Friday, August 27, 2021

Skiba's Bankroll Thoughts

Skiba's interview at Harness Racing Update is up, where he waxes on gambling and his $1M Draftkings win this Monday. If you haven't read it, I thought his answers were useful and interesting, so give it a look. 

One of his answers that I have been thinking about, relates to pivoting our serial bet play to extract value, and take advantage of mistakes players make. Skiba (if you're reading this blog you likely agree) notes that if you do look to take more stabs for the "right kind of hits" you will invariably cash fewer tickets. After all, we are not using the chalk "defensively", and we are not spreading each race. 

  • “Losing is never easy and if you play the game with the highest EV (expected value) approach you will undoubtedly go through losing streaks/swings. Cashing tickets is a rush and feeds your ego through bragging rights, so really you have opposing ideas which conflict over the short term and long term. Over the short term, you can cash more by including more horses in a horizontal sequence. However, in the long term, that strategy will result in a lower and likely negative EV. The importance of bankroll management and playing in pools where you can withstand the swings is key. If you have a $1,000 bankroll, playing the Pick 6 daily is going to drain your bankroll prior to giving you enough shots to take advantage of +EV play. (my emphasis)”
I think this is unbelivably important to us as players, especially those not playing professionally. 

Playing with confidence breeds more winning. And being confident means we are not worrying about bankroll. But, if we want to pivot our play to this (especially in pick 6's but also in pick 5's), confidence can be eroded easily because we're overbetting our bankrolls. 

Some might say "yes PTP, if only I had a $10,000 bankroll", but that is folly, in my view, because even with a $10,000 bankroll we tend to make the same mistakes we always make. 

To achieve any +ev tactical success in serial bets we should always be concerned about what percentage of bankroll we're using, and with that, Mike Maloney's (and Skiba's as a corrolary) words are very prescient - we don't have to start out playing pick 5's or 6's.

I've touched on this with previous posts, but I think it may bear repeating. Just this week I was playing 50 cent pick 4's and in leg three I did not like the even money shot. I felt he was more of a 2-1 shot. I did like two longer ones, the 2 and 7, who ended up 17-1 and 12-1 respectively. I liked a few of the chalk otherwise, so I simply took a small ticket using 2 and 7 in leg three. I was well aware I'd likely lose this ticket, but it was only $12. I was in the +EV mindset, and I didn't spread, or have to hit that ticket and $12 was not going to break my bankroll. 

We can dip our toes in the Skiba mindset, without sacrificing the principles of gambling when it relates to bankroll management. We probably already do this with daily doubles. Pick 3's are a fine test, as Maloney notes. You can single a chalk you like, with two bombs you love, with a second choice you like and it costs $2. If you're right you may cash $200. 

And of course, if we like a horse we can do something amazingly crazily wild, too - we can bet 'em straight! Go figure. 

Anyway, I enjoyed Skiba's answers. And for those wanting to get better at the game (including as he noted, himself as he always works to get better), we can employ some of these strategies and techniques without breaking our bankrolls. If our handicapping is good enough, that bankroll can grow, and we can expand our play with it. 

Have a nice weekend and good Travers Day everyone. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Bounce & Energy Distribution is Not Just for Handicapping Horses

I read a fascinating book recently: The Bascomb tome, The Perfect Mile, examined three runners and their quest to lower the mile race record below the long-thought impossible 4 minute barrier. What was most remarkable (and unexpected) to me was how often while reading it I thought about horses. 

The book began with Britain's Roger Bannister's failure at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Bannister began training on his own for the seminal racing event, and shunned most help. This was not a Shakespearean flaw, he was extremely bright and nuanced with training, but a wrench just before the Olympics was thrown into the mix. The IOC added a semi-final race, so he'd have to race three times instead of two. He had specifically trained for two races, not three. 

In the final, Bannister paced himself perfectly and was sitting 5th with about 150 metres to go - the spot he usually kicked to the finish in an all-out sprint - and expected, like most watchers, gold. But when he tried to kick he had no legs. There was no muscle response and he finished in 4th, not even medaling. 

Upon reflection, Bannister concluded that he simply bounced. He needed two or three days to recover and with the extra race that was impossible. He did not have the stamina to race three legs. 

In the future he'd do things differently. In the absence of recovery time he had to train harder; to build up stamina to protect from the bounce. 

In Thoroughbred racing the bounce is real, even though the excuse might be used way too often to explain a poor performance. In that sport, however, trainers seem to have chosen to increase recovery time, rather than building up stamina. This is no bueno for the sport, because field size and frequency of racing is so important to handle. In harness racing, on week to week schedules, I do believe the modern trainer protects from bounces by training. A top trainer in the sport - Ron Burke - is known to train his horses hard, and they rarely bounce. You'll often see two year olds in certain barns falter because of a lack of foundation - asking for speed before stamina. 

Meanwhile, Bannister learned something else pretty quickly in his quest - energy distribution. He wrote, "I simply can not go as fast if I race at 58 lap, followed by a 1:02, followed by a 58. I need to concentrate on my cadence at 1:00 per lap to use my kick".  

Bannister focused on even energy and relaxation - he even wanted to feel the tips of his fingers completely relaxed while running. 

Reading that is like a hammer to the head for us handicappers, right?

Distributing energy evenly is what makes a turf horse fire home; watching them relax from start to finish often results in career best figures. It makes a harness horse race some of their best times, despite perhaps a lack of fast fractions early, which is counterintuitive. I don't think this is used enough by us as handicappers when evaluating a horse's chances, quite frankly. That turf miler who went 23-25-23 is not going to fire a near optimal race. When I see that happen I do pay special attention if he or she flattens, hoping for a higher price next time. 

The physiology and science behind a man trying to run a four minute mile or a horse trying to run or pace or trot one might seem like apples and oranges, but it really isn't. There's an optimal way to maximize result when pushing a body to extreme speed. Humans who race get it, and so do many top trainers. Us handicappers should always be aware of it too. 

Have a nice Monday everyone.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What Will the Betting Landscape Look Like in Ten Years?

Cryptocurrency is again in the news, as the politicians are examing its regulation. This, to a lot of people, is troubling, as regulating something relatively brand new with so many unknowns can end up pretty dreadful. This warriness is due to something called Amara's Law, which states that the effects of something new and innovative (usually a technology) are overstated in the short-term, and understated in the long. Generally, early on we have no clue on what something is or might be, so tinkering with it is no bueno. 

With sports betting - which has began with a lot of regulation already - perhaps the short term will be the long term, and Amara's Law will not apply. After all, how can racing companies, established gambling entities (already with some form of regulatory capture) and others massively change when their paths are already narrowly scoped?

If that is the case, I still believe there is room for some change, and for consumers these could be positive. I'll take a crack at a couple PTPstramus predictions. Proceed with caution. 

First, remember the World Sports Exchange? It was established in the late 1990's and it was fabulous for bettors. You could trade positions in virtually anything, and it was the precursor of Trade Sports and Betfair. Currently there is very little offered in the US in this vein. It's all fixed odds and the like. 

The popularity of in New Zealand (especially during elections), makes me think there is room for a site like this, and I suspect it can flourish. 

Second, with investment, I wonder about the pari-mutuel pools. There is room for something using that existing infrastructure, in my view. 

Just this year I liked Hot Rod Charlie for a futures bet. I, like many of you, wait for the pools to lineup in a positively expected way before pulling the trigger. A couple of weeks after Hot Rod bottomed out at around 10 or 15-1, some Baffert horse ran off the screen, and Hot Rod closed at 55-1. 

This seems archaic with today's technology, where almost everything is updated in real time. 

Derby pools and others could be set up better, with likely investment. There's a chance, if regulation is not too cumbersome, Derby exacta and tri pools could be wagered in near real time, along with win pools. This could be done for all major races. 

In addition, the pari-mutuel pools, I would think, could be spun-off to other sports. As we saw with Olympics betting, there is more than just betting a winner. A Masters exacta and trifecta pool does not smack of too much incredulity does it? Currently one can bet straight forecasts at some books, but again, it lacks any real time feel, and the juice feels like betting a horse race in Turkey. 

I think the above two thoughts are, even in a highly regulated environment, likely at some point, no? They seem doable, and I think there would be a market for them in the US and Canada. 

Innovation and change, depending on the environment (or despite of it) is notoriously difficult to predict. Rack and pinion technology was discovered in 1810 with an enterprising man trying to move a container up a hill faster than his draft horses could. This didn't make its way into a car until the 1970's. What today's betting landscape, in North America it might be the similar. Sure there's a roadmap - in the UK and Australia companies have been working the space for 25 years with modern tech - but with such a massive market in the US, its vibrant seed and series one capital markets, it makes one wonder what's possible. 

Have a nice day everyone. 

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