Horse Racing Education: The Monster Odds Board

by Tom Amello

If Thoroughbred racing is to grow and flourish, what is the first and most important aspect of playing the game that should be made most clear to “newbies”…the Odds Board. Why? Because the business of Thoroughbred racing is staging racing for wagering purposes, and the Odds Board provides all the information anyone needs to make an informed wager.


Ocean Knight winning the 2015 Sam Davis

There is a proverb with which I am certain you are familiar: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Unhappy with the sentiment, a wise man, an optimist, added: “Ah, yes, but you can salt the oats and make the animal thirsty.” To grow its fan base, Thoroughbred racing needs to adopt a “salt the oats” philosophy with respect to “newbies”, a strategy that focuses on the odds board and wagering.

To paraphrase the above proverb, “Thoroughbred racing can lure newbies to the race track with big race day events, ABR VIP invitations, concerts, giveaways, frat parties, college scholarships, food tastings, etc., but, lacking clear and coherent wagering education, can’t turn them from fans into horseplayers.” Playing the Odds Board – Gateway to the Game™ presents a strategy that “salts the oats” for “newbies” with respect to successful wagering.

The power of the Odds Board lies in its simplicity. Achieving fluency in several race track terms, demonstrating the ability to both count from 1-5 and recognize repeatable situations is all that is required of “newbies” to make informed wagers with reasonable probabilities of cashing tickets…and for the industry to “salt the oats” to increase the probability they return to the track to wager.

For example, consider what we identify and teach as the Monster™ Odds Board. No matter what the venue, more often than not, several race day Odds Boards will show a heavily favored horse offered to the betting public at extremely short odds: 3-5, 4-5, 1-1, and 7-5…while at the same time showing a substantial gap/distance in the wagering between this favorite and the public’s second betting choice, often at 7-2, 4-1, and 9-2.

Long-term statistics support the fact that, though they do lose, heavily bet favorites win more than their fair share. Experienced horseplayers decide, based on information and opinion, whether to play or play against the heavily bet favorite. “Newbies,” lacking both information (too much and too difficult to digest) and opinion, are lost. What, then, could/should the “newbie” do when confronted with this Odds Board situation?

  1. Concede the race to the heavily bet favorite…use the Monster™.
  2. Eliminate horses ranked 2nd & 3rd in the betting from winning or running 2nd.
  3. “Key” the heavily bet favorite to win in exacta bets over horses ranked 4th, 5h, 6th and/or 7th in the betting.

Why? The heavily bet favorite has a high probability of winning. Exactas with the 2nd or 3rd choice finishing second are, generally speaking, not worth the risk (short payouts). Fair and good payouts result when one of the lesser regarded but higher odds runners (choices 4, 5, 6, 7) manage to beat the 2nd and 3rd choices and finish second to the heavily bet favorite.

Regardless the outcome, the “newbie” has purchased tickets keying a horse that is “live” on the Odds Board, with a high probability of not only contending but winning, with a runner(s) expected to be contending in the race to the wire, and a reasonable opportunity to cash a double-digit exacta. And this situation presents itself numerous times each racing day at racing venues throughout the country, making it a perfect application with simulcast wagering.

Bringing new fans to Thoroughbred racing and keeping them coming back is the game’s most daunting challenge. Winning and almost winning is of paramount importance for “newbies” because losing/non-winning is such a huge part of the Thoroughbred racing experience. Having great fun while near-winning, if not winning, is the “salt” and Playing the Odds Board – Gateway to the Game™ is the shaker.

 Editor’s Note:  Tom Amello is a long time turf writer who created Playing the Odds Board – Gateway to the Game™, a product designed to make the game more fun and winnable for novices.  Learn more here.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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