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Are Judges & Stews Biased For the Big Barns & the Chalk?

Good morning everyone.

Tobias Moskowitz is a Yale professor, and he's looked at some interesting data about bias in pro sports officiating.

In general, he's concluded that there is a bias towards primarily the home team, but also for other teams when they're the team that's expected to win, or a subtle bias for a team that a league might want to win a game.

One famous way this was illustrated was in major league baseball. Historically, for the home team, strikes and balls were called differently at crunch time. The home team had an edge, both hitting and pitching, and this subtle difference resulted in an extra 7.3 runs per season. This might not sound like much, but home teams outscore visitors by about 10.5 runs per season. In effect, he concludes about 70% of the home field advantage can be explained by the home plate umpire's bias.

Technology changed a lot of this of course, although it proved a supposition at the same time. Questec - the ball and strike technol…

Give Bettors the Goods, Monday Notes

Good day everyone!

"Walk a mile in someone's shoes." It's sound advice. When you do, you have a respect for what they do, how they think, and your understanding about an assorted issue tends to grow.

In race 7 tonight at Woodbine/Mohawk, there's a horse with a 5-2 morning line that looks pretty good. But he's been off since March 8th.

Unlike the thoroughbreds, where a six week break is modelable and a horse may have listed workouts to make an informed opinion, in harness you're completely in the dark.

Because these horses need to race frequently to stay in form, this horse is a total coin flip. He could be 50-1 fair odds, or he could be 5-2. There's no trainer data. No one publicly knows. Even the track handicapper said "It's a guess."

This is the last leg of a pick 4, which will garner about $50 of $60,000 of handle. Casual players might say they'll spread to be safe, but at 25% juice they're getting their heads handed to them. …

No Matter What You Hear, or What the Sports Leagues Profess - Gambling Has Always Been Perfectly Acceptable

I think, with lotteries, slots, and Vegas, we can concede gambling is pretty mainstream. But for some reason when we talk about sports betting it is anything but. There's still - even though it will likely be legalized soon - a stigma that surrounds it. Hell, if you listen to some of the sports leagues, it's like the world will end.

That, in my view, simply is not reality, and never has been reality.

Let me share a little story.

Back in the 70's, my cousin Doug couldn't find work in Southern Ontario where he lived, so he came up north and landed a job at the mines. Needing a place to stay, he lived with us.

Doug worked in the ball mill and it was not exactly mentally stimulating, so he had a lot of time to think. He had bet some sports with a bookie in his town, and decided he should try something along those same lines to try and make a little scratch.

Doug thought that rather than offering single games with large bet sizes where he'd be chasing people all day to …

Derby Prep Mental Gymnastics, Driving to Win, Handle Questions

Good Monday everyone.

Two Derby preps were run this weekend, the biggest one of the bunch in terms of interest, at Santa Anita, with buzz horse Justify proving his mettle in California, beating the very talented Bolt d'Oro quite handily.

I was most interested to note that when Bolt was asked, he couldn't even get to the Justify tail. I really think he didn't want much to do with that horse.

It was an interesting race to analyze, and twitterites seemed to be going through the usual machinations that surround each and every Derby prep.

Was the final number good? It appears to be. 

Was Bolt d'Oro bouncing some off his last taxing effort, where the trainer noted he was dead tired, and he didn't show his best fastball? Maybe.

Was the margin back to third and fourth enough to say those two, who are considered Derby major Derby contenders, ran a formful race? Probably, although maybe you could reasonably think they should have opened a bit more daylight.

I think it's …

Notes, Usability & Access (of Derby Pools) & Pari-Mutuel Reality

Good day everyone.

There's been a lot of chatter about sports betting of late. The if's, how's and why's of it in terms of horse racing were waxed upon here.

Knowing that horse racing (any gambling game) has two or more sets of customers, the article looks at how the seasoned professional types (like Charlie) will respond to sports betting at racetracks, or ADW's. For the more casual but extremely dedicated player, a snapshot of a poll on Paceadvantage.com provided a look into that side of the game.

While larger players like Charlie could massively pivot into legal sports wagering, smaller players who love racing tend to be more mixed (50% won't play sports, 50% will play at least some). I think this confirms what most of us would believe.

As always, it depends on the juice, availability etc, and from what we've seen from governments in North America in the past with gambling, a positive business environment for customers is in no way assured. It remains a …

Big Racing Competition & The "Lottery" Bet

Good Monday everyone. Here are a couple items that I'd like to share with you.

Ah, it appears we've got some competition coming. Sports betting - at racetracks, online, and perhaps their own stand -alone shops might be happening soon.

We know in the past that slot machines and table games on racetrack grounds resulted in an approximate 20% drop in live handle (those numbers could be a little apple to grapefruity, but they're probably close).

If you're an old timer, perhaps you remember going to Belmont in the 1940's, where on-track on Memorial Day $5M was bet (about $60M today), and per capita handle was $77 (almost $1,000 today). Today, as we all know, a formidable amount of money is bet, but about 90% of it is off track, and on-track per capita - as we saw at Sunland Park yesterday for their big raceday - is about $20. It's not the only game in town.

Competition clearly matters. So, what could sports betting do to racing handles? Since we don't know what …

Being Nimble. For Racing it's Harder Than it Should Be

I was perusing the betting news this morning and saw this about Draft Kings and Fanduel innovating their offerings to customers.

"After testing the legal fencework, DFS operators have been on an innovation blitz over the last year or so. FanDuel created a whole division, FanDuel Labs, which is charged with developing new formats and game types. It’s been busy, too, rolling out ideas on a near-weekly schedule, it seems."

Innovating by offering new contests, new games, different formats and new technologies is nothing new in gambling over the web. But what is striking is the ease in which these companies can be nimble. It's essential to most businesses on the web, but certainly so in gambling.

Meanwhile, I read an article at the Washington Post by the always interesting Megan McArdle. She looked at a completely different phenomenon - changes in a product via slow rolling incrementalism; in this case, motor vehicles.

"For one thing, regular old-fashioned cars were non…

The Eagles Embrace their Inner Geek, Racing? We're Still Waiting for the Impossible

It was 4th and goal with little time left in the first half at yesterday's Super Bowl. A field goal would put the team from Philly up 18-12, and the safe, conventional call would not have surprised anyone.

We all know that's not what happened. The Eagles went for it.

Coach Doug Pederson and staff didn't much care that if the play failed, and they lost the game, the media would've had a conniption fit. They went for it because the numbers said they should.

As Ben Shpigel noted in the New York Times (written before the victory), the Eagles have been doing this all season long.

As we noted in a similar post last year with play calling, there are two main biases at play.

There's a flight to safety, or what we may call the bird in the hand decision making tree. This is the 'we're here so we have to get points' phenomenon the media and some fans love. And what we read about in school when we studied prospect theory.

From the NYT article: "Humans put an un…

My Thoughts on the Great Somebeachsomewhere

Harness Racing Update has a really good issue today (pdf) with stunning photography and stories related to the loss of pacing and stallion superstar Somebeachsomewhere.

He was a special horse, obviously; I think the fact that his vet and farm manager, Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, took out the full page ad and signed it so simply with her first name is beautifully testament to that. But what makes that horse extra-special, in my view, is that he had just about everything - charisma, a back story, a modest sales price, down home owners; and he was fast. So fast.

My first taste of the Beach was me betting against (my words), "that long gaited horse who won't handle the half" in the Battle of Waterloo in his first start.
Whoops.

A few weeks later I remember thinking he lucked out a little in the Battle, and bet against him in the Metro Elimination. All he did that night was take the lead, and pace away from a couple extremely good horses (one of which was 1-9; Beach was a juicy …

Winning the Gambling Internet

“New Jersey will end up with sports betting no later than Week One of the next NFL season and potentially as soon as March Madness,” says Daniel Wallach, a gaming law expert at Becker & Poliakoff. Other states would almost certainly follow.

So notes a story today at Bloomberg.

In other words, the gambling world is about to change.

How it goes about changing is anyone's guess, quite frankly. Internet gambling, especially that in which involves sports, is a thorny, murky malaise in North America. It always has been.

However, despite the obvious questions (and the risk rate that it demands), companies are positioning themselves with laser-like speed. One scenario has existing gambling companies purchasing customers (and the infrastructure and regulatory assets) that are already 'gambling' on the web, legally.

"More likely, it seems, is that established gambling companies look to team up with daily fantasy operators or buy them outright. DraftKings and FanDuel have…

Wednesday's Wagering and Racing Notes

Good morning everyone.

Yonkers ditched the passing lane this week, and the early results are quite interesting. Two particular tactics I see being employed by drivers are adding to the excitement (and prices) of the races. First, we're seeing movement from the three hole quicker, because brushing by to the lead at or before the half is a strong tactical advantage; wait and pull down the backstretch is happening much less. Second, horses who are third or fourth over are moving wide early to give the horse a try. Going up the inside for a slice is less effective, and it too is probably a smart tactical move.
There was more action in Race 11 @YonkersRaceway than in the last 2,000 races combined — DRF Harness Matt (@DRFHarnessMatt) January 9, 2018 There's a double carryover in the pick 5 on Friday at Yonkers. The Meadowlands has a huge carryover in their pick 5 Friday as well. Both should possess takeout in the 5% or lower range. Yonkers' will probably have a positive pool.