Keeneland Rake Hike Time: Your Guide to the Horseplaying Tribes

I had a chuckle a few weeks ago on the ever increasingly tribal twitter. A CNN contributor posted this, about a political movement, trying to convince others to join theirs.
I see this sometime in racing, as well. If you don't do "X" you're the dumbest human being alive and you need your head examined, but please come join me and my tribe!

It sure is an interesting recruiting tool, seeing that it kind of throws the idiom that we catch flies with honey out the window.

This Friday, Keeneland opens with higher takeout rates. For the uninitiated about rake, this simply means that the payouts you see on your screen - for win, place, show; supers or tris - will be lower than they were last year. When you hit something - if you choose to play Keeneland - you won't get back as much money.

Like on political twitter there are a great deal of horseplayer tribes and they are all subsets that react differently to policy changes.  Allow me to go through a little primer here.

i) The Entertainment Tribe - These folks love racing, and the takeout could be keno-like and it would not affect them because they rarely play the races. They'll enjoy Keeneland like they always enjoy Keeneland. Different tribes should probably tip their cap and be happy they like the sport, because attendance would be worse than it already is if they didn't.

ii) The Turkey Takeouter Tribe - These are the folks who simply are not sensitive to price in any way, shape or form. They lose a ton of money, and really don't mind losing more money. If they hit a $20 exacta in Turkey with a 5-2 onto a 3-1 that pays $11, they beam they won $90. Racing needs these types, so be happy they're there.

iii) The Spot Playing Tribe -  This crew will play Keeneland this meet, but will probably (unconsciously) not play as much. Spot plays - exacta overlays, board overlays - are fewer when prices go up.

iv) The Warrior Tribe - These folks work very, very hard at racing. They read the form, pay for handicapping information, and read Ed DeRosa Grids ® religiously. They probably play at TVG or Twinspires or their local track at full takeout. This tribe is split into two sub tribes, and they, this weekend, will react differently.
  • A portion will boycott, because they went through their Keeneland results the past years and saw they lost money. A takeout hike just means they will lose more money, and they already work so hard at the game trying to make money, they can't work any harder to lose more. So they'll sit it out, and play something else.
  • They know they lose money, but "what's another 10% on my payoffs, if I hit a big pick 5 it's all good". There's also the justifier portion of the tribe that says, "takeouts are all crap, so I might as well play Keeneland. It's better than Parx"*. This subset will give er a go.
v) The Rational Consumer Tribe - This is the tribe who acts like most people act. They aren't married to a product or service, they just a act like economics textbooks say they will. If the price of steak doubles to $20, they pivot into pork or chicken; if the gas price gets too high they trade the Cherokee in for a Ford Focus. If they look at their betting results and feel this 15% increase in exotics will hurt them, and they have no hope to beat it, they'll pivot into something else. 

vi) The Had Enoughers - This tribe could be a subset of the spot players, or warrior tribe, or even the rational consumer tribe.  These folks are old timers (usually) who have seen almost every policy go against them over the years, and this one was the final straw. Horse racing has had a lot of had enoughers over the years, which is why it isn't growing. The Keeneland Board can take credit this month for pushing at least some of this tribe over the edge.

vii) The Big Players - This group, as a whole, will either boycott Keeneland, or maybe more likely, bet less. The signal fee went up, so that's a mathematical certainty, all things equal.

viii) The Lines in the Sand Tribe - This one includes probably me, and if you're reading this blog, perhaps you. We draw lines in the sand when certain tracks decrease our payouts, or implement policies that hurt us as customers; and in turn hurt the sport we grew up with. We don't play Churchill or Santa Anita and we won't play Keeneland.

No matter what tribe you're in, you'll probably get yelled at this next month by someone. The entertainment tribe is not dumb for wanting to watch a race; the guy who doesn't care if his ROI goes from 0.82 to 0.79 is not an enemy; the gal who tweets incessantly that they are mad at Keeneland for killing her payoffs is not an enemy either. It's a world of tribes, yes, but each tribe is an individual, with different views, and different ways to express them. Take a breath before yelling at them; it does the body good.

It'll be an interesting month, I suppose. For those of you who have said "enough is enough" you're probably going to save yourselves some money, and that's great. For those who wager, good luck at the windows - you'll have to be better than you were last year at picking winners - and I sincerely hope you come out ahead.

Have a great Wednesday everyone.

* Alan informs me that Keeneland takeout on doubles and exactas is now higher than Parx. My bad.


Sal Carcia said...

Having played the game in New England for years, I have observed how the two main tracks here absolutely drove their customers away. These tracks claimed it was casinos that caused their demise, but I never bought it. It is more than just takeout. But, takeout is symbolic of the tracks' overall attitude towards their customers. Whenever I have ever have had the opportunity to tell my opinion to track officials, I have found that they get adamant and annoyed with me. That in itself summarizes the problem of the game.

Anonymous said...

You ignore the reality that has handle "up" in Turkey.

(down markedly in most other areas)

Amusing try, though.

Steve_S said...

Ken Ramsey's comments on Keenland's takeout hike created a lot of interest.

In a follow up discussion with Keenland's Bob Elliston, Michelle Yu asks the right question at 20:18 : "What are the projections, then, for the purse increase that's going to go hand in hand with this takeout [increase]?" Among the laundry list of 'items that are not purses': additional breeder bonuses for 'Book 1 quality' horses auctioned off under a Keenland gavel.

Additionally, at 27:06 we're told that player-friendly takeout rates don't provide the marginal revenue necessary to compete against other signals who amply rebate their larger bettors.

The interview provides an unpalatable but candid assessment: Keenland needs a larger share of your betting dollars needs to subsidize sales, whales, and robots.


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