Stay, Or Play?

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 21, 2010 in General Discussion, Handicapping | 3 Comments >>

The hardest question that can be asked of any horseplayer is to bet, or just to watch and go on a scouting mission by watching the race. I have been playing for some years, and I have had the pleasure and pain of watching folks fight the dragon every race. The dragon, is that dreaded beast that makes you play races that are not worth the risk. Here are a few questions that you must ask yourself before embarking on any gambling journey:

  1. Have you set a goal or a loss limit? This is a must, and without it, you will surely lose in the long run.
  2. Do not shy away from using higher level handicapping tools such as data or predictions. Many feel that this is not handicapping. I don’t know of any business in the world that will not gather all of the most valued information first before making a move. It only benefits you, and it allows you to keep a fresh perspective about the race.
  3. Stay away from track touts. You know, the guys that hang around and tout a live runner only so they can come up and hit you up for a piece later. They are a penny a dozen, and they have gone the way of the dinosaur. I have watched many over the years, and they give out five different horses to five different players. I guess their odds are going to kick in sooner or later.
  4. Don’t play the odds board. Who cares if a horse is 4-5? I now have to decide if the price is worth the risk…. $3.60 for a $2 wager isn’t bad, but if you don’t use it in exotics and maximize value, you are leaving money on the table. Don’t let the board make up your mind……
  5. The top three riders, and the top three trainers are ITM 75% of the time…. You can’t beat those odds, and you always want to look at riders and trainers who have solid success…
  6. Only play with the money you came with. I have never won with borrowed money, and it is a sin just to think you can now overcome a bad day with your new $100 loan… Suckers beware!
  7. If you don’t like a race, don’t play. There is no trophy for betting the most races. Skip it, and grab a dog and a beer. You can always watch, and study up and plan ahead….

These are a few ideas to hold close. They won’t fail, and only time will show you how much they are true… I once heard the best line ever:  ” There are 3 types of people in the world – those who watch things happen, those who wonder what happened, and those who make things happen.” Which one do you want to be?

3 Responses to “Stay, Or Play?”

  1. Tom says:

    How can I know what the biggest pay-off race will be on a card? Over the weekend I played a couple races at Saratoga. I noticed that the Superfecta payout was something rediculous like $89,000 for a $2 bet. But, the Race 3, the race that I bet (and pretty much the rest of the card, save for a few) paid about $300 for the super. Is there any way to know ahead of time which race will payout the most? The purses of the races were almost exact, btw. Thanks for any help. I’ve been reading all kinds of books and I can’t seem to get this one aspect answered. Or, is THIS the trick?

  2. Horstradamus says:

    Tom, you cannot know ahead of time which races will yield the biggest payoffs. The exotics are a pari-mutuel pool. Therefore, the payoff depends on how many other bettors hit it. Therefore, if you have some longshots that light up the board, less people will hit the Superfecta in that race, and therefore the payoffs will be big. Typically, wide open races with big fields will yield bigger payoffs because the bettors aren’t sure who to bet. The purses have nothing to do with wager payoffs. The purse is the total prize pool that is shared among the owners of the top finishers in a race.

  3. Mark Geiger says:

    I have to disagree with your notion that one should ignore the board. If playing in the win pool, you must first have a reasonable odds line assessing the probabilities of the contenders. THis should be based on solid handicapping principles. You then have to look to see what the public is offering you and that is by observing the tote. If you are not getting at least a 40 to 50% premium on your assigned percentage, then you are playing an underlay and if that is how you continue to play, you will lose all your money. The board will tell you if there is value in the win pool. To ignore it is to invite “gambler’s ruin” because you will be playing many underlays which are horses who are paying less than their assigned chances.

    For instance, if you think a horse has a 25% chance of winning, the fair odds are 3/1. However, I wouldn’t go near such a horse unless its post time odds were closer to 9/2. I want more than fair odds because this gives me a sufficient edge to overcome the random chaos in a race and my own handicapping mistakes.

    Some of the usual suspect authors (Quinn, Davidowitz, etc) deal with this subject. The late Dick Mitchell also devoted many pages to this subject which is at the core of winning money playing the races.

    If you are an astute enough handicapper to win money playing 4/5 shots in the win pool, then you must have a wonderful win percentage which is way beyond anything I, am capable of.

    Like your site.


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