Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Playing the Pick 5 With Bettor X

 This was originally printed in Trot Magazine's Horseplayer Issue. 

The pick 5 is a racing staple with almost every track trying to take advantage of its popularity. But, as players, can we honestly say we play them correctly?

One player who does play them well is “Bettor X”; he’s someone who has been playing professionally for 30 plus years. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for the Horseplayer’s Issue.

Q: All pick 5’s are not the same. What do you look for in a sequence that makes you want to play or pass? How important are these decisions to your yearly bottom line?

The things that entice me to look at a sequence are carryovers and/or low takeout. Once I look at a sequence, I need to see legs where others might make mistakes and I can have a reasonable chance to capitalize on those mistakes. If I can’t find those mistakes or I don’t think they are big enough to capitalize on then I have no problem passing. Forcing plays in multi-leg wagers is long term destruction.

Q: Amateur or newer players tend to gravitate to “spreading” (adding a lot of combinations) especially with 20 cent or 50 cent denominations. Can you explain why this might not be a good strategy?

While most people think lower denominations and spreading to cash tickets is good for new players, I think it’s the exact opposite. It grinds them down quicker with no real chance of winning. And it dilutes their chance of winning something that matters, or getting the thrill of being alive for a score which will keep them coming back or getting excited about getting better at betting. Most spreads are chalky or include chalk so that eliminates a lot of chances to gain equity in a sequence which is crucial in giving yourself a chance to win and showing long-term profit.

20 cent minimums lessen the value of longshots and increases the value of chalk, whereas dollar minimums do the exact opposite. So, when structuring your tickets, you need to take this dynamic into account. Singling chalk in spread races is great in 20 cent minimums. Just like spreading to beat chalk when everybody is keying chalk with $1 minimums is great.

Q: So, one simple way to create better tickets is to find horses to lean on in spread races. Are there any other hard-and-fast rules you can expand upon that will help players make more money in the long-run?

There are so many variables when playing tickets that hard and fast rules are difficult. The only rule that you should always abide by is: Don’t be afraid to lose. If amateur players just follow that one rule, it will keep them from making numerous bad decisions that most players make.

Q: Batch bettors and sharper players gravitate to larger pool tracks. I know you often look at some less popular signals. Do you play tickets differently based on pool size and competition?

Yes, you definitely have to play different, whether its strategies, amounts or other things, when you play big tracks or pools vs smaller tracks or pools. Bad morning lines are better to attack at smaller tracks than bigger tracks. Trying to beat popular drivers and trainers is much more lucrative at smaller tracks than bigger tracks. Playing larger denomination (narrow) combos on chalk is much better at big tracks. There are many differences, you just need examine payouts (and money alive each leg if available) to figure out what occurs at each specific venue.

Q: We all know carryovers are a takeout reduction and drive a lot of new money because of it. Are all carryover pick 5’s playable or are there instances where you will take a pass?

If you don’t like the sequence or don’t have an edge (or a clue) then don’t play.

Q: For harness racing, with its high favourite hit rate, do you believe one dollar minimums on pick 4’s and 5’s would help the sport grow its handle in the long-run?

Yes. One dollar minimums would grow handle with harness racing being so chalky. As I noted above, lower minimums can make sequences unplayable unless you play certain types of strategies. You need to include all groups of bettors in the pools to grow handle. Lower minimums grind the small guys down and keep a lot of bigger bettors out of the pools so it’s very tough to grow handle in the long-term.

 



Monday, April 25, 2022

Rebates For All!

So, I did a little reading on the railway rebate system. No, stop laughing, I really did. And it was a pretty interesting exercise. 

For those who don't know, railways across particularly the northeast U.S. around 1870 were in their nascent stages, and they were controlled by very few. This is not because of some underlying conspiracy, it was just due to the capital costs involved. And these near monopolists had a pretty monopolistic way to charge. 

They pretty much made the prices up. 

If you wanted to ship your cattle that weighed 8,000 pounds 50 miles, you paid say $200. And the $200 was kind of pulled from thin air. 

Sharp people like Rockefeller who was refining oil in Cleveland at the time knew the game and said to these railroaders, "I will guarantee you lots of shipping and keep your cars full, but your prices are just guidelines, give me back some money."

They were happy to comply. This practice of rebating freight was not against the law, nor was it unsound (volume discounts are available to this day on many things). And with prices artifically (not market) set it was a business practice. 

Congress and other lawmakers in the U.S. were loathe to regulate any new business, and this paid off handsomely for the relatively new country compared to its regulation-laden, old school European counterparts. Business was allowed to thrive or fail. But, as was custom as well, when things were wacky, and the greater good - economic growth, free passage for goods - was threatened, they acted. 

This scheme was threatening to the overall business health of the country. Smaller businesses were squeezed out, consolidation and price fixing occurred, new entreprenuers and businesspeople were disincentived. 

With the passing of the Interstate Commerce Act in the late 1880's the government simply said "Rebates for All". Prices fell and the rest was (business) history. 

Horse racing, "the railroads" set their prices pretty much the same way. Takeout rates are made up, as can be done with a monopoly on gambling. And like the railroads, they rebate action to bigger players, while the smaller ones suffer.

Unlike the railroads, however, there are no gatekeepers. The business just trudges along with higher and higher prices, and rebates for some. It keeps the rail cars filled and they seem to be happy about it. 

But the business has been dying a slow death, with inflation adjusted handle stagnating; even with technological advancements and off track wagering. The funnel is not being filled. 

Some people out there believe all rebating should be stopped and things will be better, but with respect, they have not thought this through. High takeout for everyone would be the result because it's too hard to lower national takeout. And that's bad. 

But rebates for all? Yes, that would help immensely and give this game a shot in the arm it hasn't seen in a 100 years; just like it helped one of the (now) most powerful countries in world history to grow business and demand for their products.  

It'd be nice if 140 years later this industry gave it a shot. But I guess we shouldn't hold our breaths. 

Have a nice Monday everyone. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Sinking the Sunk Cost

 Axios reported today that fledgling CNN+ is "doomed".  The parent company has suspended all marketing spend and began firing people, this, just a month or so after launch. Eliminating so much sunk cost is something a lot are loathe to do. Things have to be super-bad for these changes to be made. 

The thing is, CNN+ did this right (and still could succeed, as the piece alludes) because they built out a 4 year plan for success. Four years is about what normal new business allows for such investment. 

Flipping to racing, we seem to try things that we have sunk cost (hope) for a longer period of time, if it's minor, or an inside idea. We can hammer racing roulette messaging for instance, because it takes such little investment, even though it won't work.  

Meanwhile, on the important things? It's not like that. It's the opposite. 

Canterbury Park tried a lower takeout menu, and as Crunk showed on his blog, the results were - all other things equal, with his usual astute analysis - fairly good. Lower takeout is a CNN+ strategy: a 4 year one. It was scrapped almost immediately, of course. This despite being unlike CNN, it actually showed promise. 

3% cash back is used as a novelty, not a strategy by racetracks. If the business doesn't get more than the 3% they offered in like a week, it's doomed as a long term strategy, despite it showing logical and empirical might. 

CNN+ sunk a ton of money in something, got terrible results and they're pivoting. That's good and the way things should be done when investing in something new. Racing never seems to invest in something new, but on the off-chance they do, even if it shows promise, they scrap it almost immediately if the Brinks Truck doesn't roll right in. It really is, in my view, a pox on our house. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Money in the Racing Industry Moves Rationally & Monday Note

If you're north of the 49th, you're suddenly hearing quite a bit about Canadian productivity; meaning, over the last half decade or so it's been particularly abysmal. There are many reasons we're 25% less productive than our friends down south. Rising taxes, increased regulation and other negative factors have decreased business investment wildly of late, and with firm size not being what it is in the US, we have issues. Even on a micro-scale it takes over three hundred percent more time to get a permit for a new building in Canada than in the US now, despite the litigious state of our southern neighbor. 

That people do less, work less and firms stop innovating and investing and pivot their money somewhere else is perfectly rational. It's why a lot of left-brained math folks like business. It's not twitter fights or politics, it's just well, business. 

In racing, as we all know, it's a different kettle of fish. A person investing in horseflesh is not looking at NPV's, or modeling risk; they know they're in a negative expectation game. It's probably why tax write-offs are so important. But people can only keep losing money to a point, mainly if the utility they receive is not worth it. 

And with the current state of the game - little direction from leadership and the absence of confidence or hope, large barns winning all the races, power concentrated at the top and other issues - like business investment in Canada, money moves somewhere else. Again, this is perfectly rational behaviour. 

From this blog's point of view side, it's exactly the same with the customer. As Crunk has pointed out on his twitter feed, the average ADW weekend warrior loses badly, and this also should not come as a surprise. This is a high takeout game and most of us know we'll lose. But the enjoyment, or the thought of winning keeps us going if the losses are minimized, and there's hope for change. 

With, according to his numbers, which I think are sound, people losing 39% in ADW's - that's a level of max pain few can overcome. Add the fact that field size is going down, the races are harder to win at, power is concentrated at the top, and takeout has not moved lower (even with massive subsidy), what's the rational move? To leave for sports betting or other pursuits, or bet less. 

I know harping on racing is not very interesting and it ain't click-bait (lucky I don't sell anything here on the blog). But I hope this explains why we do it. Without fixing the foundations and giving the supply side and demand side hope for a better day, a hope for change, a hope for new policies that will make the game better, investment will continue to decline. It's more than just dollars and cents, it's bigger than that. Without hope for a better day, better days can't happen. 

Note:

I watched the Pompano card last night and I'd be remiss not to mention what a wonderful evening it was, however bittersweet. The boys put on a really good show on track with aggressive drives and lots of entertaining races. And Gabe, as we'd expect, ended the track's history with a large carryover, which has been a staple of Pompano's resurgence as a wagering racetrack. The videos, the interviews, the races honoring long-time participants and employees were tremendous, and we all know it was done with virtually no budget. A hearty congrats to a track well lived. 



Sunday, March 13, 2022

NYRA's Self Inflicted Clown Show & Other Notes

Everyone saw "the ride", everyone commented on "the ride", everyone waited to see what was up with "the ride". 

Then everyone got the shaft. 

In a completely curious release, NYRA said - pretty much - nothing to see here, move along, case closed

Wut? 

It's flabbergasting. This is not the Warren Commission, or some CIA operation, or an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. This is a ride by a rider, who most likely completely screwed up (apparently he said so when he spoke with trainer Linda Rice after the race). 

Why not just say that to us, you know the paying customer?

In the NHL, Tom Wilson skates by someone and gives them a shove. Twitter goes nuts. The video is shared and reshared like its the Zapruder film. People have opinions and some want him sat down for 40 games. Some want his first born. It's a part of sports. 

Then the NHL officials review the film and give us a detailed explanation why or why not Tom will have to come in or not come in for a hearing. If he has a hearing it's usually the next day, then we move on. 

NYRA, in its infinite wisdom, just kind of says, well, nothing really. Shut up and bet. 

A lot of us don't understand this business. Sometimes I think it's us. Maybe we all just complain too much, or we're not educated enough to understand; maybe we didn't get a diploma from the Racetrack Industry Program. 

But then I see things like this and realize, no, it ain't us, it's them. And they seem to do this over and over again. Please make it stop. 

Notes:

Lots of praise on the twitter for Beem's call in the Tampa Bay Derby; his accuracy, how he didn't want to be the show, etc. Beem's a good caller so no surprise there. But I happen to love listening to calls from all stripes. I enjoy Jason, and a guy like Vic at Oaklawn. Am I allowed to like both? 

A whole whack of trades were cancelled on nickel futures, where $3.9B changed hands. Some sharps who took advantage of the market are upset. But, it was not really a market, per se, it was messed up. Next time your sportsbook cancels a wager it can be the same thing. It happens. 

Change doesn't always happen by committee

There was an interesting pick 4 at the Big M last night, well for some of us, anyway. Bucky hit it as he had the 5. I had the 469 who were 2nd, 3rd and 4th for a big score. And a friend *thought* he had it for a score of over 10 large, but he mispunched his ticket in leg one. What a game. 

We wrote about this horse's qualifier awhile ago. The 5th by ten stiffaroni. The horse has now won 6 in a row and is the hottest horse in the country. At PTP Downs the driver and trainer get a really big fine and if they do it again I quadruple it and send them to Century Downs. But sadly, it ain't PTP Downs. 

Have a nice week everyone. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Horse Racing & the Ten Years Problem

Back in the 80's, Ronald Reagan was good with a story or quip, and I remember one vividly. 

Only about 1 in 7 Russians owned cars, and with no imports and only a government run car company, there was a waiting list. 

One day a man walked in and put a deposit down with the bureaucrat at the car department. 

"How long will it take me to get my car?" asks the customer. 

"Ten years," says the bureaucrat. 

"Would that be in the morning or afternoon?" asks the man. 

Incredulous, the government man asks, "it's ten years and you have to know what time of day? Why would that matter?"

The man responds, "because the plumber is coming in the morning."

With our sport we see so much similar to this. Positives that take years to adjudicate, meeting after meeting for seemingly the smallest of things. 

I saw Pat Cummings on twitter talking about Category One rules coming to Oklahoma, which is fine, but how long will it take for the rest of the country? My over/under is ten years. 

I sat on a panel working to implement uniform racing rules in Canada. It was professional, there was little squabbiling, virtually everyone was on the same page, and it was chaired by one of the most respected people in the sport in John Campbell. Three years later I am thinking this will take another seven. 

Across the board takeout reductions, a national system for drug positives? If I said ten years would you go over or under?

This sport needs a complete reset; a system refresh. It can't take ten years to make a decision or to implement one. We understand history, and we understand how a government run carmaker in a communist country would fail, but what's our excuse? 

Have a nice Wednesday everyone. 


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Churchill Plays the Hand They're Dealt

CDI announced the iGaming and sports betting space is too much for them, and they are discontinuing investment in that particular vertical. 

“Many are pursuing market share in every state, with limited regard for short-term, or potentially even long-term, profitability. Because we do not see — for us — a path in which this business model delivers predictable and acceptable margins for at least several years, if ever, we have decided to exit the B2C online sports betting and iGaming space over the next six months.”

We all like to poke fun, or at times get angry at CDI (seriously guys, you sold Arlington, we can't be happy). And I ain't a CEO - I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night - but this was the right course of action for them. They're a smart company. 

Back in 2010 I was working with a company who created a type of Facebook for music. It was an interesting idea, and had some backing, and although the budget was small ($10,000 per month) I began marketing it. Half way through month one, the owner called and said, "can you spend more, my budget is now $100,000 for May." 

They had financing lined up and budgets meant pretty much nothing; growth meant everything. This type of system did occur in the 90's with dot coms and we'd seen it before, but this was my introduction to the post-2009 world of easy money through easing. 

That system has only increased. Investment, in the US especially is going bonkers. There is so much money out there, with simply nowhere to put it. They've found it in one spot of many: With sports betting companies. 

These companies have so much money to burn, it's absolutely staggering. 

With this capital you can concentrate on customer aquisition at almost any price. If you and I run a SaaS or CRM company, we have to bring in a CAC (customer acquistion cost) of say $1,200 or we go broke. Sports betting companies can have a CAC of $2,000 for a $300 LTV (lifetime value) and they don't give a crap. 

CDI, unlike these companies, does give a crap. Unless you have an edge on technology, there really is no other choice, as big as CDI and others are. 

It'll be interesting to see how many sports betting companies exist five years from now (maybe sooner).

It truly is a world the financeers of the last century would be woefully unfamiliar. And a world which older, established companies like CDI can have trouble navigating. 


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Big Data, Small Data (II)

We wrote about using big data a few months ago in the context of remembering to use the qualitative as well. I won't rehash it (as I tend to do with this 3,000 post blog) but I will offer an offshoot post from something I read today. 

Jeremy Balan tweeted a neat thread about Zillow and its home pricing algorithm. This "big data" algo worked super-well with back data and in real time for awhile, but when it came to buying houses in real time it cost the company a whole pile of money. 

It's a really good thread as to why, and I think it's important, for us who play racing. 

Big horse racing data is used by the teams, and it can see what we do not. Many #theyknew horses are not #theyknew as in inside money, but more the AI algo knows. As well, with rebate, many horses are bet down where you and I aren't going to play them even if we like them; but the algo says it's a play. 

One area, as the thread author alludes, where big data can fail is the qualitative as we talked about in the last post. 

But another, in my view, is that it simply isn't as nimble with short term trends - track changes, and trainer trends are two of them. I personally love playing dead front end bias tracks, because I look at where the teams are, and they seem to be still betting speed. If a move-up trainer is ice cold because there's a rumor someone raided a barn, they're still, again, in my view, too well bet. 

I know the teams and their algo updates and is aware of these things. I know they dot i's and cross t's when things change. But if we're good handicappers, I can't help to think we'd be better at it. 

I took an interesting seminar today with something along these exact same lines, and we do see it even with multi-million (billion) dollar algorithms for marketing and business. They can be slow. There are holes and there are blind spots. There are things we can do better than they do, and they are recognizable. 

In horse racing, from Beyer to Crist to Cramer, we've often heard how we need to be aware when we have an edge. This was in the context of the person sitting next to us. Today it's much harder, but recognizing when we do have an edge on the machines and acting upon it is the same thing. It's just a different century. 

Have a nice evening everyone. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

When Feelings Trump Everything Else

Russian skater Kamila Valieva performed in the short program last night, with the Sword of Positives dangling over her 15 year old head. She did well, but there was a pall over the whole proceeding

Commentators were left pretty much speechless, save for saying this skate should not even be happening. 

I could go through the cold hard logic about due process and other lawyerly things that I know little about - except that they're very important in a free society - but that kind of butchers the point. 

This whole thing feels icky. And sometimes a feeling trumps everything else. 

When Baffert - who deserves and is receiving due process - ran horses in New York after a hearing, it felt the same way. If he races in next year's Derby, it will as well. Commentators talking about the ill-fated Medina Spirit while talking about another three he has in, well, I don't blame anyone for feeling what they'd feel. 

I believe when a sport is put into this position, it signals a problem at its own core. When rules are guidelines, punishment is ad hoc and written in sand where a breeze or wave can change everything, these sports should expect our feelings would override everything else. 

I have no hope the IOC does things right, and neither do many of you. We both probably feel the same way about this disparate, maddening fiefdom-led sport we follow daily called horse racing. We have little confidence in the power structures. 

Right of center political commentator Ben Shapiro often says "facts don't care about your feelings", and he's probably right. We need to always rely on fact and remove emotion out of the equation. But sometimes the facts suck, and I don't think any of us need to apologize for feeling the way we do. 

Have a nice Wednesday everyone. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Racing - Coming to Grips with Who it is

There's a rule in marketing - the consumer will see what you are, not what you want them to see. In fact, I'd proffer that even in closed industries it's probably true. 

For an illustration, I'll present this rather bizarre story in the WSJ about the Olympic Mascot Bing Dwen Dwen. This lovable little creature has been flying off the shelves, but the Chinese authorities hit a snafu last week: Bing Dwen Dwen was interviewed by Chinese State Media and it turns out he/she spoke like a middle aged man. 

Sensing the marketing issue, i.e. they're pretty sure it creeped everyone out, the Chinese Communist Party intervened to shut down the story. The hashtag was wiped off Weibo and clips of the interview owned and shared by people were deleted off the internet. In Soprano-speak, everyone and everything got whacked.  

Interviews were cancelled, because, no, that thing you saw you really didn't - officially "the mascot cannot speak." The next day, State media sent "experts" on various programs to assure "Bing Dwen Dwen could only make bubbling noises." 

Clousteauing that no one was particularly happy with being gaslit, they switched to a new tactic - bringing the mascot out to show it, in fact, could not speak. Because in person, apparently the media and public would be sure to believe it. 

  • At a group “interaction” between foreign journalists and Bing Dwen Dwen, organized by Beijing Olympic officials on Saturday, Lin Cunzhen, Beijing 2022’s art director, brushed back questions about Bing Dwen Dwen’s genderlessness and inability to speak while a person in an inflatable panda-shaped body suit bounced around for the cameras.
That didn't seem to do much, because, well, fool me once!

Reading the story I could not help but think of the oh thousand or so times, I read that racing should stress the positive; the story about a girl and her horse or the groom who loves horses. That if only we had some sort of state media to control messaging things would be well. 

Sure, positive news is fine, but the public - with stories about Derby winners who have died, positive tests, some guy named Fishman, and just about everything else - won't buy it. Just like they won't buy a stuffed mascot doesn't have a person underneath no matter how many times you tell them to. 

We have problems in our sport, but one of them isn't controlling messaging. We are what we are and trying to be something else is completely futile. In the end we might just find if we meet the problems head on and are not worried about burying them, the public might be fine with it. 

After all, despite the gaslighting and creepy uncle stuff, Bing Dwen Dwen products are still flying off the shelves. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Gambler Rants & Appeasing the Betting Customer

I saw the press release from the Meadowlands today. As most know, they are trying to improve their on-track product - eliminating courtesy tucks, rail openings in the stretch, etc - to make it a better spectating and gambling game. 

In contrast, I got this note from a long time horseplayer and owner who concentrates on the WEG circuit. He's like one of those dudes who would be sitting outside at Greenwood five nights a week. As most know (just check twitter) the WEG product has been suffering for some time, and tucks and various rules are more guidelines.  

Here you go (language warning if you're so inclined):

  • At this point racing actually needs some radical changes and there's no way WEG has that type of an agenda on the docket, they are oblivious to any problems and simply don't understand their own business, in reality it's questionable if there is a collective will to initiate any real change. It seems unlikely the inertia needed for a directional change could gather a headwind, the people running the show see no problem and make money, the commission that polices the sport has no one (ie WEG) pushing them to enforce any of the rule violations that have become ubiquitous, the Horse people are generally contented with what suits their individual needs and has no understanding how it pertains to the customer, the drivers have absolutely no desire to change anything, NONE, the race office seems to have a singular goal, to get the draw done as quickly as possible...which leaves the bettor who's on a remote island populated by other bettors, they can jump up and down, and scream, and yell but they're only jumping and screaming and yelling to each other...it's a remote fucking island. How can anything change if WEG ignores these remote island fuckers? Why should ACGO play the tough guy when WEG who handles every dollar wagered on racing in this country could care less? Why would the drivers want ANYTHING changed? A hole for everyone, room up the rail when you need it and so on. Horse people would prefer 5 horse fields of the easiest competition for big purses. The Race Office wants to get the draw done by noon and they don't care how many conditions they add to a class or who they open it up for. The worst part is that if you actually try to initiate any change you basically have every faction screaming bloody murder...except the starving motherfuckers on that remote island, where's their sunshine?
If you want to know the state of the every day customer, I hope that sheds some light on what they've been noticing. 

Similarly, one of the races that adds to the above commentary happened last week and it was looked at in an HRU column here. @shottakingtime had a tweet featured in it, and we all know if Buck noticed it must be bad, because he doesn't seem to pay attention to anything but the latest Massachusetts scratcher news and Sam Houston. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, and for those braving the storm in the north east, well, I'm from the Tundra and we call that Saturday. But stay safe and warm!


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Finding Better Prices - A Staple of Other Games

There's an old adage in horse racing when speaking to some executives, "I walk the grandstand and no one is talking about takeout." We chuckle about it, but it's true, because the people who care about takeout are not in the grandstand. A lot of them are probably now sports betting. 

Unabated.com is a tool some sports bettors are using to line shop, or search for value. Math is hard, and it will tell you not only what line is best, it will allow you to add half points, or compare money lines to spreads with a simple input. As their article linked above says, "pricing matters". 

Line shopping for horse racing does occur, but it's mainly in mature gambling markets, and lies in the win pool only. If you're betting an Aussie race you might get 2.5-1 on betfair or 2.3-1 on the tote or 2.35-1 on fixed odds. In the UK there are edges between bookmakers and exchanges like BetDaq or Matchbook. Professional players have been looking to scrounge pennies and half pennies since forever.  

It's clearly important, just like it is in sports betting. If you make 2,000 bets at 5-2 over a long period and hit them all, you get back $70,000, at 2-1 it's $60,000. 

The North American horseplayer does not seem to think like this, and of course, with late changing odds it's nearly impossible. Here it's more about an exotic hit, or a superfecta score, where we have little idea what the odds even are. 

Because of this, it's even more important to examine takeout rates. A 12% Sam Houston pick 3 versus a 22% one is absolutely massive. A 14% early pick 5 versus a 22% late (I think it's 22%, it could even be higher) in Cali racing is equally huge. 

When or if a decent fixed odds or exchange system ever comes on shore in the new world, perhaps it will swing the modern horseplayer from not thinking about juice, to thinking about it. It can't come soon enough. In this brutally difficult game an edge on pricing means more people stay in the game longer because they win more. 

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Horse Racing Panic - Secret Meeting Brings No Solutions

I received a hot text on my Blackberry from Cub Reporter late last night. 

Cub said, "The racing braintrust was reading twitter last night and they believe they have, and I quote, ' lost the horseplayer'. They called an all-hands-on-deck meeting to see if they could find a way through this. I text you because a lot of it was focused on your buddy ITP and a few others you know. As usual, don't pass these details around. This is confidential."

"OK" I typed. "My lips are sealed"

Now, I'll share what he wrote me. 

"Attention, attention, I need your attention," said Chair Scott Daruty. "I think many of you have read the twitter tonight, and I think it's time we finally admit it. A lot of customers just don't like us."

"It's just that ITP guy!" said Todd Schrupp. "Yes, he doesn't like our tickets." said Dave Weaver.

"Dbag" added Rachel McLaughlin. 

"No it's more than that, they don't seem to like us. I can't figure it out, but they don't." Daruty added. 

"I hear you, it's not nice to be not well liked, we must do something," said Bob Baffert. 

"Who let Baffert in," grumbled someone. 

"ITP is a catalyst, but the others are getting boisterous", continued Daruty. "They're all speaking up now. They want things like better pricing, us to compete with sports betting, drug rules, they don't want split samples to be lost in the mail, things like that."

"They even want us to be consistent," added steward Scott Chaney. 

"I believe we need a new bridge to the customer. We need to find someone on our side to bring them around. To set them straight. Any ideas?"

"Buck Swope on the twitter is a great guy," said Andy Serling. 

"What about that new kid, Ryan Willis. He's a celebrity handicapper that everyone is talking about and he's like 30. A unicorn," said Belinda Stronach. 

"Mike Maloney? I like Mike", offered CDI's Bill Carstangen. 

"They all seem to like Jason Beem", said Ron Nicoletti.

"No, no," said Daruty. "Buck Swope wants better drug rules, he's tweeted he doesn't love the NYRA calls on herding, and he sometimes tweets about porn which could hurt the horse racing brand. Willis in his DRF Harness piece said he wanted lower takeout and hates jackpot bets. Maloney wants lower takeout, too."

"Those three are dbags anyway," said Rachel. 

"And Beem? He's the announcer at Grants Pass, Colonial, Tampa Bay, has an awards show, plays on twitter, does like 12 podcasts a week. Plus I think he wrote a book where he said he doesn't even bet anymore."

"Hold it," said Todd Schrupp. 

"Are you saying these people just want us as analysts to help people win more money, that lower takeout would be better than what we have in the new sports betting world, that we need consistent judges that call rules unformly from coast to coast, that we need drug rules that punish cheaters swiftly and things don't get lost in the mail, and that we need to get better data at an affordable price into the hands of customers?" 

"Yes," said Daruty. 

"Well I am all for that," said Schrupp. 

"Me, too," added Weaver. 

"Damn, I am for that," said Serling. 

"Me too! Well, except the lost in the mail stuff." said Baffert. 

"If I really think about it, most of this is not really that dbaggish" said McLaughlin. 

"Is it possible we can make this happen for our customers?" asked Daruty. 

"Probably not", said Carstanjen. "We like the way it is, and our share price says Go Baby Go."

"No. We love jackpots and high rake is good for the betting teams so they can crush the little people", added Belinda. 

<In walks Ray Paulick, armed with his hits count for the Paulick Report website for January, which is a new record>

"Listen to yourselves", boomed a fired up Paulick. "You want everything the horseplayer wants, but you do nothing! You just waddle along with the status quo, blaming them for your problems. Wanting everything to stay the same in a changing world. You, you must do better, you must make change! You must be the catalyst to turn this ship around! I could go on with a harsher critique, but most of you are advertisers."

"Paulick speaks truth," said Daruty. "But let's face it, we're not fixing this today. Let's table this for say, what, next year's meeting? Let's get out of here and get some grub."

"Seconded," said Baffert. 

And that's the way things ended. The status quo once again looks to prevail, despite the efforts of the newest insider horseplayer advocate Ray Paulick. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Betting Competition is Better Pricing, Except in Canadian Horse Racing

I was perusing some tennis bets this morning and did some comparison shopping in the Great White Tundra. 

In Canada, as some may know, the market is grey, but more and more companies are taking single game wagers. Last year, this was much different, as the only onshore site accepting bets was run by a First Nations tribe, where the Feds appeared to look the other way. 

For customers of that website, the prices are, ahem, pretty bad. Comparing today's tennis matches to Pinnacle, each and every bet doesn't approach their juice. It's a non-starter. 

As more and more single game sites come online when it becomes legal, this website will clearly have to change or, over time, go broke. 

In horse racing land in Canada, this is also the case, minus any new competition. Woodbine's wagering arm - HPI - continues to hold a monopoly and as Erick points out on his twitter feed - the prices are atrocious. 

The highlights (lowlights) are eye opening, with as much as 5.32% juice added to the Los Al tris. That's over a 20% increase to a Canadian bettor. 

For big days, like this past year's Breeders Cup, we see even more of it. 
Unlike for Canadian sports bettors, there is no White Knight riding in on a horse to provide competition to Woodbine's ADW stranglehold on beleaguered customers. It's all bet it or forget it. 

It's easy to see sports betting being a success in Canada over the next decade. The US experience proves that with investment and competition it can be done, and consumers can get a great product at decent pricing. Canada will follow suit and we can expect to see betting exchanges, large global sports betting enterprises and others enter the landscape, making the system work. 

In horse racing, unless governments step in to protect consumers and allow the market to open up to encourage competition, I think the racing consumer will be looking at 29% tri juice for a very long time. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

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