We Can Learn a Lot About Horse Betting From Debates

Last evening there was a Presidential debate held in Denver, CO. The challenger, coming in with very low expectations set almost wholly by an effective campaign against him, was expected to do poorly. The incumbent was expected to do very well.

Earlier in the evening I contacted a good friend, a professional bettor and one of the sharper people you'd want to meet. He bets, and wins, at elections and has done so since the 1990's. We discussed the expectation angle and noted that the market might move because the challenger is no dummy and generally has a grasp of the issues. He might blow away expectations and come off some serious bad lines to overperform.

That ended up happening in virtually every market, and it did so in a fashion that has never before been seen. At betfair the challenger moved from 9-2 to 5-2. Even in Vegas it happened, as professional punter Steve Fezzik pointed out last night after he got home from not watching the debate.
Any sharp player at this point will probably ride out a few polls and then either close out a long position on Romney, or fade it, sometime near the next debate, because the expectations will be sort of flip-flopped. Romney won't be coming off "bad lines" then, he'll be coming off a good one.

This is similar to the way the stock market works, and you bet it's the way horse racing works.

Coming off a "bad line" in horse racing is usually a negative. Form cycles that are "Good, Good, Good" get a ton of play a the windows because casual bettors want to bet horses that have obvious positives. In other words, they're the people who'd be betting Obama going into last night's debate. 

Sharp bettors find value in horses off form, or off bad running lines, because there is more ROI upside.

One of the factors I look at in the jcapper system for horses is just that. Something called "PScore" is a number that expresses horses who the public may overlook. In a word, they look yukky.

Here is an extremely simple model with horses with a high pscore (a high ugliness rating, but horses who do have talent through their running lines), with a field size over 6, and a race which is not simple to handicap (e.g. it has some volatility to it.)

With no handicapping you have a flat bet profit. Presto.

It even gets better when you analyze horses that are really yukky.

Horses of the above sample, subset off of "Bad" lines, can yield even more fruit to the bankroll, with ROI's of 1.19 and 1.10, respectively.

 Flip on twitter or head to the simo-center. You'll hear phrases like "this horse can't lose", or "that horse has no chance". When you hear those words look at the horse's running lines. Chances are the "can't lose" horse has three stellar lines and looks great.

Those horses win, and they win frequently. But this game is not about picking winners, it's about making money, and if we bet horses like that, they don't win enough of the time to make us any money. If you fade the obvious and look for the non-obvious horse with darkened form, your bankroll (and debate betting bankroll) may improve.

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