Somewhere Over the Rainbow

by Jude Feld (reprinted with permission of our friends at Horse Racing Radio Network)

Jude Feld, handicapper and bloggerEvery day, Equibase, the official source for Thoroughbred racing information, publishes a “Top Carryovers” section on the home page of their website. Obviously countless horseplayers are interested in these “bonus” payoffs and the prospects of playing for what amounts to free money, lost on previous days’ races.

Gulfstream Park offers the “Rainbow Six.” Unlike the name suggests, this is not a wager exclusively for gay people and Hawaiians. It is open to everyone and only requires the player to pick six consecutive winners. There is a twist however. You get the whole pool if you possess the ONLY ticket on the winning Rainbow Six combination.

Fair Grounds has the “Black Gold 5.” Not a bet just for Steelers fans or Jed Clampett, it is a five straight winner concoction with same singular ticket payoff rule.

These bets often offer life changing pools and they are certainly preferred to playing the lottery, but to say they are tricky would be the understatement of all time.

Just think about how many times you have hit the Pick Six.

Then think of how many times you had the only ticket.

Do these wagers still interest you?

I have been a serious player since 1978. At one time, I was part of a small Pick Six syndicate that won the bet seven days in-a-row. Only once in that stretch did we have the only ticket – a $75,000 score at Los Alamitos.

Twice in my life I have had a chance at a “whole pool” life changing score in the Pick Six. Once, at Del Mar, when I was singled to a horse I was training, who was running in the last race of the day, for a $200,000 payoff – he finished third. The most painful was a $640,000 chance, when my single in the feature was scratched, and by rule, I got the post time favorite, who also finished third.

In over 30 years, my handicapping and racing luck was that good twice…and I still got beat.

I am certainly no Hindu holy man. The siren call of winning enough money to retire to a beach house in Barbados resonates in my soul almost every time I see huge carryovers. But you’ve gotta pick your spots.

Last year, at Gulfstream, I really liked three longshots in the Rainbow Six sequence. Singling those three, I used four in two races and two in the other race, purposely leaving every morning line favorite off the $32 ticket.

I had four winners and two seconds, making my ticket excellent scratch paper.

That was the only time I played the Rainbow Six in over a dozen days at Gulfstream. The other times, the pool was small or I liked too many chalky types.

Thankfully, I backed my longshots by themselves, so although my day wasn’t life changing, it was extremely lucrative. It is always nice to win when you lose.

How Well do Horse Racing Favorites Perform?

by Rich Nilsen

The wagering public has been pretty amazing over the years. Historically, the betting choice, a.k.a. the favorite, has hit the Winner’s Circle at tracks all over the country at a fairly consistent 32% success rate. However, over the past decade or so I noticed that this rate continued to creep up. No doubt, smaller fields have played a significant role in this increase. The bottom line is that the widely used 32% win rate for favorites is inaccurate by as much as 10% (35 vs 32 percent).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race.

Here are the average win rates for the wagering public’s favorite, on average, at racetracks across the nation:

Favorites Win 35% of the time

Favorites Place (run 1st or 2nd) 55% of the time

Favorites Show (run 1st, 2nd or 3rd) 69% of the time

Consider these numbers the next time you place a horse racing wager! If you are playing a trifecta wager, for example, where you have to pick the top 3 finishers in order, is it wise to just toss the favorite with no regard to the percentages? Considering that the typical favorite hits the board (show) nearly 70% of the time, the answer in most cases may be a resounding “no!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first guy who will be quick to bet against the favorite. In fact, that is what I am looking to do every time I handicap a race. However, I like to think that I am not stupid (no witty comments please). I realize that the favorite in most races stands an excellent chance of hitting the board. For that reason, I will often “use” the public choice in my wagers – somewhere – even if I am betting against him. It’s not just an insurance play. It’s playing the percentages, and as a “numbers” guy, that is what I am about.

A good example is the trifecta wager. Let’s say you don’t like the favorite. You are playing against him to win. However, realizing this horse could very well “hit the board” the wise thing is to include him underneath in the trifecta bet.

This is a prime reason why “boxing” horses in a trifecta is usually not a good idea. If you don’t like the favorite to win, then don’t use him in a box, where, in essence, you are including him in the win hole of the trifecta wager. Otherwise, you would not be playing against him.

Post Parade Gulfstream Park maiden race

Copyright Agameofskill.com

This year’s Donn Handicap [2012] was an excellent betting race, a great event to wager on the trifecta if you had an opinion. My top two choices in this field were Trickmeister and Hymn Book. I did not particularly care for Preakness winner Shackleford, but I realized that he could certainly be in the money, especially if he got loose on the lead.

With a full, competitive field of stakes runners, this was just the type of situation where you would hate to be right about one of your top choices (marked as A, B runners) but miss the trifecta because you tossed the favorite.

Hymn Book (A) and Trickmeister (B) were both square prices at 6-1 and 4-1, respectively. My (C) and (D) horses were Mission Impazible and Flat Out.

In this race I honestly felt any of the 11 runners could run third. When you are presented with a race like this, it is imperative to use the “ALL” button in the third slot. The approach with this type of race is to key around your top choices, and play a partwheel similar to the one presented below:

A, B with

A, B, C, D with

ALL

Total cost for this Trifecta: $108 based on a $2 base wager. The trifecta is calculated as follows: 2 horses x 3 horses (four minus one) x remaining horses, which in this case is 9 (11 minus two). Players with a larger bankroll could then reverse the 2nd and 3rd slot of the Trifecta for $1 for an additional $54 bet:

A, B with

ALL with

A, B, C, D

The idea behind the second ticket would be a form of protection in the event a longshot – or, even the favorite – got up for the Place spot.

Alhough the favorite, Shackleford, failed to hit the board in the Donn Handicap, I was protected with this wager in the event he did [provided, of course, that he didn’t win].

Hymn Book (6/1) defeated Mission Impazible (8/1) in a real thriller, as Redeemed (8/1) finished third. The $2 trifecta payoff returned a lucrative $1,296. Even if Shackleford had finished in the money, the trifecta still would have been a nice payoff because of the competitive nature of the field.

Imagine if my top two choices, Hymn Book and Trickmeister, had run one-two and Shackleford had ruined my trifecta? If I absolutely hated the favorite and completely tossed him from the wager, that would be a different story. But that wasn’t the case here. Shackleford was the deserving [lukewarm] favorite in this field. That didn’t mean I had to like him.

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Ten Pitfalls Handicappers Need to Avoid in 2012

With pretty much any problem the first road to recovery is admitting your mistakes. As horseplayers we all made blunders this past year. In fact, I dare say that if we had a dollar for every mistake we made in 2011, we would have enough funds to go after one of those big Southern California carryovers.

 It is never too late to learn from the mistakes we made over the past year and make corrections for future days at the parimutuel windows. In fact, it is vital to our success as horseplayers.

My father, one of the best handicappers I know, often reminded me that horse racing will teach a person to lose better than any other sport or recreation. Wise words, indeed. Anyone who has played the horses long enough understands that this game can be like a roller coaster ride. Your emotions can be riding sky high one moment and, less than 25 minutes later, plummeted to rock bottom.

 Successful horseplayers are able to ride out the low times in order to reach the peak moments. Winning players also recognize their faults and consequently make fewer mistakes than their competition. And who is that? Their fellow horseplayer.

 If you’re not pleased with the results you had in 2011, then check off the following mistakes that you made this past year. Put a star next to the areas you really need to improve on.

1-      You know that you are selecting a high percentage of winners, but your wagering strategies have caused you to lose money on days when you should have won based on your handicapping.

2-      Instead of selecting prime wagering opportunities, you are betting nearly every race you handicap or every race on the card.

3-      You are using the same general information to handicap that the majority of the general public utilizes. If the only thing you are using to handicap is the track program, it is not going to be easy to out-handicap the thousands of others who are using the same program.

4-      You are swayed easily by others’ opinions, lacking conviction in your own selections and analysis. What you hear on TVG or HRTV, for example, influences how you will wager on the upcoming race.

5-      You concentrate most of your wagers on low-percentage wagers, e.g. trifectas, superfectas, Pick-4s, Pick-6s, etc.

6-      You look for the quick fix, such as a hot tip from an insider or some mail order ‘winning’ system.

7-      You blame a losing outcome on shenanigans, instead of searching for the clues that pointed to the rightful winner.

8-      You pay no attention to how the track is playing, ignoring any potential track biases at play. Are you betting closers on a day when early speed is dominating? Are you wagering on running styles that rarely win at that distance and surface?

9-      You wager with scared money, having not set aside a bankroll strictly for horse racing investments.

10-  You lack a plan or strategy for wagering. It is commonplace for you to get online with only a few minutes to post without knowing what wagers you plan to make.

 If you’ve been playing the horses long enough, then chances are you have committed all of the mistakes listed above. Hopefully, you are at a point where you have only committed a few on this list within the past year. The difference between the everyday handicapper and the successful horseplayer is who continues to make the same mistakes and who does not.

 Sit back and ponder which mistakes you have committed and which have really cost you on the bottom line. Consider what steps you need to take in order to avoid these same mistakes in the New Year.

 If you believe that your handicapping is above average, then look at your wagering strategies. Are you swinging for the fences every time, trying to nail the trifecta, instead of cashing a nice win wager or exacta play? Knock your bets down a level. If Pick-3 wagers have been unsuccessful, then concentrate on the Daily Double instead. The inevitable result is that you will cash more tickets and boost your confidence.

 Make a horseplayer’s resolution for the New Year. Correct the mistakes you’ve been making and avoid these pitfalls this season. By doing so, you’ll immediately have an edge over the wagering public. When you minimize the number of mistakes you make on a daily or weekly basis, your confidence will soar and you’ll be winning more often. Isn’t that a resolution worth keeping in 2012?

Internet Gambling – How Far Away is it?

Internet GamblingAs one of the world’s largest suppliers of slot machines and systems that operate casinos, Bally Technologies, Inc. and many other similar companies are preparing for what many say will be gambling’s next frontier: the Internet. If e-gaming does becomes legal in the United States it will unfurl a whole new market and have serious consequences.

“Legalizing Internet gambling would allow government to open a casino in every home, dorm room, and office in America, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a nonprofit group based in Washington that works with local, state, and federal groups to oppose casinos and state lotteries. E-gaming “represents one of the purest forms of predatory gambling.”

I couldn’t agree more. Gambling is absolutely out of control in this country, and it is because of the proliferation of casino and lottery legislation in numerous states. Mindless games of chances. The one-arm bandit. Check your brain at the door.

Read more

Breeders’ Cup Wagering Manager Ken Kirchner

This is an insightful interview with my friend Ken Kirchner, who has managed the wagering and simulcast schedule for the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships for as long as I can remember.

“In 2000, the Breeders’ Cup was the first to add the pick four to the menu, and that’s now the most popular exotic bet in the country. We’ve experimented with head-to-head betting, future bets, jockey bets. We moved to reduce bet minimums, thereby giving more players the ability to cash in on the monster payouts offered every year at the Championships.”

Another Restaurant OTB opens in So. California

 The California Horse Racing Board recently approved a two-year license for the Original Roadhouse Grill in Santa Maria, CA to replace the Horseman’s Off-Track betting facility.

Steven R. Mongeau, director of development for Lucia Development and representing the ORG Restaurants, said the facility will offer wagering on horse racing along with quality food and family entertainment.

The Original Roadhouse Grill has seating for 220 patrons who can watch 26 TVs. The license to offer wagering begins Sept. 1 this year and extends to Aug. 31, 2013.

FULL DETAILS

The Top 10 Reasons Handicappers Lose Money

 by Richard Nilsen

 If you have been playing the races this year and are not happy with the results you’ve been getting recently, then it is always a smart idea to take a step back and analyze the situation. What are you doing right, and more importantly, what exactly are you doing wrong?

My father used to remind me that horse racing will teach a person to lose better than any other sport or recreation. Truer words have never been said about this game, because horse racing will often be a real roller-coaster ride. Successful players are able to ride out the bad times in order to reach the “high” moments. Successful players also recognize their faults and consequently make fewer mistakes than their competition. This is a pari-mutuel game, so I am your competition.

 If you are not getting the results you anticipate when you play the horses, chances are that you consistently fall into one or more of the following scenarios:

 1)      You are picking a decent percentage of winners, but your wagering strategies are causing you to lose money. [See reason number five].

 2)      You are betting every single race, instead of looking for prime spot plays. This is the cardinal sin of most bettors. Focus on your best wagers of the day.

 3)      You are employing the same information to handicap that the general public is using. If you are not relying of your own personal notes or a site like Brisnet.com that provides value-added racing information, then you are wagering at a significant disadvantage versus the more sophisticated players.

 4)      You are easily swayed by other people’s input, and therefore, lack conviction in your own selections. This is a game of opinion. Wager on your own.

 5)      You concentrate most of your wagers on low percentage bets. For example, you may be going after too many exotic wagers, such as trifectas and Pick-3’s, that can be both difficult to hit and are based on high takeouts (the amount withheld by the track).

 6)      You look for the quick fix, such as the hot tip from an insider, or the magic formula designed to pick 78-percent winners. No such formula exists, and insider information cannot be relied on over a long-term basis.

 7)      You blame the outcome on an imaginary “fixed” race, instead of looking at the reasons which pointed to the true winner. I highly recommend that you look back over the races you handicapped and dissect the past performances to see why you may have missed the winner(s). All too often, you simply missed an important clue.

 8)      You fail to notice the bias at the track, resulting in wasted money on horses that have the odds stacked against them. Put the percentages in your favor by wagering on horses that fit the profile of the track or the current bias.

9)      You are betting scared money, having no bankroll set aside for horse race betting. You should always have dedicated funds for wagering.

10)  You have no plan or strategy for wagering. You often get in line without knowing your bets, or you jump on your online wagering site with just a few minutes to post and rush your wagers.

Trying to Go Deep?

It is safe to say that most handicappers have committed the mistakes listed above. Of course, the difference lies in who continues to make the same mistakes and who does not. If you feel as though your selections are good, then consider your wagering strategy. Are you swinging for the fences every time, looking to crush the trifecta, meanwhile missing the opportunity for the exacta? Consider knocking your bets down, keying on the Daily Double instead of the Pick-3 or the exacta instead of the trifecta. The inevitable result is that you will cash more tickets and restore your confidence.

 Check the scenarios above which apply to you, then consider the steps you need to take to fix the problems. Doing so, you will place yourself well above the general public, which, we should always remember, is your competition for the wagering dollar. When you minimize the number of mistakes made, your confidence will soar because you will be winning more often. And that is the reason we handicap the horses.

 –          Rich Nilsen is an 8-time qualifier to the National Handicapping Championship and the only player to finish in the top 10 twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is now founder of AllStarPress.com, an e-book publishing firm, and AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.