Alan Woods and us, the Horseplayers

Wednesday's wrap is usually about a lot of things, but since there is so much news about the life-blood of the sport, this Wednesday we focus on the player.

There is a long article on Alan Woods by Tony Wilson. If you have time, and are interested it is well worth reading. It shows and talks about how the computer was used (the formation of today's computer betting like jcapper) and how overlays were sought.

It does all come down to overlays, and it is the simplest (but hardest to find) thing about the game, or any game for that matter: If your probability of success is greater than board odds you win. In the article this simple law is touched on by the multi-billion dollar bettor:

Heaven's form guide has four important columns: the horse's number, its current odds, its computer-calculated probability of winning (expressed to three decimal places) and a figure Alan calls its 'Win Expectation'. Win Expectation, which is obtained by multiplying a horse's computer-calculated probability by its current odds, identifies the amount a team can expect to receive for each dollar bet on a particular horse. The formula goes:

E (return) = P (win) x current odds

If the Win Expectation is greater than one, the horse is an overlay - an attractive, potentially profit-making horse. If the Win Expectation is less than one, the horse is an underlay and should be avoided. If the Win Expectation is between 0.82 and 1, the horse is a small overlay but an unwise investment because of the Jockey's Club rake.

That is also a good primer for racetrack management: If your E(x) is 0.82 you can't beat the rake so you sit the race out. Up it to 0.90? Well then a whole lot more bets are made.

The article is filled with gems, and is in interesting look at an interesting man.

Alan Woods was a sharp computer player and speaking of that,here is a good look at one track's view on computer betting (thank you Equidaily for pointing us to this). As people who follow the blog know, we have proposed that pools are open to everyone, and tools used by players should be promoted. It is a market, and constricting the market makes people play other games. It is also said here that we need winners. If everyone is a loser, the sport is a loser. This article seems to think the same way. It is refreshing to read more and more of this. North American execs seem to do everything they can to kick people out of their pools and seem to have this visceral disdain for winners.

"a general belief in the pari-mutuel industry that high-volume players are taking money out of pools and making losers out of on-track patrons".

This was a question that vexed former Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kong when he first arrived at Sports Road more than a decade ago. And his remedy was as wrong then as it would be today, closing big accounts and making life tough on those who were succeeding.

Thankfully the new guard promoted winners and embraced them. And boy, did they grow.

We understand that Wong ultimately regretted these decisions and the new guard at the Jockey Club welcomes all customers, big and small, professional or recreational. After all, their only concern should be in creating turnover, assuming the money is from clean sources. And surely if someone is given the right to play, they should have the right win as well as to lose.

The US could save itself some pain and embrace the lessons Hong Kong learned the hard way. Or is American racing to become cynical like casino gambling, where losing heavily makes you a valued customer but using your intellect to win is considered an offence?

Using your intellect to win is the game of racing. It is pari-mutuel chess. Players know this, tracks seem not to understand it. Heck a pile of ADW's out there do not even let you track your ROI. Their focus should be on making them winners, I think they'd be happily surprised if they did.


Pull the Pocket said...

I see Phil picked the same horse as I did at LRL.

Sorry for the kiss of death Phil.

You should have quickly changed that pick when you saw my post.


Still 0 fer at LRL since 1984 :)

Anonymous said...

Look forward to reading your blog everyday

as do my friends.

I would like your comments on the
following handicapping thought.

I have come to the conclusion that

angles that work are not
transferable from track to track.

An example would be one
that you talked about lately,

first start off a layoff.

At Wdb/Mhk a horse to win has to be
one of two things before the
layoff - Ran against better or
In winning form

At the "B" tracks these
requirements would not have to

be met for the horse to win.

This is just one of many examples.

Therefore players would have to

have a system, a word you hate ha ha

for each track or to just play (bet)

at one specific track. I have chosen the
latter and bet only Wdb.

Sly Fox

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi Fox,

It's a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for reading and commenting.

I could not agree more. Layoffs are a good example. You have to look at the trainer, the horse and the qualifier.

For example, Bob McIntosh. He has good back class horses, he ships them from Windsor to race (why come all that way for a trip?), and his qualifiers are usually sharp. That is a green light.

Some guys might give the horse an easy tightener on a half mile track, then go to the big track.

This time of year weather can make a difference. We have a couple young ones and with the tracks in poor condition it is harder to get decent miles into them.

In general I look at a few things, the above, the post position, and the odds board, and the driver on the track. Does he score the horse out? Does he look like he is going to be a try? Is the post conducive to going for a top effort?

Track to track, horse to horse, trainer to trainer, we still have to do some work.

That's just my opinion.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the plug. Hopefully that doesn't kick start the losing streak.

Pull the Pocket said...

I know all about losing streaks Phil. I wrote about them below, because I live them :)

Keep rolling, you make some well-thought out picks, imo.


Anonymous said...

I really love your blog, I dont comment, but I love reading it, keep up the good work!

Pull the Pocket said...

Thank you very much!

I absolutely appreciate it!



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