People Love Jackpot Bets, Maybe.

One of life's many mysteries on gambling twitter is the Jackpot Bet. 

Oftentimes people like @shottakingtime, echoed by others, will post a jackpot bet pool (not a mandatory) where $15,000 or $20,000 was bet into it. The resulting discussion revolves around the statement, "who the hell are these people."

I don't know, and I wonder if 'racing' knows who they are either. The data is sporadic, there are computer teams who are probably trying to game it with some sort of contrarian ticket, huge rebatees; or it could be Russian bots, many of whom frequent this website. 

If they don't know, and don't seem to care, shouldn't it worry everyone?

Back in the 1870's Thomas Edison created Menlo Park to do what he called, "the invention business". He assembled 200 scientists and craftspeople to, according to Matt Ridley, "find out what the world needed and work relentlessly to meet that need, not the other way around,"

It worked. In only four years the team had over 400 actionable patents, some stemming, like the Nickel-Iron battery, from 50,000 or more trail and error tests. 

An idea is broached that a market demands, the idea is studied, implemented, then data is analyzed and married to market concerns. Sounds so simple, right?

When it comes to jackpot bets, racing makes the same mistakes that many businesses and entities make even today. They weren't Edison. They created something for them, not for you

They have not created something you demanded; they have not analyzed what these bets do to customers' bankrolls, frequency of reups; they have not determined how detrimental they are to lifetime value; they have not tweaked them, or changed them, or completed "50,000" experiments to make them better. Hell, they don't even seem to want to tell us when a jackpot is a jackpot carryover or a real carryover on ADW websites. Revenue by hoodwink.

Do people love Jackpot bets like Bucky likes to opine on twitter? Do they help the game, hurt the game or something in between? Is this a bet something players want or wager on them only because they are offered?

Your guess is as good as mine on those questions, but the worst part: Racing is right there with us.

Have a good Tuesday everyone. 

It was an Odd North America Cup Night

Hi Everyone. Last evening's North America Cup card is in the books, so please allow me to share a few thoughts. 

Handle came in pretty solid, although it's hard to compare historically because of the number of races and a super high five mandatory; the latter in what I hope is another indication shows this is a gambling game, as new money for the carryover was more than was bet on the North America Cup. To those of us who gamble, this makes sense, but really, it was about the only thing that did most of the night. 

We saw massive form reversals like American History at even money in the open, horses stopping, numerous breakers including Atlanta who seemingly never breaks, the best pacing filly in the country who looked like she should've stayed home; we had horses racing off the course for no reason. 

And it in the Cup itself, well we had some head scratchers. 

$1 million on the line, glory, biggest pacing race in the world and everyone but one horse tucks? 

Most of us made serious light of Bob McClure choosing to drive a longer shot rather than an elimination winner, and that was not the case as his choice was inexplicably lower odds than the elimination winner. I say inexplicably on paper. Captain Kirk, who is two and ohh against Papi Rob Hanover and almost beat Tall Dark Stranger in his pace elimination, raced exactly like the dead on the board horse he was. Jody was ducking faster than a solider on the Maginot Line in summer of 1940. Maybe Bob knew the horse would be no good; I have no idea. We peons are usually in the dark about such things. 

Why so few other horses came to race - this is still the richest pacing race in the world - is something maybe more than one or two of the local drivers would like a do-over with. That no one other than Bob tried to get placed near the front is bizarre. Kudos to Drury with Moneyman Hill. A recent purchase for a reported $80k US, the horse fell into third, sat third and came third, pocketing $120 large.

Something surely a lot feel haoppy about as do I, is for Gingras. The dude moved to Canada, quarantined and did so primarily because he wanted to win this race. 

The race was a total snoozer, but the best horse and driver won. 

Overall, and bigger picture, I'm happy for all involved, as they got this race into the books. Still, I can't help but think of next year with better horses, better drivers and a deeper undercard. It should be back to its old self.  

Have a nice Sunday everyone. 

#theyknew Hold it Who Knew?

 The Theyknews are the talk of the town on the twitter very often. And also very often they're pretty good, especially in smaller pool tracks where it's easy for the connections to be on something that you aren't. But, last card at Mohawk, there was a theyknew where I have no idea who the they were. 

In the second we opened the PP's to a two horse race. Free Flying Ticket had beaten better and was going for three in a row as the 2-1 morning line chalk, and favorite in the doubles. The five was a close second choice in multis, and had a nice win last time. 

The betting started off weird, and especially because I thought the five had a shot to beat the chalk, I was dismayed (intervals below). Then I checked the perfecta payoffs and saw a decent edge with like a $10 and $12 payouts (two was still chalk in ex's) and I told a friend, "I can't believe I am thinking of boxing these two, it can't come any other way can it? Is something up here, they are too high?"

The two came out on the track, looked perfect, the five looked good as well. It felt like a green light, but something also felt very, very odd and it got odder at the gate: The five horse went to 1-2 and the two horse went from 7-5 to 2-1. 

You're probably saying that you've seen this before and it was the typical #theyknew. But here's where it gets interesting. When we see a theyknew, the rider or driver is usually in the know - they know the horse isn't great; she felt off, the connections told her she was sick last week; whatever. And they underdrive or underride the horse. Not this time. Paul Mac pulled at exactly the right time, was aggressive, and at the half looked like a 1-9 shot. He drove her to win. 

 

 And pffftt, the filly crumbled. So, if Paul didn't know, and if by deduction, the connections didn't know, who the hell knew?

I have no idea. 

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Horse Racing Trade Media Disconnects

It's a pretty common occurrence to see analysis of the media - any media really - nowadays that contains a whole lot of grains of truth regarding a strong disconnect; a disconnect with statistics - like handle and TV coverage - or something seemingly as tangible as what's happening on the ground right in front of our eyes. 

Last night, this was the headline from a trade paper about a performance of a driver. Big night; one for the ages! When you scroll the article, youtube videos are linked, including to the second race, which was not won by the driver in the headline.


 

 Jody was driving the 1-5 shot and if you watch the video, there was something for the ages and it was something. He sat behind a leaver, and never pulled, only getting out at the end. It's one of those drives that in Hong Kong would get you shipped onto the next plane to Northern Tibet Raceway. It was one of those drives where in North America, bettors scream "fix!" and head to the poker tables. It's the drive customers were were talking about on twitter. 

If you read the headline of the trade paper, you'd never know it even existed. "Local Driver Has Great Night", time to move on. 

Now, I don't point out that drive to suggest something sinister happened. Not only do I not believe it did, suggesting it (without fact or knowledge) I'd be as bad as the media we criticize so often. The filly could've felt like she had zero go, she could've felt lame; a hundred things where a chalk might sit in. 

But the fact remains - what you at home were talking about was not reflected in a trade media story. 

Horse racing media - and I think this is true with most media - lives in a vacuum. Sometimes this is by necessity (advertisers, don't rock the boat) and sometimes it's by an unwillingness to listen and understand what's happening around it. For whatever reason it's been here since what seems the beginning of time. And it doesn't appear to be getting fixed anytime soon. 

As for Jody's drive, well, that's a pox on horse racing's house. As I note, I have no idea why he drove the filly like that and neither do you. And that's the problem. 

Information needs to be disseminated in this sport; things can't just be buried. When upwards of $200,000 is bet in multis and in-race wagers on a race like that, the people giving you their hard earned money deserve more than silence and a story in a trade paper about what great a night the guy had. 

It leaves you scratching your head and it leaves me scratching mine too. It's no way to run a gambling sport. 

Have a wonderful Travers and Hambo weekend everyone. 


Horse Ownership and the Health of the Game

I saw this tweet this morning:

This is not breaking news to anyone, but it certainly strikes a chord, doesn't it? And to me it shows just how unhealthy the game has gotten.

For systems to thrive (and price things correctly) there is an immutable truth - the volume of buyers and sellers is the KPI. Whether we are buying a stock on the Nasdaq, bartering at the farmer's market, or visiting our local proprietor selling every day goods, we want lots of buyers and lots of sellers. It's how a healthy system rolls.

In horse racing we used to have that.

Leaving aside the big dogs in the runners, as Crunk details above, I was thinking about harness racing in this vein recently. 25 years ago when I was hanging around the track, watching baby races or qualifiers, chatting with bettors and owners, the conversation in the late spring and early summer went a little like this -

"Burns has a nice two year old for Shipp"

"Fritz has three good ones that should take a beating in the sires stakes"

"Kopas has a bunch of New York breds that are all good"

Doug Arthur...... Ben Wallace..... on and on have a some stock  ....."

There were dozens of trainers and dozens of owners who were all active at the sales, looking for a good one.

Last night - and again, this is not unlike any MSW in Thoroughbred racing now - we saw the Dream Maker for two year olds, and we sure as hell didn't see this. We saw two barns, with a half dozen now two year olds with yearling prices ranging from $120,000 to $340,000, and then everyone else. The everyone else was racing for fourth.

Flip open the program to the Meadows, the Meadowlands, Yonkers, Tioga. It's all the same. It's concentrated power.

As with most of this blog since forever, it's observational, and most of these issues are well above my pay grade; I'd offer, perhaps, many don't even have a solution. But, the declining breadth of ownership and the lack of interest in people wanting to take a shot at glory in this business surely is troubling.

Have a nice Wednesday everyone.

The Horse Racing Immaculate (and Perhaps Surprising) Success Story

I read a story this morning about a whack of members of the Florida Marlins baseball team testing positive for COVID-19. Baseball season just started, and boom just like that we see a story placing it in peril.

This is nothing new, and no, we should not be surprised if baseball continues for their "season". I made a beef stew last week after months of meat packing plants being COVID-19 hotbeds; the stew was filled with delicious veggies from places like Florida, where one run of recent tests for farm workers produced positive rates of 40%. Our system is built to bring products and services to market and it tends to overcome the hiccups, eventually.

While most businesses have had a tough time navigating these virus inflicted waters, one business that has had relatively smooth sailing is this one - horse racing. Yes, this twenty-seven headed fiefdom, raise juice, 900 rules for 900 jurisdiction, protectionist, tend-to-do-the-wrong-thing-all-the-time horse racing.

When New Orleans coach Sean Payton tested positive for COVID in March at Oaklawn the doomers were in full force. But the meet was not doomed. It carried on, and was (by almost all counts) successful.

Not long ago, the Big A was planned to be used for tent hospitals; instead NYRA - in New York no less - has driven handle, a Saratoga meet, and delivered the shortened Belmont Stakes.

As for harness racing, last evening I played Grass Roots trotters from Rideau, glanced at Georgian; last week watched a thrilling Meadowlands Pace, and this coming fortnight will watch the Hambo, with gates open at 25% capacity.

Sure we've seen hiccups like a rider or driver testing positive (as is probably obvious with a highly infectious disease), but it didn't burn down the industry; it didn't stop moving forward. For me and you as stay at home horseplayers - if we're being completely frank - I bet we barely even notice a difference from July of last year.

Compare that to casinos, where for example Vegas is in trouble. There's a hell of a lot more incentive to get those slots and table games churning and being fed Benjamins, but alas, they can't seem to pull it off.

We all complain vociferously about the sport, and most of the time it gives us a lot of material to work with. But this time, all hail the Sport of Kings. Whether through serendipity, happenstance, shit luck, or precise planning, it has pulled off a real beauty.

Have a nice Monday.


Using Data & "Free" to Engage Players

Think With Google has been sharing some excellent case studies recently via their partnership with MIT's Sloan. One that caught my eye was Electronic Arts, the video game maker. 

EA, which makes FIFA World Cup Soccer, earns some major hay when the World Cup comes around. They drop a new game with updated stats and players, and sell it to the masses.  This past World Cup, though, they took a different approach - they updated the previous version for free right into the 2018 game..

This might sound silly, but there was a method to their madness - deep customer insights. They learned, through player metrics, that there is such thing as a recency effect. Those who play the game late cycle convert to the new product. They learned, however, veterans of the game who had not played in more than two months needed a push to engage again. Hence, the free product. 

"Our free update succeeded in bringing those players back and, given the Recency Effect, increased their likelihood to convert to FIFA 19."

The results of this test should not be overly surprising to us, the horseplayer. Back around 2006, with handle flailing, the Hong Kong Jockey Club used the same type of metric to bring their lost horseplayers back. In that case it was a rebate. 

A rebate works in similar fashion. Poorly engaged veteran players are having trouble staying afloat, so they're given a push. This push gets them back into the habit of playing, with a higher probability of winning money.  When referencing the results of their change in policy, the HKJC remarked how the habitual nature of horse racing customers is an important metric, and this seized the day.

Over here across the pond we're not doing Electronic Arts, or the Hong Kong Jockey Club. We're not using internal player metrics as they should be; we're not creating any dynamic policy of "free" to increase engagement, and grow lifetime value. In the quasi-oligopoly (or in Canada, HPI's pretty much monopoly) there seems to be little incentive to. But, as that happens, make no mistake, horse racing is falling behind.

Have a great Thursday everyone.

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