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Showing posts from December, 2015

Takeout Moves, On Selected Bets & Game Theory

There was a little news this week about takeout, and most of it is welcomed for casual horseplayers.

Hawthorne (which has a mandatory pick 5 payout tomorrow) has lowered pick 4 juice to 15% from 25%. 

This 15% has also been applied to the pick 4 for the new harness meet, which starts this spring.

Also, the Meadows has dropped trifecta takeout to 20% from 27%, making that pool a little more playable for casual players. 

Both of these moves are not earth shattering by any means, but do show some good will towards customers. As well, the Pick 4 for harness at Hawthorne was needed. Players have embraced the Balmoral Park pick 4, making it a staple and seeing 400-500% handle increases, on average, since the takeout had been reduced on its pool from 25% to 15% back in late 2009. Hiking it ten points, while unsuspecting customers think they're still paying 15%, is not good business from an ethical standpoint.

Overall, these small changes in one pool do not mean much for a couple of reas…

The Use of the Numbers in Horse Racing; Those with Substance

Horse racing has more opinions than races, and that's a good thing, since we're handicappers. But without a central office which lays out business cases, we see and hear a great deal of opinion that's based on conjecture, feel, or the qualitative.

Fortunately in some quarters we have evidence that forms an opinion, rather than using an opinion as evidence.

Today on @o_crunk's twitter feed he shared some data.
2015 will be the first year with fewer than 40,000 Thoroughbred races in the US since sometime in the 1960's.Today, almost half the races raced, have field sizes of 7 or less. "In NA in 1960, there were 29,773 distinct horses in 37,661 races run, avg field size of 8.95."In 2015, it will take 49,579 distinct horses to run around 38,700 races for an avg field size of 7.8." That, of course, flies (partially) in the face of the foal crop argument. The simple fact is, horses are racing fewer and fewer times. The business could spend millions, could co…

Cub Reporter's Christmas Eve Party Report

This year's horse racing party theme was "Celebrating the one percent handle gain in in 2015", and Cub Reporter was there. Yes, folks, we have the details.

The party was sponsored by Frank Stronach and was held in New York City. Admission was free, but in a slightly odd twist, if you worked for the DRF you were charged 50 cents to use the bathroom.

Owing most of the handle gain, if not all, to American Pharoah, he was invited as the guest of honor. "Thanks AP" signs, distributed by the Zayat's, were everywhere. Spurred by this surge in handle, needless to say, happy faces were sure to be in the hall. Security was tight, however, and several folks were not allowed to enter the party, and I.D.'s were checked.

The first people I saw were Joe Drape and Sid Fernando; Sid with a craft beer of some sort and Joe with punch. Drape was reading a brand new New York Times editorial.

"It looks like we want to ban the iPad in New York State," said Joe. &qu…

#ABRLive vs #ABWLive

Our pal @sidfernando was speaking a little social media today on the social media box. He was even throwing in some posts and thoughts from what feels like a lifetime ago.

Sid was generally focused on the tweet storm from Hong Kong recently, where local social media types were promoting Sha Tin's (maybe Happy Valley's, I get them mixed up) big day two Sunday's ago. "America's Best Racing" is never not a hot topic.

When you ask someone about promoting racing via social media, in the current form that #Americasbestracing does, you will get a cacophony of opinion. Some of the harsh words are likely warranted, some likely not.

I'm in the middle, and on my demographic horse, so to speak. 

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - wrong with promoting the sport via social media, with bands, food trucks, booze, celebrities and floppy hats. This is simply PR, like Pepsi doing event marketing with a celebrity, or the NFL working with the United Way. People seeing…

DFS, Jackpot Wagers and Riding the Market's Coattails

We noted last week an interesting betting trend in DFS: Tournament play has been falling at a pretty decent rate.

This is to be expected on a number of fronts, but primarily, and simply, it's that people have expectations regarding a wager (any wager) and when the bet, or payoffs, do not meet expectation you can have a serious drop in play, quickly. DFS - especially tournaments - is very hard and when one realizes it's too hard for them, they stop, or pivot their play. This has been exacerbated by the number of newbies who joined this year, after millions in ad spend.

Today we saw more evidence of this, when Superlobby showed some stats on NBA DFS play. Yes, shockingly, NBA play is growing, up to the point it is "indistinguishable" to the NFL. That's just nuts and something no one was predicting a year ago.

Again, it's the market moving away from big tournaments, and looking for a soft spot to land. Perfectly rational, and reason number 35,321 this whole New…

The 'Issues' Discussions

I watched the DRF podcast this morning up on the Youtube (embedded below if interested). I know the "issues" when it comes to (primarily) betting are not for everyone, but this discussion - although I might disagree in several fronts - was really quite good.

One of the parts I did enjoy was about New Jersey's foray into exchange wagering, which is supposed to go live this March. The DRF discussion was level two, not one, which is very refreshing. There was no Al Queda is using it to launder money, jockeys will be jumping off horses, the world is going to end. It was much more mature, and that's welcomed.

New Jersey's main issue with the exchange, is like all exchange issues in other jurisdictions - watering down its main selling points by i) charging too much ii) not having proper liquidity iii) not linking NJ and UK pools; short-changing the exchange, if you will.

I fear that will be its biggest challenge and I do see little way around it. The business thinks l…

The Horse Racing Politboro

What a morning in horse racing land!

First, we have the Sports Illustrated Fan Vote for Sportsman or Sportswoman of the year that was announced today. Horse, American Pharoah, who is the first Grand Slam winner in eternity was the runaway winner of the fan vote with 280,000 of them, but he was snubbed for a tennis player who only received 6,000 votes.

Twitter blew up; worse than it blew up for lots of other things it blew up for.

Deadspin got into the act with a headline with a damning article (not on the vote, on the reaction to it). Cross promotion on my timeline had football guys who know nothing about horse racing chatting about it and linking Horse Racing Nation articles. Neither of the above are flattering, but so be it.

Leaving aside the fact that votes have never meant much for horse racing - "lower takeout" wins most bettor votes and "hey, which one of you voted for increases in picnic table prices, anyway?" happens - it shows this fan base to be passionat…

And the Winner is...... Tom LaMarra!

Yesterday was kind of an interesting day in horse racing land.

At the RTIP Symposium, the final four entrants for the "Innovation" award (and $15k) presented their ideas and a winner was chosen. Two of the three ideas were kinda of sort of betting, and one was a 3D scan that would quickly help identify lameness (and hopefully help the breakdowns).

The two betting ideas were interesting, in that they were both not really about betting.

First there was a pick 20 in a row quick pick ticket idea based on the MLB game called Beat the Streak. Beat the Streak has not been won in the 14 years since it started. By the looks of it, it might last until Justin Bieber's great great grandson is inaugurated.

The second idea. Swop Stakes, according to Scott over at the PR:
"How the game works: Players purchase “quick-pick” tickets that include runners in a series of races. While the tickets are random, players can then buy, sell or trade tickets with the “bank” or with each other…

Going For the Gusto Versus the Grind

There was an interesting graph posted today by a gambling industry analyst. It shows the reduction in play for larger tournaments in DFS.
The big GPP tourney's at FanDuel & DraftKings continue to shrink - I think mostly due to shift in player preferences — Adam Krejcik (@akrejcik) December 7, 2015 Sure New York and Nevada are no longer taking customers from the start of the year, sure the big marketing push for week one was going to show declines, but like Adam notes, this looks significant. Players in DFS are moving away from harder to hit GPP's (lower hit rate, higher takeout bets) to head to heads and 50/50 play (higher hit rate, lower takeout, more of a grind betting).

This is pretty clear evidence of betting behavior  - winning is important and winning infrequently is not much fun. Moving to pools with a chance of winning more, with a longer term chance at profit, is perfectly rational behavior.

That market is becoming more and more mature.

Churn Killing Bets are Approaching the Absurd

Gulfstream Park announced today they are starting "Rolling *Jackpot Super High Fives". Yep, you read that correctly.
"The Rolling $1 Super Hi-5 will have a new twist that has the potential to generate jackpot-size payoffs. The innovative wager with a $1 base will be offered in every race, challenging the bettor to select the first five finishers in exact order. The new twist requires the bettor to hold the only winning ticket in order to cash. If no one holds a unique ticket or if there are multiple tickets with the first five finishers, the entire pool will be carried over to the next race." * So, they sent out some sort of correction of the above - the high fives will be rolling, but if multiple people hit one, they do get paid. The rest of this piece is about generic hard to hit bets and churn.

Gulfstream Park now has rolling high fives and a jackpot pick 6. As most know, these bets are based on very high takeout, which almost eliminates any churn. Players like y…

Saving Racing, by Eliminating Customers One at a Time

Well, the big news today is that racing is saved.

"Stronach" tracks have sued contest site Derby Wars.
The suit alleges DerbyWars contests are a violation of the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA), the Racketeering Influence and Corruption Act (RICO) and California Business and Professions Code and inflict “intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.” Shutting down this scourge will hopefully increase handles back to where they were, inflation adjusted, a decade ago. I'm sure of it. Horse racing is saved.

This is on the heels of other big entity decisions to save horse racing, like takeout hikes at Churchill Downs, signal fee hikes in various jurisdictions, and ADW taxes in some states.

Tongue in cheek? Of course.

Takeout hikes are anti-customer. So are signal fee hikes and ADW taxes. Add to the list the suing of a contest site that patrons (particularly new ones who are scared of the pari-mutuel system) enjoy, and use to qualify for NHC events and B…


There was an interview with CJ from TimeformUS on the Paulick Report yesterday. It was pretty well done. CJ is an interesting dude, and what they are doing at TF is never uninteresting either. One comment caught my eye, however. which was related to old versus new ways to handicap a horse race.
Handicapping can only be done with paper and pencil, and your knowledge, experience, and most importantly, your observations and interpretations of the horses involved in any given race. Leaving aside the fact that using Timeform (or other new ways to handicap that looks different than a printed DRF page), still allows you to use your knowledge and observations, this comment is prevalent in the space.

When we pull a switcheroo from the printed page with 8 horses in front of you, in your hot little hands, to something different, it eliminates what we're used to.

When I handicapped for years and years (especially in harness racing) I felt if I did not see the race on one page I was missing…