ai-Alai is played on a sort of elongated racquetball court but, instead of a racquet, the players use a long curved wicker basket, called a cesta, strapped to their right hand, to catch and return the pelota (or “ball”) at blinding speeds. To facilitate betting, the game is played in round-robin fashion by eight single players or two-man doubles teams. The first to reach seven points wins, with second and third place determined by point totals. Playoffs settle ties.
Reflecting the Basque origins of the game, most of the players have Basque or Spanish surnames. The action is fast and often surprisingly graceful. Points are determined much as they are in racquetball or squash. As one player (or team) loses a point, the next player takes his place. Although the program gives stats on the players, betting seems more like picking the numbers for a lottery game.
If you tire of the action unfolding in front of you, you can repair downstairs and bet on jai-alai matches in Miami or horse racing at New Jersey’s Meadowlands, all of them shown on large video screens. When live games aren’t being offered you can still stop by for the simulcasts of events elsewhere.
6405 South U.S. Highway 17-92, Casselberry 32730
Season: Live games January to March; simulcasts year-round
Ticket Prices: $1 at the door (55 and older free)
Game Times: Thursday to Saturday at 7:00 p.m.; matinees Thursday and Saturday at noon, Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
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