Monday, January 20, 2020

Thread the Needle Parlays v $100 Exactas

I saw this tweet pop up today on the twitter box.
Now, some of it is a conditional probability - Henry under, Cory Davis over, Chiefs receivers under, could group hit based on game flow. But I dare anyone to look at that parlay from top to bottom and say it doesn't look like threading a really small needle with a big piece of thread.

But when we - conditioned as horseplayers - look at the price he or she got for threading that needle (only 50-1), most of us would say "wow, it feels like a 100-1 wager".

We horseplayers hit $50 $1 exactas as a matter of course. The turf is playing to speed and we sneak two price horses in the merry go round, we might box two closers at decent prices, we take the aggressive driver on the longshot to fill a two hole behind a 5-2 horse; myriad things.

Doping out a 50-1 exacta doesn't feel anything like threading the needle does it?

Horseplaying - at its core, in the spirit intended - is a great game. We can get a pretty big bang for the buck if we play a race right. If the powers that be fixed the game to make these 50-1 scores a better wager for us, I think this game would be a lot better off than it is.

Have a nice Monday everyone.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Things to Do Tonight Other Than Watch the #BeemieAwards

Jason Beem
As y'all know, tonight is the 37th Annual Beemie Awards. Congrats and best wishes to Carly and those who make it go.

It's usually a raucous time on horse twitter, and year after year some twitterites want something to do besides watch that boneheaded awards show.

I'm here for you. Here are my top X (I am using X because I am doing this off the top of my head, unlike most of my supremely researched and grammarlied blog pieces) things to do to pass the time:

  • Post the Cal-Expo pick 4 ticket you just took and ask Inside the Pylons what he thinks of your ticket construction 
  • Tweet, "I started playing more California races since they changed the whip rule" to @racetrackandy
  • Tweet "I hate the Beemie Awards". Do this from a burner account. 
  • Ask @o_crunk to list his favorite Phish concerts in descending order from 100. 
  • Tweet "Why don't you sponsor the Beemie Awards?" to the Runhappy twitter feed over and over again until the horse answers. 
  • If the #BeemieAwards trends, tweet about it, if it doesn't, blame the Trump rally where he's riffing about canned ham.  
  • Tweet your new research paper "The New Stronach Group Graphics and Tetris, A Case Study" and ask for comments
  • Go over to @superterrific's house and watch Law and Order
  • Start a buzzer cheating conversation that doesn't involve a jockey. 
  • Keep refreshing that Sham I Am dude's twitter feed, hoping he's going to post a Beemie Awards Bingo board. 
  • Misspell #Beemie #Bernie and tweet that you like Liz Warren. 
  • Tweet to Clark Brewster asking why he isn't on the Trump legal team after his success in freeing Steve Asmussen from the damning clutches of PETA. 
  • Tweet out your Derby Top Ten List
  • Ask Marcus Hersh what he likes best about NFL Football. 
  • Tweet pictures of Alex Ovechkin holding the Cup to @gregreinhart
  • Tweet the Churchill Downs historical share price chart and plot the price movements with racetracks they've crushed. Ask horse twitter to share their thoughts
  • Read the new paper: "The Gulfstream Non-Championship Meet vs. the Gulfstream Championship Meet - Core Differences"
  • Tell everyone you're not watching the Beemies because you have to wash your dog
Have a good time tonight if you're watching, and if you aren't, well there are a few things you can do instead. 

Have a nice weekend, and as Marcus Hersh would say, "enjoy the football on Sunday!"

* Many years ago, a friend asked a girl out on a date, she clearly did not want to go, so she said she had to stay in and wash her dog. Some things stick with you all these years. It's my favorite excuse of all time. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

If You're Going to Cheat Bettors, Cheat Consistently

The completely unconfirmed report that buzzers were used to signal Astros hitters like Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman have set MLB on fire today. The repercussions from this, if true, for the game and the games' integrity is formidable.

If you read much of the press you'll hear and read some talk about the integrity of the game framed with wagering. I agree it's not great, but only to a point.

Let's say these hitters were using buzzers as a matter of course. If so, the edge they had was already incorporated into their batting averages and assorted analytics - the things we all use to wager. It's nothing, because a fake baseline is still a baseline.

Like in horse racing, a trainer that has some sort of rocket fuel and is winning at a 37% clip, with turnarounds galore, is doing so consistently. It's all built into the price.

To be clear, the issues with these examples - whether it be an Astro or a Supertrainer - are real and important in terms of the game, and the businesses themselves.

Fans don't plunk down all this money to watch their teams wondering if they're cheating. A supertrainer using something illegal upsets an entire ecosystem - they take horses from honest horsepeople, they take purse money away that was someone else's, they cause investment into horseflesh to fall. It's bad.

If an NBA referee is throwing *some* games, or signals are used only *sometimes* or a super trainer only uses rocket fuel on *some* horses, we as bettors have a big problem, right, and yes, the betting side of the game will be affected.

But, and perhaps this is a sad commentary, I think if you cheat, most of us will wager, as long as you cheat consistently.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Jeopardy GOAT Provides a Great Betting Lesson

Spoilers for the west coasters are revealed in this post, but really, since no one reads this blog other than Russian bots who hacked the result months ago, I'm probably safe.

Ken Jennings won the Jeopardy GOAT Tournament tonight with a pretty amazing display of knowledge. I don't think anyone who watched it could conclude it was anything but deserved.

However, as per usual, we'll focus on one slice of that beatdown.

The betting.

James went on a storied run last year and used great knowledge yes, but mostly scored by using optimal game play. The man, without question, knew how to bet. When this tournament rolled around he had to lean more on knowledge because Ken - while watching James' run - learned how to bet, too.

Ken sought out the daily doubles, because he knew the edge in finding them. Ken, when landing on a daily double, bet more than he ever has because he knew he needed to score. When Ken's gameplay changed, James' chance of winning got walloped big time. He lost his edge, and had to compete with a smarter player. It got so frustrating at one point that James remarked, "I want royalties on this" when Ken found a daily double before James and bet a bundle.

For Ken to beat James, he didn't have to study more; to read more books, or pop culture; to pore over Encyclopedia's or reread Greek Mythology. That would take more time than there are minutes in a day.

For James to beat Ken, on the other hand, he had to do exactly that. He had to become smarter.

For us as bettors, this is tantamount to a decision we all tend to make: We want to be better handicappers. We want to spend all of our time learning more about speed or pace, downloading software, building databases, and God knows what else. We want to become smarter.

What in fact most with a modicum of handicapping ability should be doing is spending our time learning exactly what Ken did: How to extract more money from the pools using our current knowledge base.

Why do we put so much time on the former, and so little on the latter? In some cases, I think it's a big reason why we lose.

Sports Betting Growth : Plenty of Room Left, Right?

I saw this tweet today RT'd on my timeline:

As you may remember, there was a time the headlines screamed, "Vegas might do $5 billion in sports betting handle one of these years". New Jersey is near that figure only one year after inception.

Here is some of how they've accomplished this -

Holds are around 5%, and bettors are able to reload with alacrity

Mobile betting is fairly seamless. Want to get a bet down, you get a bet down

The market is pretty wide open, with decent tax rates. Barriers to entry are not overly prohibitive.

Dozens of companies are pushing the product, because they can make margin with the product, resulting in more gross product

Here is what they have not done -

Wiener Dog Racing

A Bus Filled with Kids Partying

Jackpot Bets

Charging for stats

Lifestyle marketing (e.g. @buckswope sitting in his underwear in his basement betting games in running while firing at the Pomp)

Scott Daruty being mad at someone for selling the product

Asking patrons at the sportsbook to watch the games behind a paywall

I kid, but only a bit.

Sports betting has done, so far, much better than I imagined it would. For one, I expected massive tax rates, taxes on volume, and as a result, terrible lines that no one would want to bet. They surprised me to the upside.

When you offer a good betting product, people bet; as smarter people than me have told you, "today the product is your marketing."

For sports betting in Jersey, I congratulate them for not messing these simple gambling truisms up.

Have a nice Tuesday everyone.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Business of Racing : Pairing Metrics & Profit Motives

Andy Grove, the late CEO of Intel, used to speak quite a bit about metrics and decision making. Although he believed (like just about everyone) you needed sound measures, according to him it wasn't near enough. You had to measure the effects of something, but you also had to measure the counter-effects (consequences) and model the two together.

Most businesses today achieve paired and even multi-variate metrics because data is easier to access and mine and model, and of course: because of the profit motive. If you're not getting better you're losing market share and getting worse.

Where Grove's single metric malaise is most often noticed is where the profit motive doesn't really exist. As an example, Marc Andreessen talks about setting time to service targets for EMS drivers and measuring only that (something commonly done); of course the drivers stick close to urban centers and the numbers are hit, but service suffers.

In horse racing - not an EMS or government business but one we'd think should work on profit motives - we see the lack of paired metrics often, do we not?
  • That Jackpot pool is huge right now - but what about the long term effects as bankrolls are kept out of play?
  • Lowering minimums can give us a short term handle bump, sure, but what happens to payoffs and long-term gross handle?
  • It's great to attract that power barn to your track with tons of stock, but what's the effect on *other* entries and field depth as trainers avoid competing against 25% win drop and pops?
It might be easy to argue horse racing has dropped the ball big time on this, and there certainly is some validity in that, in my view. However, the bigger question to me: Is horse racing a real business; is it driven by a profit motive?

For a hundred years it was a monopoly. It was built on government partnership in a sheltered industry. Since then, the metrics managed to have not changed much. In fact, just this week the Meadowlands announced their gross handle metrics in the lens of more horses and foals, because it's what they need to do to show the subsidy is still working. California isn't looking at handle, it's looking at political survival. We can go right on down the list. 

For those of us who adhere to the Grove principles in business we find racing is lacking. But, perhaps it never had a shot in the first place. 

Have a great Thursday everyone. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Exclusive: "Three Host" Eclipse Awards Was Last Second Move

By now you've seen the announcement that not one, not two, but three will host the Eclipse Awards in Florida on January 23rd, but in an EXCLUSIVE, we have the skinny.

"This was a late change, just decided today. Perhaps due to that big Awards show with the stars last weekend," Cub Reporter told me.

"The back story - TVG was trying to get the ratings up so they could sell commercials to big Pharma and the My Pillow Guy so they hired Twitter's Inside the Pylons to host. But, they received his monologue this weekend. It was Africa hot," Cub relayed.

As most know, ITP is warm and cuddly, but he does share a barb or two on the twitter, and it can cross the line.

"What was too hot to handle?" I asked Cub.

"The dude had some seriously sharp bits. On condition of anonymity, an NTRA organizer sent me the Cliff's notes. I'll share them with you, but for gosh sake, do not post them on that silly blog of yours, even if no one reads it."

So, below are anonymous's notes:

  • For ITP's opening monologue he wanted to invite dozens of horseplayers into the room. They'd sit beside each attendee and consume 25% of their Foie Gras while he recited Parx takeout rates. 
  • He wanted the Reporter of the Year Eclipse to be presented by Jeremy Balan.
  • He had a joke about it being the last year for the Eclipse Awards due to the rule change that a horse had to make 8 starts to qualify for an award.  
  • He wrote a bit about the America's Best Racing team going on vacation and asking Serling to manage their twitter feed and when they got back their 18,347 followers were blocked. 
  • He wanted the in-memoriam segment to be presented by the CHRB. 
  • He had a joke that if you wanted a pdf of all award winners you'd have to go to, log in, and pay $14.99.
  • There were liability issues. He wanted to hire a Pat Cummings lookalike and have him run through the hall knocking everyone over while screaming "no foul, category one!"
  • He wrote a joke about the only thing a trainer fearing more than a Bob Baffert chalk in a Grade I is a backstretch worker with an accountant. 
  • He wanted the Ortiz brothers to play Trump and Putin in a collusion skit. 
  • His bit with a chart illustrating "purses per country per human rights violation" was a complete non-starter. 
  • He talked about a new sitcom he created for late night on TVG. It'd be a spinoff of the Brady Bunch where Marcia tries to get her dad Rob committed and take his architecture business for herself. We weren't sure what he was getting at, but it felt too hot. 
  • He wanted to present the Innovation Eclipse to a ghost. 
  • He had a bit where he showed pictures of the nation's former great racetracks as shopping malls. If that wasn't bad enough, he wanted it to be sponsored by CDI. 
  • He made a joke that in 2019 handle was down but purses were up. We nixed it because before he said a punch line it might draw applause and make us look out of touch.
If I may add some personal commentary: I'm as tough on racing as many, but I think they were right to keep ITP floating on his floaty in his pool, playing Delta Downs on his iPad next Thursday. Some things are too hot, and right now, ITP is way too hot. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone, and enjoy the ITP-less Eclipse Awards. 

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