Monday, December 10, 2007

B Track Blueprint I: The Horseplayer

If you have not read the post below B Track Blueprint, give it a whirl. We are going to try and find out, by asking the people directly involved in B tracks, just what makes them tick. The player, the live fan, and a distributor. First off, let's tackle the player. The stay-at-home fan who supports this sport.

Lou, or the Whip to his friends, has been watching harness racing since the age of 5, primarily cutting his teeth on the B tracks in South Western Ontario. He lives in Windsor with his wife and young son Cam. We’re not sure if he named his son after super-horse Cam Fella. We think so, but we won’t let his wife know.

Although much of his handle goes towards big tracks like the Meadowlands and Woodbine/Mohawk, he still to this day spends the bulk of his time playing small tracks.

To someone like me, it seems counter-productive, because small pool tracks have so many things working against you as a player (late odds changes of monster proportions, betting against yourself with small pools etc). But to Whip, and a few others who play B tracks regularly, it can be a great place to play. That is what is great about racing, and what I feel the game does not maximize – it is a skill game, and there are many ways, and many places to play. No one is right or wrong.

“Can you make money on the B tracks?” I asked.

“You bet you can”, he replies. “I thrive on the B tracks. You have to pick your spots, but there is money to be made. Mainly you have to have a plan, and do some work. It is not easy. You have to have the tote loaded and look for overlays in all pools and you have to make sure you bet size properly. There are overlays in exactor and double pools every day.”

A common theme is bet sizing, whenever speaking about small pool tracks. It is quite obvious that betting into a $1000 win pool is different than a $5000 pool, which is different than a $50,000 one. Professional players operate on something called, or something like, the Kelly Criterion developed by a Bell Labs scientist in the 1950’s. This system helps you avoid gamblers ruin. In general, on a 10% or so edge bet, you would not want to bet more than 1% pool size. In a $500 pool, this would equate to a $5 win bet. Big players do not want to spend their limited time betting $5 to win. The exotics are a whole different matter of course.

In speaking of bet size in win pools, Whip is not unlike other players. “It is tough to bet more than $50 at some tracks like Grand River or Western Fair. There is just not enough cash in the pools. Flamboro you can go a little higher. Betting a horse $50 or $100 to win makes the horse 1-9. If I worked at figuring out the horse is a good bet, I just alerted everyone and it depresses exotics prices, too.”

According to Whip, the edge can lie in the exotics, and the best bets at the B’s can vary from track to track. “I believe there is good value at Georgian Downs in the super pools. Often you can grab a pool shot with a 20 center. Western Fair does not get my super money on the other hand. Sometimes the tri pays more than the super, so I stick to triactors there. The pick 4’s at Western Fair are not for me either. The pools are just not big enough.” He believes two things help B track handles, and help give him incentive to play them "the 20 cent tickets are a good thing. I bet more because they are offered. I sometimes wish super races were more spread out, but in my opinion they help handles. The other thing you must watch for is signal distribution. When HPI TV takes a signal it is when you want to play the track. This is something I think B tracks should be most concerned with. Schedule on off times if you have to, just get the races on TV for us. If not, there is a good chance I will ignore your track.”

Since thoroughbred betting is so heavily skewed to statistics and betting software, I wondered what handicapping tools he uses, and what factors he looks for at the B’s. “Drivers are important, because the pool is not deep. There are some drivers you can toss out immediately. Replays are not overly important. Trainers, in my opinion, are the most important handicapping factor. Some of them are A track sendoff’s and they clean up. You can get a feel for them on how they are doing at a given interval. If you can sense a 0.500 guy will not have a good day or week, you can use that.”

In terms of player rewards and rebates I wondered if they meant as much to him, as a B Track player, as they do to a big whale on A tracks. Would he go to the track more often with perks, like free dinners? “I don’t know about that. If every track had a plug for my computer, with WiFi and a nice spot to play I could think about that. But since I bet seriously, the noise level is something that bothers me. Also, any track I have been to, the area you might be able to do this is tucked away. I would want to have this area for me to be in full-view of the track”.

What about rebates? Are they important to him as a player, even on B tracks? “If I was offered rebates on ANY track I would bet more. To me it is only common sense. Sometimes I could easily burn and churn $2000 or $3000 on a Georgian or Flamboro card. If I was rewarded with money in my account the next day, it would only lead to me to bet more.”

So in this part of the B track Blueprint we have testimony from a larger B track player. In summary, it appears that a few things are important to him:

1) Distribution of the Signal: If the races are not readily available for him and others to see, they will simply ignore the product. Pool size is too small.

2) Pool Size: If win pools are $500 or so, they are not worth playing into.

3) Bet Type by Track: Try to find overlays in some pools that are big enough to take a shot at. Know your track, and tracks should concentrate on playing to their strengths. Watering down pools with many, many bets may be counter-productive.

4) Rebates: Important to him, even with the smaller bet volume.

Thanks to Whip for taking time to give us some pointers, and his thoughts. If you want to join Whip and others handicapping harness racing, join them in the handicapping section of It’s a free chat board and the moderators do a great job in making it a pleasant place to post. If you want to discuss this topic with like-minded race watchers, and participants, you can do that there, too!

We’ll return next with Ian Meyers from an Advanced Deposit Wagering Company, to see what he thinks about the B track scene.

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