Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Multi-Leg Wager Morning Lines

I think most of us over forty remember when we were cutting our teeth at this game. Without much simulcast wagering - and certainly no big teams playing into the pools from basements - we were competing with the person next to us. 

One of our holy grails at that time was a horse we loved with a bad morning line in a pick 4 sequence. We knew the horse would be under-covered, because 10-1 morning lines were not blanketed by the money in the pools. Especially if the race was a tougher chaos race where people were going deep with the 2-1 through 6-1 horses. You can only go so deep, certainly with the old $1 minimums. 

Even if the horse took money on the board and was bet down to 9-2 or 4-1, you'd still be 5th or sixth choice in the pick 4 payoffs. We had our edge. 

I find it completely remarkable that now in 2022, this means pretty much nothing. 

Yes, 10-1 morning line horses win at 6% or 7% rates because the morning line, like in yesteryear, is very predictive. But there is little dumb money filling the gaps. 

I've gone through many examples here, and you've shared yours on twitter - the morning line horses of 15-1 being well bet in pick 5's etc. 

Just yesterday at Colonial, the dropper in the last had a fairly bad morning line of 10-1, but the horse did back up his last start, and had no massive edge when looking at the race. The connections don't win a whole lot of races. It, on the surface, still looked like a spread race. 

When the will-pays for the pick 4 and 5 came up, who was the chalk? The 10-1 morning line horse who was live on the board (he lost, FYI, coming second). 

In my view, everything we see today is reflective of the percentage of smart money versus public money in our pools. The former making up more and more of it. 

Certainly this is technologically driven. We can handicap and make sharp lines with software, and teams have big bankrolls, betting their perceived edge. The holes will be fewer. 

But I do blame this industry and its recalcitrant attitude. By continuing to act like they had a gambling monopoly when they did not, they chased many of the people you and I sat with in grandstands everywhere away, which has decimated the public-sharp money ratio. And adding even more insult, they did while by receiving perhaps the largest gambling subsidy afforded to any business. 

It's more and more difficult to make money at this game, and this is not news. We have to be sharper than ever, pick our spots and try and find a score or two. We have to zig when the teams zag, and we have to construct amazing tickets. The arrows in our quiver, like finding the holy grail of a sharp horse with a weak morning line in legs three or four are pretty much gone. We have to kick over more rocks to capitalize. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Remembering Odds Lines

Making an odds line seems kind of anachronistic doesn't it? Late money, steam, big money in the pool, meh. 

But, smarter-people-than-I like Mark Cramer who wrote wonderful books on the subject, were not blowing smoke. Even today, it reminds us how to be a better player. 

Take for instance the perennial 15 time never winner. "No shot, the horse doesn't want to win" we often say. This may be true, but only to an extent, because each horse in a specific event has a chance and there's no such thing as "no shot". Everything has a set of odds associated with it. 

Race 5 at Colonial today is a good example. The 5 and 9 have the numbers to be good, but their records are 0-23 and 0-31. My immediate reaction is to say "no shot", but of course both horses do have one. Maybe with speed figures they are 4-1 each fair, and I will make them 6 or 7-1instead. 

I do this often with driver or jockey changes. We all know these changes can signal intent of the trainer, so it's important to look at it. But a good jockey to another good jockey is often meaningless, even though in our mind's eye it might mean "no shot" if we're not a fan of the change. 

Even a poor driver to a good one can be much ado about nothing, when we put it into the concept of a fair odds line. 

I remember looking at driver changes in harness racing a bit ago. I don't know how many people will jump on a horse when Ake Svandstet or Trond Smedshammer hand the lines to a star driver like Dexter Dunn, but the numbers don't prove this a very smart wager. The win percentage, over a fairly large sample, doesn't increase much at all, and the ROI is worse with the new driver, because it is such an obvious handicapping factor. 

We all know Dexter is better than those two drivers, and I, like you adjust our odds lines, but we tend to do it too much. The horse is not 8-5 with Dex and 12-1 with Ake. That's ridiculous, we know it's clearly much closer, and the empirical numbers bear this out. 

When we think of handicapping in chances of each horse, we think of the event in a set of odds.  Thinking this way keeps me focused on the present, and when the blinkers don't go on too early where I avoid the "no shot" thoughts, it helps me see the entire race better.

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

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