There's No Joy in Toutville

I read an interesting thread on the twitter about public handicapping.

Scott and others make an interesting point when it comes to handicapping the horses for everyone to see - does one pick winners, or try and make money? As most who play this game know, there isn't that big a correlation between the two. 

In my very limited time posting picks (in a trade magazine) I found this a real struggle. When suggesting a pick 4 play, for example, I would key a 15-1 morning line shot who I thought would go off at 5-1, have about a 20% chance to win, while being no lower than around 9-1 in the pick 4's. I'd pitch a chalk I thought was 8-5, who'd be 4-5. I'd do all kinds of things I do as a matter of course when I wager to try and squeeze value out of the pool.

Needless to say, with a short time frame, the hit rate was poor. I'm reasonably sure I got called some pretty bad names (by new people who don't already call me pretty bad names).

I think those who do post picks are probably doing it the right way in just trying to pick winners. Sure they won't beat the favorite hit rate, but for people who follow their picks, they can have fun, and try and catch a few winners and exactas. And unlike in the sports tout world, most of these folks are not selling picks for hundreds of dollars, hoodwinking down and out bettors with unverifiable and ridiculous hit rates.


I was too busy last week to watch, but I was once again amazed at the interest on the twitter feed for the Ascot meet. Big racing days are growing more and more international, and they're offering the  racing tribe a chance to get together to discuss and handicap the game. We can't read too much into it (no, one-off races or meets don't mean racing is growing), but these meets do keep people engaged, and that's a good thing.

Canterbury has had decent weather, a return of the on-track bridgejumpers and a full set of barns filling fields. However, their handle per entry is down so far this year by 2%. Last year, despite the numerous problems for the awful product, per entry handle was up 9.8%. It's tough to compare either way, just like last year was. We have source market fees, more juice, and lots of weird factors. Such is racing.

It fascinates me that both takeout and minimum wages have a super-political bent. You're either for it or against it based on if your favorite letter is R or D (which of course is specious - 0% takeout or $0.00 per hour doesn't work, just like 100% takeout or $100 per hour doesn't work). It's a little different in the labor market world though, because they do test levels, and have smart people who like math examining them, and don't seem to care what some team-dude on cable news says. It might take ten years, but these folks who aren't besieged by politics will figure it out. I wish we had the same chance and the same time horizon in the sport of racing to test and figure out takeout. But that's obviously a pipe dream.

Enjoy your Monday everyone.


Anonymous said...

Winning win bets gets all the notice, all the glory. Only the serious player appreciates the well-constructed super. It goes along with public handicapping requiring a big ego and/or ****s of stone -- I don't know what part of today's female public handicappers' anatomy that would be. Let's just say chutzpah, then.

Giving out cold picks would be not only deleterious to a PH's ego but could be to their own bets. Further, there are lots of canny/shady (depending on your paranoia level) trainers out there nowadays that pop for a win with no previous indicators of things to come. The 3 graded and 1 listed stakes wins by Baffert on Belmont Day come to mind; all were chalk though certainly not predictable to be so IMO. Pick logically, and you'll get beat a lot by one of these types. Pick by suspicion and you'll have egg on your face often enough, even though your 8-1 pick was only beat by a half.

Probably the style that satisfies the public but not serious players is multiple picks in one race. Yes, cowardice gives the PH at least three, count 'em, three chances to win. Nobody is required to say "I'm including the chalk only to keep up my percentage." Nobody says "exacta" or "tri". Putting a longshot only as the third pick keeps scoffing to a minimum and gets plaudits if it wins, and probably keeps the odds up besides. A fair number of the PH's picks will typically overlap player's picks, so there's no mob calling for blood.

Lastly, if horse racing is indeed populated by folks who like to work out the puzzle, then the public handicapper is largely off the radar, except maybe in races where there are few clues, like 2yo maidens with mostly first timers.

Bob Marks said...

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