doesn’t matter.
Exacta: Exacta is like Quinella, except the order matters. You must select which horse will place 1st and which horse will place 2nd.
Quinella Place: Select 2 horses. If they BOTH place (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), you win!
Trio: Select 3 horses to place 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in any order.
As far as picking the horse(s) on which you’ll bet? That’s up to you. Apparently you’re supposed to look for a nice, shiny coat, a big booty (ho-rse), a thick neck, and vascularity for the majestic beast on which you’ll be betting. You can check out how many times each horse has raced, and of those races how many times they have come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. You’ll see the horses favoured to win as well as those thought to place by specialists and analysts, but ultimately it all comes down to lady luck.
After trying our luck in the open-area lounge (where I broke even) we headed upstairs, with our free lattes – I might add, to the VIP lounges. There are a variety of themed rooms designed to give each group a different experience, while still enabling each guest to engage in the betting process by having a wall FULL of TV’s with statistics floating by. There was one main TV screen showing the race in the VIP rooms, while the other screens displayed the odds for the various bets. In the common room, a much larger TV’s broadcast the race.
Personally, as much as I loved the theme rooms I would probably stick to the lounge. As the venue gets busier it’ll be a great place to meet people, and is ideal for people without much prior experience with horse-betting. As we were asking one another a ton of questions, one of the friendly staff came over to explain in even simpler terms how to pick your horse and place your bet. The VIP rooms tend to appeal to more serious, professional horse-racing gamblers. I think in the near future their aim is to make things a little more weekend (read: Sunday-Funday for me!) friendly vibe with music, drinks, and more of a party atmosphere if that’s what you’re after. What I particularly liked was that the center is very clean (non-smoking), the service is phenomenal, and the English-speaking attendants will explain any betting-related issues about which you might still be wondering.
Want the best of both worlds? Perfect! From 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at the Club Lounge on the 17th Floor there’s a happy hour with tons of cheese (rare for Korea!), pastries, salads, and pour your own Wine (Red, White, and Sparkling), Beer, and Spirits if you’re a guest at the Sheraton. I mean, doesn’t it just make sense to get all dolled up, get the adrenaline rush of the races, and then “refresh” before a night on the town?
I will definitely be back to the Walkerhill OTB Center soon! There are too many restaurants to explore at the Sheraton as well, and I need to master my Kentucky Derby confidence before hitting any of the many tracks in Korea (or the Queen’s Plate back home!). I’ll be partnering with the Korean Racing Association for some upcoming events, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled on torontoseoulcialite.com as well as the Toronto Seoulcialite on Facebook. Interested in hearing more about the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel and my awesome experience there? Well, just wait! It’ll be up before month’s end.
Quick Notes on The Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel (adjusted from Google):
Set next to Achasan mountain, this elegant hotel is a minute’s walk (or free shuttle bus) from the nearest bus stop and a 25-minute bus strip from the underground COEX Mall.
Chic rooms and suites include free Wi-Fi and flat-screens. Club rooms give access to a lounge with free breakfast. Suites add separate living rooms. Room service is available 24/7.
Free perks include parking and a metro station shuttle service. There’s a bakery, a cafe and 6 restaurants, 1 of which serves Italian dishes. Additional amenities include event space, an exercise room, and indoor and outdoor pools. There’s also a souvenir shop, a casino, off-track horse betting and a tennis court. Pets are welcome.
Address: 177, 워커힐로 광진구 서울특별시
Let’s Run CCC. Walkerhill Horse-Racing OTB
Days: Fridays, Saturday & Sundays
Hours of Operation:
January – March: Friday, Saturdays & Sundays 9:00am ~ 6:30pm
April – June: Friday 11:00am ~ 7:30pm; Saturdays & Sundays 9:00am ~ 6:30pm
July – August: Fridays & Saturdays: 11:00am ~ 9:30pm; Sundays 9:00am ~ 6:30pm
September: Friday 11:00am ~ 7:30pm; Saturdays & Sundays: 9:00am ~ 6:30pm
October ~ December: Friday, Saturdays & Sundays 9:00am ~6:30pm
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Spent the weekend with this group of #travelbloggers at the #sheratonwalkerhill We decided we'd be a great group for a new expat real world tv show. Personalities would include The Fashionista, The Nerd, The Treehugging Mom, The Stud, The Socialite, The Southern Belle & The Lil Ladybug. Would you watch it?
Special thanks to the team at The Korean Racing Association, Mimsie from My Seoul Searching, Yvette at District Gal, Lily from A Travel Lady Bug, Kristina at The Nerdventurists, and Hallie from The Soul of Seoul.