Meadowlands Full Card Analysis by PTP

If it rains (check Chip Reinhart's twitter feed) these may all lose. Hold it, they may all lose anyway. Wager at your own risk! 

R1 Del Miller

2 is probably best but she was running in so she wasn't right last time, but she was fractious in PP and shoulda died but did not. Could key I suppose as an ITP hurdle race. Belassima is obvious chalk, meh for me. Altar the wild card if looking for a price. No bets here. 

R2 Dancer

1 likely only beats himself. 5 is a nice horse. 

R3 Miller

I will key You Ato Dream and probably bet her. All her races are good and there is no Bella Bellini in here. Hope Gregory sends. The rest don't interest me, but maybe the one can get a trip with added Lasix. 

R4 Shallee

5. What can you say. 

R5 Miss Versatility

Manchego will get put in play according to trainer comments, but the fact is she was no good last time. If you don't play the bounce back as a key at a low price, which I never do and maybe you don't, I guess we have a key in Atlanta. Doves can't seem to go with her, and neither than anyone else. 

Race 6 Haughton

Interesting race. 2 raced great last time, Snobbytown was flat but probably because I bet her last time. 6 is okay, as is 7 and 9. 10 has a terrible post and will be hung the mile most likely. 

Sears' horse - 8 - interests me most I think. I don't know if he works out a trip from here, but if he does I think she fires at a pretty good price, she was sneaky good in her last. I could see going deep here in the pick 4 and leaving out the ten who might still be chalk. Or just keying 8, or skinny with 8 and Snobbytown in a bounce back effort paying a quadrillion dollars to win.  

Race 7 Wm Haughton

What a race here. Chuck Simon noted the trip on 2 Century Farroh and he was really live. He was terrible at Mohawk, but is better down there. Backstreet Shadow got torched and hung around right until the last sixteenth. Very good chalk. Angers Bayama a new horse lately. 

Catch the Fire, in my view, is the best horse in the race and will be a big price. But how can that horse win from out there? I'll probably bet and key on a ticket or two, anyway. Such a nice horse. 

Race 8 Senior Hambo

I have absolutely no idea how this race will be raced after the no holes Gural meeting last night. Usually you could count on the second tier getting a trip, so 12 is I think likely, but who knows. I am  confused. Sermon is going to win one of these weeks and pay $50, I am sure of it! But I doubt it's this time. 

Beads hated the track last time if you're looking for a longshot. Sorella is supposedly pulling shoes if the weather is good. 

Race 9 Meadowlands Pace (kicks off another pick 5)

One Eight Hundred, in my view, is the best horse in the country and he hated the track last time. If the track is the same I'll pitch. If it's fast I will key. Without One Eight Hundred firing on a fast strip, this is a wide open trip race!

Race 10 Wm. Haughton

What kind of complete mess this race is and I may toy in going deep. The outside speed is massive and it seems to set up for a closer if no one gets a hole. If so, Workin Ona Mystery is likely off last week's trip, but I fear perhaps an overbet. A bomb alternative will be 9 who may follow him and has been racing well. How about using Leonidas? Conservatively handled last time and he fits this class. He should be a price. 

Having said all that, TITP will get the lead and either he or Tattoo will walk and come one two :)

Race 11 

I know Gingras said Captain Corey might not be driven aggressively and he needs one, but he came home in 123.3 in his Q under no urging. How can he lose? I guess we'll find out but this looks like a slam dunk to me.  

Race 12

One may think that blowout mile did something good for Sandbetweenmytoes and I guess I lean here. Lyon's Steel has been good and does fit. Not my favorite race. 

Race 13

It feels to me like Covered Bridge is a key in here. Gapped a bit last time, but they were going fast, then went wide and finished up like a good horse does. 

Race 14

I've lost the GDP of Chad on Better Take It in his last two and the horse has been sensational, just wasn't put into any kind of position. Dexter on tonight and I think he will be more aggressive. 

Good luck everyone. 


Beating the "Teams"

Pat Cummings posted this on the twitter yesterday:

That, any way we slice it, is a big amount, and this is sharp money.  It also may not be a surprise to you, because each day when we look at a payoff where we have constructed our tickets around a proper horse (non obvious, non chalk) it often comes back short and we lament the payoffs. 

I've dove into the payoffs at various tracks over the last year or so and one thing that I have concluded - if you find a horse or horses they are on you're treading water. Conversely, if you find a horse they aren't, you're going to get an inflated payoff. Whether this is true or not (and how we even know for sure is difficult), but I think it's there. 

When you look at a superfecta payoff at say the Meadowlands in harness racing, the odds of the horses involved might portend a $1,000 mutuel which comes back $700. We see this often. I'm convinced the teams shorten the list of contenders and hammer those combos in three and four horse verticals. Where we do see bigger payoffs, the "wow, I can't believe that paid that much" payoff, is when one of the slots is filled with an outlier. 

It's important to remember that this is not about how we conventionally handicap against the crowd. We're not throwing out or parsing horses who five of six public cappers pick as their best bet.  That's 2010 stuff. We're trying to make value analyzing the horses who are 8-5 versus the 2-1 horse all the public cappers are on. That's the live one. The public isn't making that market. 

How do I try and tackle this ("try" being the key word)? 

  • I am generally more selective on whom I use underneath. If a horse ridden, trained or driven by someone out of favor who is not overly live, but who I think fits in a pace scenario for example, I will try and get them on the ticket, second third or fourth. With lower denominations you can use "all" for 4th for a small amount with the out of favor horse. 
  • I'll key what I think is not a steam horse on a small pick 4 or 5. This can be a $12 or $16 bet. With low denominations, it's possible to thread a needle and get paid. 
  • If I see something in real time that I do not like about a team horse, I will pitch. It's important to remember, these folks to do not have a crystal ball; they are not the guy with the bag of money on a Monopoly board game cover. They are working on thin margins and they lose a lot of races. 
  • Play the steam horse underneath. If they're on 3-46-467 for $100, bob and weave the three with some outliers. 
In the above scenarios, it's important - like ITP preaches - for me to not get caught up on "hitting the ticket". There's no use spreading to hit a ticket the teams are on. To make this possibly profitable long term (the jury is still out, believe me) you have to keep the tickets short and punchy with a horse or two you're focused on. 

This game is so tough. We're not only fighting takeout, track changes, short fields; we're not just competing against the guy or gal at the end of the block; we don't have to just find winners. All that is hard enough, of course. We're left having to find bets where the sharpest players in horse racing hopefully haven't covered something. It probably sounds like a fool's errand, but here we are. 

The above is opinion and conjecture, naturally. Modeling such a qualitative, nebulous thing is intuition, not math or science. I'd be interested to hear other opinions on this matter on the twitter if you'd like to share your' thoughts.  

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Pool Dilution

 Chuck asked an interesting question on the twitter machine today. 

So, how much is too much?

In my view, when a track has a lot of handle more is better. By not offering choice, a pick 4 pool may be $100,000, but when we do offer choice the pick 4 might be $90,000, a pick 3 $20,000 for more handle. 

At smaller tracks this gets much more tricky, particularly in Pick n's, 

As penned on the HANA Blog (an older one, as the reference to the "Super 7" evidences): 

"Multi-leg bettors should be aware of is to be aware of the pool sizes, especially when backing longshots. It would be great to have 3 consecutive 20-1 shots win in a Pick 3 on the WEG circuit, but unfortunately the pools usually only contain approximately $4000, leaving around $3000 after takeout. A $1 Win parlay of 3 20-1 shots would pay $9261, but hitting that pays you at most $3000, and less if someone else has also hit it. Making a Pick 3 wager with horses going off at 13.45-1 or more in each leg is a mathematically poor bet. This effect is most pronounced in Super 7 wagering. When the pool has a $10000 guaranteed payout, 7 horses of 2.75-1 or more creates a parlay that would pay more than the $10000 that you would receive. For a $50000 carryover pool, the odds only increase to 3.7-1. For a $250000 carryover, it is 4.9-1. The lesson to be learned is that you should probably only bet the Super 7 when you have some very solid low price horses that you are comfortable keying."

Tracks who do offer such pools are not doing their customers a favor, but in my view (crazy-ass Rainbow Pick 6 announcements aside) high handle tracks that do offer choice are. 

Reply to Chuck's feed if you think I am all wet. 

Enjoy the Wednesday everyone!


Pick n's Disease is a Horrible Malady

I find the racing betting culture is pretty interesting. The sport in North America, through marketing, the way we currently do things, the way the sport is pushed to us, makes us at times kinda dumb. It's no more prevalent than with pick 4 or 5 or 6 betting. 

At a simulcast center near you, "I hit the 15-1 winner".

"How much did you bet?"

"$20"

"Nice job"

Do you notice with a pick 4 it's much different?

"I hit the pick 4"

"Great!"

There's never an ask for any details. Just a success or fail. Hitting a pick n ticket is the whole she bang. It never involves how much someone spent, what denomination, what anything really. Just a hit!

The pick n's on your TV screen that many complain about are the same. It's like a badge of honor to convert, even if you spent $48 to get back $44. 

It makes us, in my view, worse players. We suspend what we know for a high five. This doesn't work with any other bet. 

Pick n Disease ™ shows up in more mysterious ways. 

Let's say you and I are betting a straight pool and we hate the 5-2 shot. We, as a matter of course (this will happen hundreds of times this week), chuck the 5-2 shot and box two others, or take a tri without this horse we dislike. Why? Because we eliminate about 33% of the money in the pool, and with 25% exotic juice it makes our bet a winner. It creates a mini-carryover pool, is betting 101 and we all think nothing of it. 

Now, add a Pick n. 

That 5-2 shot we don't like becomes a horse we *have* to add. Just in case. 

"Why are you adding the horse you just pitched in the straight pool to eliminate the takeout," Pete from Brooklyn may ask. 

"Um, <stammer, stammer> I can get value in other legs," comes the reply. 

"In a game where the odds board is efficient? Why are you adding back takeout?"

When we add a leg to a bet, it's like we suddenly become developmentally challenged. The laws of wagering are suspended as synapses that fire in our horseplayer brains become discombobulated. .

It's probably not our fault. Pick n Disease ™ is real, it's a demon, and we've been conditioned to not even recognize it. The high five at the simulcast center is like a shot of dopamine, and it doesn't matter if at the end of the day the wallet is lighter or not. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 


Fixed Odds Wagering Notes

 The Paulick Report Friday show generated some chatter from wagering geeks like ITP & Crunk this morning, so I gave it a watch. You can watch it here. Pat gave his thoughts on fixed odds wagering, and its progression into America, primarily with the first salvo in New Jersey. 

Rather than share my thoughts to other geeks on twitter, which as we all know often results in comprehension and communication carnage, I figured I'd jot down a few here,;which might still do the same thing, but I can use run on sentences. 

Pat is bullish on fixed odds, but rightly, in my view, downplays the game changing aspect of them. Australia has increased wagering and revenue from the fixed odds system and it is an integral part of the horsplaying landscape, but hoping that the US can be like Australia is likely incorrect. 

As we've spoken about many times here on the blog, the downunder bettor is drawn to win pool betting and it represents the bulk of their play since forever. The Aussie system was moving players already loving win betting into a more convenient and lower takeout system - a system where they could price shop, trade on an exchange and bet futures on just about everything. How could they not like it?

It's much different here, of course. It's simply a numbers game - the pool of players attracted to such a system are smaller. 

Also different down there from up here? Fiefdoms, protectionism of signals and price. Ray mentions the takeout being 12 or 13% on fixed odds and how it will be "split". There's little profit in offering fixed odds in such a way. And to think CDI will suddenly allow Kentucky Derby Futures betting everywhere and scoop 4% or 5% of the net profit is a fool's game. 

In 180 degree contrast, in Australia, not long ago Victorian racing saw a lull in their handle via the exchange. The entities in charge - those who row the same boat looking for more profit for purses - believed the juice was too high and they lowered it to around 8%. If you think that would happen here with falling handle I don't think you've been paying attention. 

I'm not PTP-Downer with this system like ITP, although I agree with him - people (winners) will get kicked out, maximum bet sizes may be small for many. This is indicative of the lower volume small margin nature of the fixed odds game here.  I don't think of it as a game changer in any way, shape or form. 

I believe this is a novelty. A novelty that may increase overall sales the easiest way possible, just like a Popeye's Chicken increases gross sales - by offering new chicken sandwiches and opening more stores. 

A sportsbook that offers Hambletonian odds nationwide will increase, at least, the 'commercial' of the Hambo. The same goes with weekend stakes races everywhere on the Thoroughbred side. This is primarily for new customers or casual ones looking for action. It's not for us. 

If fixed odds are looked at with that anchor, it's positive. With the fingers in the pie, protection, corporate maneuvering and all the rest that has befallen much of the racing industry here in North America I doubt we'll get a system that works in a super-positive way. I think it's probably best to completely temper expectations. 

Enjoy your Saturday everyone. 

Squeezing Your Betting Margins Until There Are None

In economics for like a bazillion years (I don't think this time frame is accurate, I am not an economist), we've heard a firm produces product until its marginal cost equals the price. In terms for the rest of us, they produce something at X price until the next unit becomes unprofitable to produce. 

This really isn't some sort of textbook gobbldygook, it truly works. And it's frankly quite remarkable. 

When we do have a margin edge, that is our COGS and labor costs are low, or efficient, we can produce and sell a crap-ton of stuff. And it's not straight line. Our sales can absolutely explode when we reach certain points on the curve. Now, we don't really know what's happening at a specific point in time, and we test different prices, suppliers, cut costs the best we can, etc. We just kind of know where we need to be. 

It's also remarkable (to me anyway, because I wager) that this very axiom that's spread from schools with brainy people that charge us thousands a course, works in betting the horses. 

We as general bettors, know very, very little about our edge. But we do know at the end of the day if we're winning or losing. As we win, we bet more, as we lose, we bet less. Now, bet size via pool size in wagering, etc is clearly a major impediment to personal handle growth, but it does explain a lot, like rebates and computer wagering or teams, doesn't it?

If you have a 1.10 ROI on something, and squeeze that down to 1.02 by wagering more, we are mirroring the firm selling a widget for less and less profit per unit. And just like a firm, when our edge moves down from 1.10 to 1.02, we bet a crap-ton more money; like 3X or 5X. It's not a straight line. 

What's the lesson on all this? Nothing really, I guess. But if you are at a 1.10 ROI, I think it's wise to bet more money. You're good and your handle - and end of year profit - will rise. For the business, everyone can't make 1.10 and bet more. But you can sure as hell help them cut their COGS and labor costs (takeout) and port them from a 0.89 to a 0.95. That, just like the scale of your profitable player or widget business, can do some huge things for this sports' handle growth. 

Have a nice day everyone. 



Pitching the Chalk (Subtlely)

I watched the U.S. Women's Open in golf this past weekend on and off. I wondered if Lexi Thompson, the front-runner with a 4 shot lead, could battle some demons and get the job done. On Sunday, after she hit her second to six feet on the par five first (and birdied for a five shot lead), her 2-5 odds seemed about right. A birdie at the first; she's got this. 

But, according to the Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee, there was more to this excellent first hole result:

“She’s got 6 feet away,” Chamblee said on Live From. “Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. …  I thought unless she gets an eight-shot lead, nine-shot lead, and her closest competitors fall away [her lead was not safe]"

This was prescient, as Thompson shot a 41 on the back, needed an eight footer on the last to force a playoff, and the putt wasn't even close. 

This is subtle. And subtle is not going to work every time. But the risk (fading a short, short shot) can certainly pay dividends with subtle. 

In horse racing, some of the best players who win regularly do this and act on it, too.

"That horse coming back to the winners' circle last time looked a bit off, and here he is right back in this week. I will pitch at 1-5"

"That horse's late figure was weak last time for the first time in three races. He may be off form and he's 1-5"

"That horse is on a bit of a line scoring down"

These are all pretty damn minor in the scope of things, and no, they don't always work - horses are 1-5 for a reason - but sometimes they're the staple of a monster score. 

Now, I just have to start monitoring golfer's nerves on where they hit their early putts on the putter face. 

Have a nice day everyone. 

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