Sunday, March 31, 2024

Fixing the Open Betting Skies Game Could Use Some Tweaks (Some that Many Probably Won't Like)

Air travel began to be deregulated in the 1970's. Business people like Southwest's Herb Kelleher and others could fly the friendly skies, delivering a service to millions. 

However, how could passenger airlines grow as an industry if planes were unsafe?

In 1970 there were 3,218 fatalities for every trillion dollars of passenger miles. In 2018 there were just 59, a 64 fold decrease. 

Even with throwing an industry open, safety innovation improved incrementally year over year, sometimes in the lowest tech ways possible, like moving a button or a pedal that might be mixed up in flight. Economic historians tell us it had to be a focus, because the long-term life of the business depended on it. 

As we all know, gambling markets have been blown wide open since about 2018. Today we're not rummaging through betting slips for our bet from Sam the Bookie, we're not stooping for tickets at Belmont. Everything has changed. 

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? 

One writer at the Atlantic, shared by Crunk, doesn't think so. He believes it's making sports worse, and he does make some worthwhile points. 

  • Same game parlays with real time apps on phones results in some serious bankroll succkage, and could certainly be at least partially described as predatory. 
  • Sports leagues, seeing this cash shot directly into their veins, are all to happy to share prop bets at halftime of games, especially those that are blowouts. 
  • Leagues and networks partnering with gambling companies feels, well, kinda sub optimal doesn't it? 
In horse racing, I think we have many of the same characteristics. 

In 1970 when Herb Kelleher was working on building an airline, racing was humming right along. The nine race card at your local track had a betting array of win place and show, maybe a double, a few exacta pools and a late triple. Takeouts were pretty fair, considering it was a monopoly. 

Fast forwarding to today, we can bet every exotic bet imaginable, almost 24/7, with racing from dozens of countries in the world. It's all there, with the push of a button. 

In the background lurks the computer teams who - and this certainly never happened in the 70's - blanket combos on these hard to hit bets, while getting a huge price break compared to the rest of us. The result, as we all know by now, is a massive effective Dick and Jane takeout, breaking every day customers each and every day. 

The sports betting and racing industry can say that they're just giving the customer what they want. And hey, I'm probably more libertarian than the next guy, but come on. The bottom line is you've created a system that's built in the long-term to break your core customers. 

The Atlantic author and Crunk feel that the sports betting ecosystem will settle and change, at least from a broadcast perspective. I think they're probably right, on the surface. It's easy to not push gambling and real time wagering as much as they do, because people are tuning in to see the sport first, and the gamble second. It will likely be in their best interests. 

However same game parlays, 40% takeout wagers and all the rest? That's more of a nut to crack, because even the states are drunk on this revenue.

Over in racing it's the same story, in my view. There is zero doubt in my mind that going back to more of a 1970's betting menu - with some tweaks like saving the big sweep bets to certain days - would be beneficial to your average customer. There's zero doubt lowering takeout, or expanding rebating would help the player. I have no doubt that regulating the pools could still keep team-play a thing, without the subsequent damage.

But I also have no doubt a pivot like that in this new, free, unregulated industry will never get done. 

Back in the 1940's a dude by the name of Alphonse Chapanis was wondering why air accidents were happening and he noticed that tired pilots were mixing up a pedal which resulted in the flaps being engaged instead of the landing gear. Engineers moved the pedals and it wasn't the problem anymore. The airline industry realized that it wasn't going to find pilots or passengers without constantly tweaking, innovating and getting better each and every day. 

Horse racing, as well as the online sports betting wagering industry, has built the fuselage, designed the landing gear, and they've got themselves a pretty nice plane. The passengers seem to be enjoying themselves n' all, too, at least on the surface. But, I can't help but think they're flying it right into the mountain.

Have a nice day everyone. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Big Pick 5 Payouts Are Not Always Inscrutable

If we see a $25,000 pick five in the throughbreds we can often look back at the sequence and make a case for a hit. Thoroughbred racing often has fields where four or five horses can look completely logical in a sequence, yet it can pay boxcars. 

Harness racing is different. The fields are rarely deep, and the racing is often formful, with 50% or higher chalk hit rates occurring at a track near you. Often players make scores in harness racing with $15 pick five or $10 pick 4's hit with chalk or near chalk, and twenty cent tries are completely fruitless. 

Last night at Mohawk, however, I think we had a $0.20 pick five hit for $5,100 that was completely logical. 

Recognizing them might help us hit one of these again. 

Race 1 was what I would describe a bit of spread race. The ten was taking money off a driver change from Renaud to James MacDonald - this angle as a key is fine, but as we'll see, we wouldn't hit this pick 5 if we applied the same logic. Regardless, if we're trying to hit a price, we're not using an angle that everyone at the OTB is using, so we'll spread with three horses. 

The second race is a puzzler, but if we're sharp we're probably going to look at doubles. What we would've seen is a horse not picked much anywhere, off terrible form, being bet. This barn is known to bet, and if this horse is ready he has a class advantage. For 20 cents we can swing. 

In the third race we had a horse who everyone on replay said qualified badly, but the horse - who started in the Hambletonian last year - was better than all of them if sharp. And, the trainer just sent a horse off a meh qualifier last week that crushed; was seriously 20 the best, and dropped a few seconds of time. 

The fourth was a spread race, a cheap claimer, no angles, with three contenders I could see. 

The fifth - and here's where we're at it again - was a Renaud to James MacDonald driver change on a nice horse, but one who is woefully inconsistent. Since we didn't key this obvious change in the first to gain value, we could look elsewhere here. 

Interestingly, there were a couple of others in there, including the seven horse, who has been great but hasn't been put into play in the Opens. In my view, this is because the Open's have had two huge speed horses who the driver has not wanted to challenge. Tonight, maybe he tries this sharp horse, although beating the two horse at 1-5 seems tough. 

So, we might go 1710-6-2-156-2 for $2 ($18 total)

And 1710-6-2-156-37 for twenty cents ($3.60 ticket)

The setup, steam horse in two won. The off qualifier horse in three dropped time and won, just like the same barn did Friday, and in the last leg, the 1-5 shot got off several lengths back and the seven horse did take a shot to the lead, and went wire to wire. 

Our second ticket for $3.60 hit for $5,100. 

The sequence was two chalk, a $9 winner, an 8-1 winner and the seven in the last leg at $30. 

One mistake players can make is to look back at a pick 5 or 6 and reverse engineer and backfit, but in this case I do not think we're doing that. 

This was a logical way to hit for huge money for $4 or $5 in a pick five by being just a little creative. The teams were playing $20 pick 5's and those can be perfectly fine in chalky harness racing. But if there's an angle to be had against them and it can cost us only a few dollars, the leverage can make a boom goes the dynamite. 

I hope everyone is having a nice Tuesday. 


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Recognizing Market Moves in Racing Are Never Easy

Crunk noted the offshore pricing on Tarif in the Rachel Alexandra at FG a couple of weeks ago in an informative tweet; namely, the horse was never 6-1 like she was on the tote. 

Learning how a game is played in today's world is really important to our ROI and it's important to work on these things, in my view. 

But, it isn't easy, even if mediums like Betfair and others are available. Markets do all sorts of things, because in the end they're still a collection of opinions. 

Around 13 or 14 years ago when I was playing seriously, I would get ready every year for the Woodbine meet opener. It was a collection of 4.5 furlong affairs. 

Going through back data I found that pace figures worked because most races went gate to wire. You needed early speed. CJ's old pacefigures were a good input, as the Timeform ones would be in the present. 

I had a proprietary workout score - something @dennycaps talks about being important even today - and that was indicative of success. 

Last up, old trainer data was important, because some barns had their horses ready to fire and some didn't. 

It was a simple model, but it did work fairly well in previous years. The ROI was in the 1.20's if my memory is right. 

One year I handicapped and had the collection of horses I liked. I opened Betfair and started playing. 

Almost immediately the markets were really weird; unlike I've ever seen before. 

A horse I had as a slam dunk early leader that fit my criteria was 6-1 on the tote and 15-1 or higher at Betfair. Keep in mind there weren't rolling doubles or pick 3's to check pricing. Regardless, I wondered if I had done something wrong or if the horse was a dud. 

I started betting the 15-1's and the bots - a precursor to the CRW models of today - kept lining up offers. I took a few more of them and fought this market. 

The horse won. 

In the second and third and fourth races the exact same thing happened. The "CRW" bots hated my horses, and they won. 

I telephoned a friend who had a sizeable bankroll (over $500,000) at Betfair and told him what was happening. The bots were freaking out and I could get more and more money down, but I rarely overbet a bank. He could join in. Knock himself out. 

By the fifth race this was still going on. A filly from the outside which was my best bet of the day was 5-1 on the board - locals sure knew who was live. We got filled at 18-1, then 20-1, then 22-1. The bots just kept putting money up and we took it. The horse won by daylight. 

If I remember correctly, ten of eleven first call leaders won that day. I can't remember what I ended up, but I do know my friend talks about it as his first $100,000 profit betting day. 

We fought the market, we fought the CRW's, and somehow we won. 

Meanwhile, the bots and other sharps are never that bad. Something very weird was going on in this market and fighting it is normally almost impossible. Case in point - I kept track of my wagers religiously at this time. When I fought a market - outside this one time - in the exact same way (with CRW's lining up to take my cash) my ROI, which I quickly checked for this missive, was $0.52. I fought them, and they kicked the living shit out of me. 

We've all been at this game for a long time. In my view, in today's game, market moves to fade or hop on or ignore completely are some of the toughest decisions we have to make as bettors. 

As a rule I listen to the market more than I ever have. I check everything I possibly can. I'll never be an expert, but if I feel if I am not doing my homework to at least understand what's happening in the markets, I'm never going to be able to win at today's game.  

Thanks to Crunk for sharing his two tweets. There was a lot of wisdom in them. 

And ya, I bet Tarif even though I didn't like her much and had no intention of betting her. I had to abandon much of what I've believed over 35 years or so of betting to place that bet.  I listened to the market and that time it was right. 

Have a great day everyone. 

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