Sunday, February 3, 2008

Handicapping: New Player Blueprint

In part one below we spoke about several generally accepted rules for managing a gambling bankroll. In this section we will discuss in a step by step way about setting up your account and managing a small, non-professional bankroll. This is, I guess, a blueprint to hopefully become a better player, and possibly have some fun.

Most new players really get skewered. I have never played blackjack, and although I have read many books about it, I think I have played Texas holdem only a little. With those games you can play and last a little while, though. The rakes are low, and you can get on a bit of a run of luck and have some fun.

Not in racing. You can lose a bankroll in minutes. It is a tough, tough game to learn.

So, the notes below will not make you a winner. I guess if it was this easy I would be typing this from my own island on my Steve Jobs custom designed computer. Like Jeff Platt said in part one, only having a hit rate that you know is profitable can make you a winner. But hopefully I can help with giving you some tools to make the game more fun, and maybe get on the road to profitability. Remember, when players win, or have a chance to win, this game can grow. If a track isn't going to help you, someone should!

I was at WEGZ last week as I had mentioned. I sat with a couple of friends and we chatted about gambling. I asked one of them, who gambles successfully for a living, what kind of techniques a new player should tackle to hopefully preserve their bankroll, and maybe become a long-term horseplayer. I thought it would make a good attachment post to Money Management below. This is a post about what steps to take and what tools to use to become a good player. These involve: Setting up an account, your bankroll, managing that bankroll and playing to win.

Account Setup and Suggested Tools

If you want to play at the track that is fine, and there will be benefits to you here in this piece I think, but in reality playing from home can give you access to tools that you can not get live. When I play live I bring “fun money” only. The professional player who helped with this piece plays peanuts live. A double screen, a couple computers and a TV or two is his method at home (my home betting office is pictured above). So, we need an ADW like, Youbet, or Premier Turf Club. If you can legally play betfair, of course that is an excellent option, because much of this piece is about win betting. When searching for an ADW first and foremost it has to be available in your jurisdiction (truly unfortunate, but that is a whole other topic). Tools I look for for an ADW to supply me with to help me win are these respectively:

Rebates: Rebates as we have discussed many times are almost essential to becoming a better player. If you blindly bet chalk you might have an ROI of 0.83. You lose 17% and that bleeds the bankroll faster than Rick Zeron can find a microphone. With a rebate this boosts ROI, boosts staying power, and gives you a better chance to be successful. If a local ADW offers you rebates, you have a better chance to succeed. I would hazard a guess that nine out of ten people who have become every day players owe this to rebates. Without them, they are dead and watching CSI on Thursday nights, instead of watching the fifth at Mohawk. This is, in my opinion, why with gambling laws changed in the US we have not seen an increase in handle as tracks' thought. People can win with an offshore rebater, at home they can not, so they quit.

Bet Tracking: There are several ADW’s out there which track bets for you. Some even let you download your stats into excel. Chances are you will have tracking that can calculate hit rate and ROI. This is vital in making you a better player. As we discussed above, knowing your hit rate helps bet size. But also, and this is really salient: All bets are not equal. You might have a good idea where or why to play place bets, or you might be an amazing exacta player. Knowing what you are good at and cutting out the bad can immediately up your ROI. If you want to keep playing your low ROI bets, well this allows you to know what you have to work on.

For me, I tracked everything and I learned a lot. My superfecta ROI was 0.54 for a period. I had no idea I was that bad. I knew I had to quit them, or improve my play. Also, I learned my ROI on show bets (when I tried some things with that) was 0.88. My win bet ROI was much higher. This made me reevaluate what in the heck I was doing with show bets. For a friend of mine who was ok at Pick 4’s, but still slightly losing, it made him realize that when WEG raised Pick 4 rakes a few years ago, he should just stop playing them, because he had no shot. These are all things that tracking can do for us as players. If your ADW does not have tracking, ask them why not (it is rumored that some tracks don’t want you to know your stats, because they feel if you saw what you lose, you would quit playing. That's great, huh?). If want to track bets by hand because your platform does not allow you this feature, try excel, or maybe ask Gordon here at Bettor Keep Track Software. I used this product for a few years. It is pretty cool and does the job.

Access to Race Replays, Webtotes and Other Tools: Some sites like HPI offer free replays. Premier Turf Club offers some awesome innovation in sending in your bets. Brisbet (now Twin Spires) has a free webtote which shows you percentage of pools to glance for overlays. If you are reading this from the UK, I don't have to tell you the huge value-added tools betfair gives you. Anything you can find that can help, go for it. You need all of the tools you can get your hands on. Some ADW's really care if you win, because they know when you win, you bet more. You bet more and they win. The ones that don't help you win, are not worth your time. [For more along these lines of what an ADW can do to help, or what their role is in the 21st century, check our chat here, with Ian of Premier Turf Club.]


You need a bankroll that can not be touched for anything else. You can’t buy beer, play a few slots or loan it to your friends. This bankroll should be what you can lose. No one who wants to be a serious player plays with their rent money. It’s bad news.

Money Management for a New Player

We have to bet size, and with a small bankroll this can be tricky. For example, this is what a professional player might do (touched on in Part I). He would use the Wong form of Kelly. He would bet to win a fixed amount, usually to win 1% or 2% of bankroll. If you have $20000, you’d make bets to win $200 or $400. For smaller players with $200, it is pretty tough to only bet to win $2. But, you should think like this if you can not play with a bigger bankroll: Most of us have bigger bankrolls than we think. You might bring $400 to the track, lose it all, the next night bring $250 more, and so on. Although you may only put $250 in an account, make an assumption on what your total betting bankroll is (i.e. all of your reloads). Then just play like the pro to win 1% or 2% of that total bankroll.

For example: You put $500 in But in your own head you know that you could probably stand to lose $2000 over a period of time. So you “bet to win” 1% of $2000, or $20. This is simple now. Here is an example (like we did in part I).

You like a horse at the Meadowlands in Race 1. He is 2-1 and he looks like an easy winner to you if he makes front easily. You have made him fair odds of around 6-5. You would then bet to win $20 (or 1%). You would bet $10 to get back $30, for a profit of your targeted $20. You would then do that with all other odds levels, like we explained in the Wong method in Part I. If your bankroll grows to $5000, you adjust by betting to win $50. If it falters you adjust lower. Remember the post about losing streaks? If you are betting 5-2 shots, you might have a losing streak in a normal distribution of 15. If you are betting this size with this method, you don’t go broke over 15 losses, you are still in the game to play another day.

So with this technique and bet sizing it can help avoid gamblers ruin, help you learn the game, and have some fun. It is more fun to win than lose, we all know that. If you are interested in giving this a shot I would recommend it. It won’t make you a winner, only we as gamblers can do that, but it is a building block to managing a gambling bank. I think this might be able to allow a newer or smaller player to place in $500 in an ADW, and not be have to do a dreaded reload for awhile. This gives the player time to learn on the fly, and since a couple folks have asked for my opinion on it: It is the purpose of this piece.

This touches on win betting of course, but it can go to all other forms of betting. People out there love betting for entertainment. If you want to become a serious player and learn, but have fun while going along (this is the stage I am in right now as I play with a smaller bank), there is nothing wrong with having a second account for a few pick 4’s or whatever to give you some entertainment. Don’t expect to win in that of course. If you can’t win betting win, you will have trouble winning betting exotics. This is an action bet, and folks these are considered a money-burner. But if it is a fun bankroll that you know you will lose, it does wonders for your mind. You know you have the real bankroll that you are trying to get up to many thousands, this one is inconsequential.

When I finally did most of the above several years ago, a light bulb went off and I found myself much more knowledgeable, much less emotional in my betting and much happier. This game is more fun when you have a plan, and can at least set the table to become a winner. In my honest opinion, it is night and day. You are not mad at yourself, worried about a bad trip, looking for someone to tell a sob story to, or any of the like. It is completely calming. I am so very happy I did it that way.

I hope the two previous write-ups were decent to read and they may have helped, or been informational. As I have stressed, for money management and bet sizing, you must have some idea of if you are profitable, and that takes time. Please do not take the short cuts listed above as a replacement for that. This is all for informational purposes only. What you do with it, is of your own volition and free will.

I welcome any and all comments. Good luck and good racing!


Anonymous said...

Another top post. I'm going with your plan.

Pull the Pocket said...

I'd love to hear about your progress if you don't mind.

The discipline is very hard to do I found when I first started and I would just suggest to try to stay disciplined. One thing I found is that when you start winning, discipline becomes easier.

Anyway, best luck!!!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, and the opposite when you are losing. I think once you start grouping races together as an independent event is when you have lost.
So you lost $350 in the 4th race...that should have no bearing on your 5th race bets(unless of course you only have 350 left in your account).
Sometimes we(myself included) take a loss like that and roll it into our next bet. Whether it be we change our mind, or double our bet, it has quite the hampering affect on our wagers.

best regards,


p.s. Love the betting setup

Pull the Pocket said...

It is hard to do eh?

Imo, it is hard to do unless you know you are a winner. Pro players who win know that they will win the next one, or the next one.... sometime. So losing one for whatever reason is water off a ducks back. I think you know you are a winner when you don't treat the last race as having any bearing on the next one.

Easier said than done tho!

G. C. said...

Your blog is exceptional, great advice concerning an area of the game that is overlooked by the other news sources/blogs.

Unknown said...

just read your articles and found them quite informative, I am a new Jcapper user myself. I was just wondering if you had any articles about bet structuring, for exactas, triples etc
southern slew

Pull the Pocket said...

Hey Trader,

On the Daily double:

An excellent book on bet structuring:

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