Friday, December 29, 2023

ADW & Distribution "Fixes" Aren't Complex, They're Made that Way

I think Mencken wrote "for every complex problem there's a simple solution that's wrong," and for the most part I think that's pretty sharp, especially when it comes to horse racing. We often, on twitter and elsewhere, reduce the complex to the simple, when the simple could never work. 

However, sometimes the problem itself is not complex, it's the system. And for those, the simple solutions can be the best fixes of all. 

I think most of the distribution problems in racing (i.e. ADW's) are mostly self harm, and for those there are some truly simple fixes.

One, the current practice of signal hoarding or side deals between tracks is a handle killer that's purely self inflicted. 

Big signals like those from NYRA and Churchill can be withheld from ADW's or are priced like a King's ransom for virtually anyone new. This shrinks the distribution end of the business, stuffs players into high cost, no rebate ADW's and the most perverse point - these players subsidize the teams. 

An "easy" fix for this clear - if you are a licensed ADW you should have access to every signal at the exact same price everyone else does. 

This simple solution opens up the market, and gives price sensitive players a place to play. Those players did have choice at one point, until this avenue was mostly closed due to these protectionist, short-sighted practices. 

This doesn't address the fact that the signal makers can still cut side deals with their own slice, but for the casual player it's a start. 

Once all signal fees are placed into an open market, the second fix happens - signal fees based on "blended takeout" goes the way of the do do bird, or for those born in post-Victorian times, New Coke. 

It's absolutely mind-boggling, with disparate bets and takeout rates, that signal fees are not based on these constructs. This fix could also pave the way for harder to hit bets moving up in juice, with lower to hit bets moving down, which would increase churn, theoretically at least. The market would become more efficient.  

Demonstrating more pain for a customer base is the self-harm the hoarding of replays has caused and that brings us to the third "fix" - a clearing house for replays, say via Youtube, is something whose time has come. 

Clicking an Equibase PP to a replay link and needing an account? 

Clicking a TimeformUS past performance for a replay and seeing "Sorry, the track doesn't allow us to show this thing you need for handicapping and to give us money" (I only partially made that quote up)?

Seriously, what are you thinking? The only way this makes sense is if you have a business goal to annoy people. 

Mencken's quote is probably correct in the broad context of horse racing. But why fixes like these aren't implemented isn't because the cookie recipe is too complex, it's that the cooks in the kitchen bake them that way. 

Have a nice Friday everyone. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Gambling Gut Feels are Worth Something

 One of my first gambling posts on this blog about fifteen years ago was about Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink":

In 1983 a gentleman brought a statue to a museum that he said was from 600 B.C. Of course, the museum took this claim with skepticism. The asking price was 10 million, and not one of these statues had surfaced in years. It was thought by experts and historians alike that they were all discovered. So, the science began. 

14 months later, after a battery of scientific testing, the museum said the statue was real. After it was purchased, when it was placed on display for experts to see, one watcher took one look at it and blurted out “I hope you didn’t pay much.” Another said, “there is something wrong here. I don’t know what it is, but there is something wrong.” All reported a subconscious, visceral reaction to the statue. They thought it was a fake, but they could not tell you why.

Later on through new testing, the statue was deemed in fact to be fake. The experts, through their unconscious competency, just knew. 

I was watching The Forward Progress channel last night for the upcoming week in football (if you bet football and don't watch this show, in my humble opinion you're missing out). This show looks at the early lines and Rob Pizzola and Clive Bixby give their thoughts on each of the early sides and totals.  

Rob - a seasoned line-watcher and football bettor - got to the Broncos-Patriots game and said, with regards to the 36.5 total, "this just feels too high to me."

He then said he had to do more work on the game, crunch numbers etc, but it still felt short. 

It felt short to me too (as an amateur football bettor; I don't trust my gut yet), and I immediately bet the under. It's already moved to 34.5. 

Rob "blinked" and his unconscious competency kicked in. 

In my original piece I tempered the use of "blink" in gambling, because frankly it can be dangerous. 

If we don't use this correctly we can get into results bias, or confirmation bias, and we end up "trusting our gut" when we need analysis, because our gut isn't good enough. We also just might not be good enough to have a gut. 

Fifteen years later, however, I find myself swaying a bit more to the Gladwellian blink end.  

In a recent piece in HRU, the late odds shifts were examined, which are coming primarily from late CAW money. Seasoned players I speak with talk about how this doesn't look orderly and there are holes in the final odds. They have gut odds boards and the gut doesn't match the betting. They are right. 

I'm a huge numbers guy and have been for a long time. But in football, leaning on "blink" helps there too in my view. 

For me, there's nothing more fun in football than wondering if a young quarterback is going to be good or not so good. Looking at EPA per play, Jordan Love or Justin Fields or Bryce Young are being evaluated each week and have been for some time. Hell, pre-season Justin Fields was being talked about as an MVP bet. 

But don't we lose the "blink" of watching how they play the game when we are so married and dive so far into the numbers rabbit hole?

I got a clip pinged to me about Kirk Cousins, one of my favorites, primarily because everyone thought he stunk and I couldn't figure out why, because he looked pretty good to me. 

If you like comparing young quarterbacks, look at this three minutes of his first start. Washington was a mediocre team, the OL was meh, receiving core was okay, and the offense was built for a running QB, but he stepped in and let it fly.

If you watch a ton of football you know what a decent QB looks like. We don't need EPA/P, or CPOE, or aDot, we can "blink". Compare those throws in that link to what you've seen over the years from rookies, and that's what a potentially good QB making his first start should look like. It's more CJ Stroud, and less Justin Fields.

Being a student of gambling over the many years I am surprised I originally discounted using "blink". I believe if you know how to use it, and don't overuse it, it's something worth leaning on, whether it be for sports or horses. 

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

In Horse Racing it's Always Been About Doing the Doable

If you're on Horse Racing Twitter (or X, formerly known as twitter, or something) you've noticed big-time owner Mike Repole's new venture and quest to be Commissioner of All of Horse Racing. 

Being open and transparent is pretty cool, but reading the replies to his feed is a tremendous education into how much cat herding has to be done in this disparate, fractured sport. He's getting it from all sides. And probably 99% of what he hears is simply undoable.

From the horseplayer end, the cries to lower takeout are sincere, and certainly (in my view at least) just fine. Unless your parents let you drop math in grade three, you know the sport is priced indefatigably wrong. It's a complete mess. 

But Lowering Takeout in the Sport ™is one of those undoable non-starters, too. If they tried it in Russia, Putin probably couldn't make it happen, no matter how many people suddenly ate bad clams. 

The only avenue that's achievable in this realm that I see, is rebating. 

Twinspires, TVG/Fanduel, NYRA Bets and maybe a couple others who aren't already doing it, should be compelled to rebate action to any and all account holders. A 5% daily national blended rebate (they can go higher if they wish) is an immediate reduction in juice, but because this is done directly in ADW's it allows these companies to enhance their offerings, for those both inside and outside the sport. 

If there's ten million bet on a day, the next morning account holders have balances of $500,000 to play with, instead of zero dollars to play with. And if the sport tries to get on the lower takeout train, zero dollars to play with is exactly what will happen. 

I use the word "achievable" with little confidence, of course. These businesses could've done this 25 years ago and they haven't. However, if Repole does ever get some power, bringing a couple corporations aboard something that can be achieved at the flick of a switch seems a hell of a lot easier than committee meetings with dozens of state commissions, racetracks, and horsepeople groups until about 2045. 

Note --

Have we read anything funnier lately than Paulick's report that California wants purse subsidies from ..... Kentucky? It makes me wonder just how bad the horse racing lobby has been in the Golden State. California is a place that taxes anything that moves, and gives out the proceeds like it's a game show. And they're begging Kentucky for money?

It's about 12 years to the day where I read this quote from a California trainer after the takeout hike which he was for. "We have to get while the getting's good". If you're seeking cash from Kentucky, I suspect the getting is definitely not good anymore. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Horse Racing's Black Friday

 On this Black Friday it's impossible for me to not share this gem from Bucky. 

We get he's poking fun and joking around, but satire only works if there's some truth to it. 

Over in Canuckland I noticed a very enticing Black Friday deal on something you'd never get a Black Friday deal on - sports programming. This programming has been costing more and more, and high carriage rates have followed. Online live streaming cost in the U.S. for example, with Fubo or Sling have been going up and up, primarily due to expensive live sports. ESPN have cut staff because of it. 

TSN in Canada, with TSN+ is discounted 40% - it's only $119.99 for an entire year. $10 per month. I'm honestly not sure how they did this. It was very surprising because this feels not only poor business from a CLV perspective, it feels break even at best. 

This is probably a much better deal than a horse racing ADW having a Black Friday sale of deposit $1,000, bet it, and get $200. There we'd bet $1,000, contribute $200 in rake anyway. We'd win, theoretically $960 back, and rebet that four or five times. And we'd be stickier in the ADW, playing more and more, exactly what we're supposed to be doing. 

You'd expect a quasi-monopoly in sports programming like Bell in Canada (who owns TSN) to find it incredibly hard to offer 40% off a years programming. But they did. 

Horse racing (not a monopoly in gambling) can't even enter the same zip code. In fact, even with a hundred million or so of subsidy, like at Kentucky Downs has, means a Black Friday increase in prices, not a reduction. 

If you're looking for a Black Friday deal in the sport I noticed Horse Racing Nation had one on content. But if you're betting into an ADW, pony up the big rake for another year. It's just the way things are run.


Chris is hard at work at his Bet With the Best pod. He had Emily from Optix and Steve Crist the last couple of weeks. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

"We Watch the Races"

I was listening to the Forward Progress show on the NFL today and they were talking about end of game time management and why many coaches have real trouble optimizing the clock. 

@clevta made an interesting point. He said he actually talked to a coach about it, and the coach told him they're weaker at it because they only watch their own games. Meanwhile, people who wager and are fans watch every game, with every situation. This is especially done now, with Red Zone and Sunday Ticket, as well as all the analysis that follows. 

That makes perfect sense to me. Head coaches are CEO's who are extremely busy with game plans, injuries, television, etc etc. How could they possibly watch every end-game scenario like we do?

This in my view is similar to racing, and why we catch things your every day track exec might be late to the game on. 

Scratching horses at the gate and not delaying a pick 5 wager? The latest barn that's hot? Slow quarters, or favorites stiffed? Betting odds changes? The list goes on and on. 

We watch them in real time, each and every day. And we have money on them, so the profit motive - something that's made this world work for 300 plus years - is alive and well with us. 

I remember years ago chatting with a track executive (who was really talented and one of the good guys) and mentioned this new barn that was a probable front for a suspended trainer. The new trainer barely made three starts, but anyone who bet the game knew the score, and was cashing at 5-2 or lower on these horses (today these horses would've probably been 2-5 with so little public cash in the pools). He didn't even know what I was talking about. 

He's working 8 to 5 dealing with governments, horsemen groups, spreadsheets and everything else. 

NFL bettors watch the games and we watch the races. We need to remember, not all are able to in the same way. 

The NFL has partially addressed this by hiring people who understand the clock who advise the coach. It appears horse racing hasn't bridged this gap the same way........ yet.  

Note- The FanDuel tote snafu was talked about at HRU. The lack of innovation in the game was the focus. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Mike Florio Uses Favorites Defensively & Other Notes

In football, using math runs the same gamut we see in racing when it comes to making the right play, or constructing the right ticket. 

Case in point, NBC's Mike Florio:

Leaving aside that thousands of data points is the whole shebang of the matter: If you watch the clip, Florio explains his opinion about how the math can be right, but if you're a coach and you blow the calls in these certain situations (leaning to the 'risky' call and having it not work), you don't have a job anymore. 

His odd diatribe (and this is not uncommon with old school folks) is totally beholden to not logic or math or doing what's correct - but for self preservation. 

This is exactly the argument about playing a chalk defensively in a pick 5. It's all about the preservation of the ticket, even though the math says if we add favorites to every leg, our chances of winning long term is precisely zero. 

We all hate to lose. A coach doesn't want to look like a fool on 4th and three too often to save his job, and we want to get through leg four by adding this horse, and this horse and that horse to "save" our ticket.  

But in the end, if we do that - coach or horseplayer - we're both still losing. 


My lunch time listen - Chris has a good guest, Sean, on his Bet with the Best pod. Interested to hear how he's moved his play to Hong Kong racing. 

20 cent Jackpots are slowly dying, with Del Mar joining the $1 pick 6 category this fall. It's one of the weird items where tracks have listened to folks. 

I read an article from a few years ago again recently. It's where Italian racing raised rakes to around 30% from 15%. Of note to me i) It didn't die in year one, it took about 20 years. This is drip, drip, not an avalanche, ii) They finally, after 22 years tried to change taxing to GGR, to stem the tide and make life better for customers and iii) our takeout in NA, when we factor in the teams, etc, is probably approaching 30% and has for a few years. 

Will racing pivot at all here? As we saw this summer when Kentucky Downs raised takeout, not likely any time soon. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Is Morning Line Making the Toughest Job in Racing?

 I saw this tweet by Nick yesterday. Nick is the morning line maker at Keeneland.

"How could she be less than 10-1?"

She was, because despite Nick's due diligence, some are playing a different game when it comes to handicapping, and assigning probabilities. 

Pick virtually any random race in this day and age, and we'll see two horses that meet the co 7-5 shot eye test  - and sharp players like Nick will have them 9-5 and 8-5 in the morning line - but one will be 4-5 and the other will be 5-2. 

Rewind the clock 20 years, and we could predict this hot trainer, with a hot jock, with a horse who has won three in a row will be 4-5. "The public is gonna be all over this horse" and that was more often than not an accurate prediction. Now it's supremely difficult because oftentimes this is not the case. 

Just last night at Mohawk in race five there was what looked to be a two horse race. One of the horses was a likely 3-5 shot. He had won in 1:54 in nw2 already and was eligible in the same class. The other was beaten in his first try in nw2, and had never gone speed the chalk has already been in. 5 of 6 track handicappers picked the obvious chalk on top.

He lost, which happens. But he wasn't even the favorite. The other one was, at even money. 

How can one predict this? We can't. 

Now, put that into the context of a morning line maker - they're up against things like this each and every race. 

Most professionals in the game will tell you that the odds board does the handicapping for you, and they're not far off, either logically or in reality. It's all the sharp money from a lot of you, inside money, or outside money from people who have an expensive algo that's gone through billions of simulations that produces profit. Every single eyeball, every single dollar is represented, and the money is sharper than it ever has been. 

Morning line makers (no matter how skilled) are having to make these lines themselves, days before race time. It's an almost impossible job, and those skilled enough like Nick and David at NYRA for example, are bringing a pea shooter to a gun fight. Frankly, they even being as close as they are, is something I marvel at. 

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Ryder Cup Slot Money. Racing Could Learn a Thing or Two

This weekend's Ryder Cup in Rome was probably not quite as exciting as it could be, with the U.S. in a deep hole going into Sunday singles. What happened on the course might've not been overly interesting, but off it, sparks flew. 

Reports noted that one U.S. player was almost kicked off the team because of a protest (likely involving the want for more compensation), and "rifts" were pretty much the story of the weekend. They all appeared to involve (some) players wanting to be paid in cash for the week. 

The Ryder Cup's revenue is not unlike slot money in horse racing. It's a cash infusion outside its main events to organizations that run and grow the game. 

Where does the money go?

  • 20% of TV revenue goes to the PGA of America, this funds player pensions. Not all pro golfers end up rich. 
  • Revenue funds programs for junior golf, and college golf. It helps keep the pipeline of players going. 
  • Programs like Drive Chip and Putt, inner city golf for young people, and international golf is also funded. It helps golf become more of an inclusive and worldwide game. If golf is taken up early, people can play it for 50 years. This obviously helps the long-term health of the industry, like for example, demand at your local golf course.
  • Each player is given $200,000 ($4.8M total) for the charity of their choice (half of which is earmarked to be golf related). Since this is a tax write-off, that's some direct compensation. 
Regardless, the cash certainly doesn't go to some old rich guy in a top hat and a cigar, nor does it just go for "purses".

When we contrast this with horse racing slot cash, it's a different story.
  • 20% doesn't go to horse retirement, or jockey and driver pensions, or trainer pensions.
  • Millions don't go to cultivate the game; to engage the public, to grow horseplayers. Horseplayers are reached pretty young too, and they can play the game for 50 years or more. But with slots, they still play into 25% takeouts, making this a difficult pursuit (especially in the new world with 4.54% sports betting and everything else). 
In this sport, the slots money tends to go to two places - to purses and corporations that own the racetracks. 

Ironically, the money in horse racing that does go for things the Ryder Cup funds -- retirement, backstretch items, workers comp, promotion etc -- are taken from the betting dollar. The thing that they don't use slot money to directly grow. 

No matter how we feel about players getting paid to play the weekend in a Ryder Cup, they are certainly doing their part to grow the game. Can we say the same thing about slot money in horse racing?

Friday, September 22, 2023

Sports Bettors Arguing About "Peripherals" & They're What Horseplayers Use Every Day to Seek an Edge

Like most of you I enjoy looking at the gamble, and that's brought me into the sports betting world for some time now. 

As betting on, in this case, football is concerned, we've seen more and more interest with the proliferation of legal gambling in both the U.S. and Canada. This interest has spawned a lot of discussion. One of those recently struck me.

Here we have a bettor discount metrics that go beyond the published statistics. These are advanced metrics, like pass rush win rates, yards per play, removing turnovers from expected points or yards, etc. Mitchell forcefully says "simple stats tell untrue stories."

Of course that's true! Yet time and time again - peruse the interwebs for these discussions and you will find them from all types of sports bettors - you'll see or get an argument. 

Meanwhile back at the track, Andy Beyer was writing about fancy stats and the untruth of the top line wins and losses or final times since the 1970's when he devised a better speed figure. These final times have morphed into performance figures and more with Thorograph and others. 

Everyone with a hope to beat the game has been looking at trips on replay and adjusting final times and figures based on it. 

The often used TimeformUS pace projector is exactly about projecting future success and we'd never think of arguing about it. 

*Everything* we do as horseplayers is about predicting future success based on the event (i.e. the race), and discounting (or enhancing) previous factors in the PP's. 

I think horseplayers can learn a lot from good sports bettors. Even many casual sports bettors pay attention to 4.5% win takeout and line shopping and money management, for example, and we all should too. 

But boy can sports bettors learn a lot from horseplayers. When it comes to match ups, unique race modeling, hidden positives and scoping what's *not* in the PP's, in my view, from the most casual player to the most seasoned, we're light years ahead. 

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Thoughts on the Spa Meet that Was

I, like many of you, watched most of the Saratoga meet this season. I figure I'd jot down a few thoughts. 

  • Handle was down only 9%. Considering the weather, the scratches and all the rest, this is a strong number. Many years ago I turned to a NYRA card, saw off the turf and a three horse scratched down turf to dirt field and it generated more than almost every other track I was watching. That brand is bonkers. But still, only 9% is surprising to me. 
  • The pick 5 debacle and the response to the breakdowns, to me, is a symptom of on the fly confusion in a sport such as ours. The left hand often doesn't know what the right hand is doing when things are happening fast. I'd hope, and expect, they work on a plan for upcoming meets and this gets better; including updated protocols on scratching, which even after the breakdowns seemed somewhat capricious. 
  • The stewarding is a sore spot, and it'd be foolish to say these are just whiny bettors whining. I'd love to see an overhaul to breed more consistency in the judges room. A good place to start - if a horse is getting herded or bumped near a wire and he or she loses by a nose or a head, it's by all logic and reason a toss. You can't let some go and some not go when the margin is so thin. 
  • NYRA's team and those who follow it continues to be pretty awesome, in my view, and Phil's.  Aragona's lines were solid, his analysis strong. Say what you want about Serling, and most of us do, but he adds sizzle and sharpness and thoughts to his picks. The paddock crew is very good because they obviously do the work. We can tell when we're getting the right information and what's being mailed in and there's no mailing it in with Maggie and Acacia. 
  • I don't think Frank had a super strong meet, and I know some agree. But with race callers it's simply someone's opinion more often than not. Maybe I'm still smarting when he pretty much called my pick 5 key home when he was staggering and I got beat and it's jaded me. 
  • Short stakes fields can be the norm and I doubt we're doing anything about that. But one thing I'd like to see a powerful entity like NYRA spearhead, is building a system where the takeout is directly correlated to field size. Two four to fives, a six to one and two twelve to ones is silly. They're big enough to do this and set a new market for others in the sport to follow. 
  • I was not overly sold on the whole kicking CRW's out at two minutes to post thing, but after watching win prices and betting accordingly, I was pretty pleased with this change. It did affect the changing of prices near the bell and I was confident that when I bet I was going to get my number. 
  • I was down this meet, which started well with a nice pick 4. I handicapped well and was on a lot of the right horses, but I simply couldn't get rid of the seconditis, and failed to convert way too many last legs of the multis. The biggest kick in the ass - a $20k score on a skinny $10 pick 5 ticket with the chalk going, and a $10k score on the third choice in the same race with a $4 ticket. They ran third and fourth. Oh this game we play. 
For a full recap of thoughts on the meet, Chuck and Barry's pod is up and fresh this morning here.

Chris's Bet with the Best pod has Dan on here.

Have a great Tuesday everyone

Monday, August 28, 2023

Horse Racing - The Sport that Loves Data, and Then Never Uses it.

After a disasterous couple of weeks at NYRA, on the heels of a disasterous run at Churchill, there ain't been much good to talk about. And the response, so far at least, doesn't amount to much. 

It's a sport that says it has data to make these tough decisions. Here's some of that data:

That data is not the right kind of data, so the sport looks for other data that fits better, or something.   

There's plenty of data on lowering takeout to increase handle and make the sport more popular. In fact, Magna, or whatever we're calling it these days, certainly has some. They're the home of Elite Turf Club, which hits everyone right in the face with their massive volume with lower takeout. 

There's also the same set of data that shows increasing purses to be much less effective to increase handle. 

I'm sure Kentucky Downs has seen that data. Hell, the above even came from a university in Kentucky. 

Then why did they cry poor and increase takeout while increasing purses?

Matt wrote a piece about the issues at the Spa for the DRF last week, and this line caught my eye. 

It's 4th and four from your own 38 with three minutes left down 8. The data guys have run the numbers; they've placed them into a real time algo, and it shows a clear answer: Go for it. 

If you're the sport of horse racing, you do what you always do. Ignore the data and punt.  

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Is it Time They Investigated the Mohawk Betting Pools?

Peruse twitter for only a moment the past couple of years and you'll find tweet after tweet about some of the odd payoffs at Mohawk. 

But last night it probably reached its zenith. 

Race 3, a horse with one flat line took boatloads of money in one flash, moving from 5-1 to 2-1 and crushed at 5-2. One handicapper on the Mohawk feed had the horse third, the rest not in their top four or five. 

A race later, another horse with a flat line was bet from the off in all pools and closed at 4-5 and crushed by many. Again, these seasoned handicappers on the feed were in the dark, with not one of them even having the horse in the top four. 

Race 7 a 10-1 morning line horse who again was not even in the top four of any handicapper closed as chalk and won easily. 

Then the coup de grace. A horse not on anyone's radar, crushed in the last setting a new life's mark by three seconds in a driving rainstorm. Not only did the horse take money from the get-go, he actually went down from a crazy 7-5 to a completely inexplicable 3-5 the last couple of flashes. 

 What in heaven's name is going on there?

We all know math, and that the pools are fairly efficient. Most of us who've played the game since we were 12 years old can spot a 4-5 shot or a bad line. Linesmakers like David Aragona for many years has never once been so far off a horse who is bet down from high morning lines to 3-5 or 4-5. Never once would be so far off that it stretches all credulity, at places like Belmont or Saratoga. 

At Mohawk this seems to happen on a regular basis. 

Customers, in my view, deserve to know what's been happening. I'd hope a professionally run racetrack would want to know, too. 

Have a nice Friday everyone. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Companies Making Sports Betting More Complicated is a Problem for Customers, But It's Life

I noticed a tweet today from the CEO of a new betting exchange. He was illustrating that even making a bet on a "square" side - in this case the Ravens - can get you limited.

Sports betting through Fanduel or whomever, I think we all agree, should be pretty basic. They have millions on account, they take bets and if you want to bet the Ravens, you bet the Ravens. But it's not the case. 

Exchanges were created about 25 years ago, and the simplicity of them were apparent from the off. As long as there was someone on the other side, you'd get filled, and with a worldwide market, it wasn't hard to get filled. The exchange took their 4% or 5% and off we went. 

This was true for virtually any event of any size. 

Back in 2004 I remember playing the US election markets on Betfair. Because of the curious nature of Florida's results in 2000, the networks were loathe to call the state quickly and the markets were vibrant. Eventhough George W. Bush was in the driver's seat from the data if you dug even a little, I sat across from my playing partner as he bet $75,000 on Bush, in-running. 

That bet didn't need an approval from a CEO. It didn't need a board of directors to manage the risk. It needed a market and a click of a mouse. And this was 2004

Betting markets today have been bastardized, likely in my view, because of corporatization. The pure exchange model, a shake hands event, doesn't deliver lifetime value needed to sustain revenues. The corporates need you betting parlays, the online casino or blackjack, or online poker. Getting 5% of winning bets? It's just not enough to feed the complex, bloated beast that is <insert ticker symbol here>.  Hey, they aren't a charity. 

We lament a great deal about betting in horse racing and we should. 20% win juice on a five horse field is like flushing money down the toilet; massive rebates for a few tilts the takeout rates not our way. Corporates who want to curtail signals, raise fees etc, are not on our side, they're just trying to squeeze lemons. But it's all we have. 

It appears, at the present time at least, it's all sports bettors have, too. They've shuffled out a pure, almost perfect handshake medium in the quest of ever more customer lifetime value. Maybe the market will shift once again, and this model can return en masse at places like Sporttrade, but it seems pretty doubtful. 

Have a great Monday everyone. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

We Can Still Bet a Little to Win a Lot in Pick 5's

The game is tough now, no doubt about that, but if we're smart we can still find overlaid payoffs that can keep the lights on. 

There's a narrative abound (although, I think it's just a critique of warm and cuddly ITP from some of his many fans) that chalk somehow has to be thrown out like an old pair of socks to make a score. That's certainly not true; bettors who throw out good chalk are at the ATM, hoping not to see zeros. 

No we have to not like the chalk, for whatever reason. And with smaller ticket cost, for smaller players it's easier to capitalize on that more than ever. 

Case in point, Tuesday at Mohawk. 

The 6-5 chalk won leg one, a 24-1 shot won leg two, a 3-2 favorite won leg three, a 2-1 second choice won leg four and a 5-1 shot third choice won the last leg. 

The pick 5 paid $21,000 for $1, or about 8 times parlay. I bet eight billion of you had 4 of 5, because the four legs were as easy as pie. 

The sole reason that occurred was because the leg two chalk was a 1-9 shot. But this 1-9 shot could be one of those favorites we don't toss out like a pair of old socks, but one we strategically try to beat. She was coming out of the Hambletonian Oaks elim and final where she was torched with hard, hard fractions. She shipped back and she was jammed back in. It's perfectly logical to think she might be vulnerable, as a lot of trotters are after taxing efforts. 

And she was. She was on one line and appeared sore, she was overdriven and lost to a nice horse who just happened to be 24-1, but certainly was a contender. 

If we felt that way about the chalk in leg two, the leverage was massive. 

We could play: 1-45710 (contenders outside the 1-9 shot)-5-3-2579 for $16 or $3.20 for a twenty cent ticket. 

We can't thread the needle completely perhaps, so let's spread the other races with likely winners. We're still probably at $14.40 or $21.60 for a twenty cent ticket. 

How many times as a small player have you thrown away ten or twenty bucks on a win bet or tri or super? I'm sure many. This is just another case of it. 

On the excellent Bet with the Best podcast, Chris and his guests often speak of situations like this. It's tossing a Cody's Wish or a Baffert strong chalk that you see might be doing something they've never done before, or who looked a little off in last week's work, or whose barn might've gone completely cold. We're not tossing to toss, we're tossing something we don't like for tremendous value. 

We won't see this often. and it won't cash a significant percentage of the time even if we do recognize it. But for a relatively small outlay, it can result in $20,000 scores. And that's a whole lotta $10 or $20 stabs when you see the phenomenon potentially come up again. 

Have a nice Wednesday everyone. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

VP of Wagering

 No Monday blog the last couple of weeks with a lot going on, but...... 

Most everyone saw the debacle that was the Saratoga late pick five on Sunday. With the super-late change to off the turf, about $1M in wagers became a total mess. Someone then dropped the ball and didn't delay post time so people could cancel or change their tickets. To make things as right as they can, there's a $100k pick five seed slated for this Saturday. 

How do things like this seem to continually happen in this sport? 

Sure there are a lot of moving parts in getting a race card, or race off. Mother nature and acts of God certainly play at least some role at times. Sometimes things are nobody's fault. 

However, a good deal of the time they are someone's fault. And I think it's because no one is employed in virtually in any of these corporations-run-as-racetracks that's there to mind the betting store. 

When Churchill quickly cancelled a last race on a card with a customer having a chance at $700,000 as a sole ticket jackpot winner, no one was there to say "we owe it to the customer to wait it out and get this race off". I doubt anyone who made the decision even knew about the will pays. 

When the Kentucky Racing Commission allowed Churchill to take half a carryover pool - something Steve Crist called the "Sick Six" a day later - and use it for an upcoming card, there was no one there to say, well, Steve Crist is going to write about it tomorrow because it stinks. There was apparently no one employed who even recognized this would become an issue. 

The list, of course, goes on and on. 

There are people out there, perfectly capable to say, "let's give bettors five minutes to change their wagers", or "hey, can we wait for this cell to move through because one of our customers has a chance at $700,000", or "let's not card a 12 horse field maiden claimer on synth as the third leg of a pick six mandatory", or "hey, these will pays are weird we need to look into this race" or ..... you get the picture. 

But the problem is, there's no job opening for them to do it. 

Without someone minding the wagering store these things will happen again and again and again. It's fixable, but for decades they seem unable or unwilling to address it.  It completely boggles my mind. 

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Monday's Super Spectacular Blog - The Way I Wake Up, Old Time Comparison Stats, CRW Op-Eds, CJ Dressed for the Spa, and Goodbyes

Welcome to this Monday's edition of the Super Spectacular Blog! 

In honor of CJ Milkowski this week's SSB will have no run up. 

Let's go!

First, you're all on twitter so no doubt you've read about the "Deep State" conspiracy. I have never been a proponent, but this week I began to believe it for horse racing. 

My blog has been - as you all know - under a lot of scrutiny; from people like Scott Daruty, Fred Pope, Russians and especially TVG. We Rock the Boat like Hues Incorporated here. 

TVG must have a bug in my house. Because, yes, this is the way I get prepared for the races each and every day. They saw me doing this, and stole it. It's the only explanation. 

Folks, beware of the Deep Horse Racing State, and even though Jason Beem has an Alexa in his North Tampa Bay mansion and we all wanna be like him, destroy yours immediately. 

Jerry Brown wrote an oped in the Thoroughbred Daily News about the computer teams that generated a ton of chatter this week.  He made several points, most of them that we've spoken about here on the blog, and have made the rounds on twitter. 

Primarily, Jerry suggests the sport lower the teams' rebates and not allow them to bet into the pools when three minutes to post is hit. 

That's fine I suppose, but I don't know what that would do, frankly, because it's more than just the teams betting with models and with rebates at places like Elite, but his two points do seem to have some backing from inside the industry. 

Regardless, industry arguments tend to be circular, because they are talking about symptoms and don't in my view address the real problems with pricing. Couching them into "this hurts the retail player too much" when the industry has killed the retail player for a half century with usurious takeout feels completely disingenuous to me.  

Hot take here. 

Australia horse racing is currently not the Titanic, because years ago they added new avenues to bet while offering better pricing for those who are price sensitive. Broadening the tent and modernizing an industry that was protected is not in the harvesting phase of the product life cycle. 

The industry in North America, unfortunately as we all know, never really stopped steering towards the iceberg, and we see this take. And with the way the game is run here, it's not necessarily wrong, in my opinion. 

I was messing around with "X" start off layoff last month; particularly interested in comparing older data (in this case 2006) to newer (2022). 

First, here's a snip of 2006 data (courtesy sorted by start off layoff. 

Notice the first start impact value is low, second start higher. Sweet spots were 4th and 5th off the layoff, with correponding ROI boosts. 

And here's a snip from last year. 

Perhaps remarkably the grids look very similar. However, one striking difference is first off layoff in 2022 versus 2006. This could be partially due to sample size, but in 2006 first off layoff horses won only about a half a percentage point less than non-layoff horses. 

In 2022 this jumped to 1.8%. The impact value in 2022 was only 0.84 versus 0.91 in 2006. 

Second start off layoff returned to, may we say, normal. the IV was 0.9462 in 2002, about the same as it was in 2006. 

Bettors (or should we say teams who model) seem to be in tune with this, as the parimutuel price of the first returning horses in 2022 was $12.28 - the highest of any subset. 

I have to double check to be sure both these sets of data are using the same layoff dates, but I think they are. If not, it's close. So, if someone said to me that trainers are not cranking up to win first start now as much as yesteryear, I'd have to say there is at least some glimmer of truth to it. 

Note - Crunk (protected account but many of you can see it) has some super cool stats on how layoffs have changed in horse racing since the 1990's. 

Another item I found interesting was blinkers on versus off, versus no change. Here's 2006's data:

And here's last year:

Blinkers on has long been an overbet angle and in 2006 it was a good fade with a poor 0.71 ROI. In 2022 it's still a bad wager, but it appears the bettors have woken up to it at least a little. The ROI is about 5% higher. 

Amazingly, blinkers off continues to roll with a 0.86 ROI, which is down from the whopping 0.9080 in 2006. 

This is why model building could be so lucrative. Do some handicapping, weed out what needs be, add a 5% win rebate, and you could literally just flat bet blinkers off horses all year in 2006 and make bank. 

The thing I love most about the Spa is not the great horses, big pools or colorful jockeys, it's the insider tweets where we learn something new about the participants of this fine sport. 

Man of the people. CJ Johnsen had a huge maiden winner this week at Saratoga with Sugar Hi, yet there he is, looking just like us regular folk. 

On the off chance it's not CJ, delete (and it's a shame). 

Changing of the game tweet by Tink which is in keeping with this week's comparison theme. 
Wrote a little piece on potential changes to the Amateur series at the Big M here. 

Quick note about the blog itself - it will not be the Pullthepocket Blog any longer, it willl just be a big letter P. 

very nice piece from Leo about the loss of his friend and NHC Champ Jose Arias. It sounds like Jose was a great guy.

As always, thanks for reading, and may all your tickets be cashes this week. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Monday's World Famous Super Spectacular Blog - Leading Rider Numbers, Betting Mind Games, Boy Scout Betting, Spa Card Drags and Assorted Links

Hello everyone, long time no see! 

I've been a little busy lately, so apologies (to all of my advertisers who pay me big money, but to readers, too) for the gap in the Super Spectacular Blogs.

Let's get going!

saw David Aragona's picks page for Sunday's Saratoga races and one selection caught my eye. 

His pick, Dr. Cringle, was being booked off by Irad Ortiz, and he noted this jockey change may help the price a bit, so he liked him even more. 

Now, this is something we don't hear often in public handicapper analysis. Usually in fact, it's the opposite, i.e. "this horse picks up the leading rider, so I like him". But in my view, this is prime rib steak. Everything we do - everything - is about price. 

For example, here's a snapshot of horses even money or less from last year sorted by rider rank. 

Overall, the entire subset's average mutuel is $3.19, the $1 ROI is 0.8618 and the win percentage is 54%. 

For the leading rider (by ranking) the win percentage is 53.75%, ROI is 0.8428 and the average mutuel is $3.14. 

For the riders ranked 4th or lower, the average mutuel is $3.30, win percentage is 53.56% and the ROI is 0.8847. 

For this sample, you received about the same hit rate, but were paid more if you had a "worse" rider. 

For odds less than 5-1 last year it was more pronounced. 

The top rider generated a 0.7868 ROI versus an average of about 0.85 for those ranked 2nd or lower. In this subset, horses 5-1 or lower had a win price average of $6.19. When ridden by the leading rider the average mutuel was $5.41. 

As samples get bigger, these numbers - like most rider or driver numbers - will likely return more to the mean because the pari-mutuel pools are very efficient. In fact, ten years ago these numbers can look different ten years from now. 

Although there's nuance in rider (or driver) analysis that can help us at times, globally there really isn't much. So, if we really like a horse at 2-1 with Irad, and we can get - as David suggests - any shade over 2-1 with a journeyman, we should probably fire away and not give it a moment's thought. 

Over in harnessland this phenomenon can show up, as well.

For example, over a five year sample at the Meadowlands, unheralded capable drivers like Corey Callahan have a -6% ROI on favorites, which beats the takeout. Other more popular choices are right around or near the juice. 

The two leading drivers are the ultimate split hairs since 2021 with favorites. Dexter Dunn won a few more races, but remarkably the UTRS for each driver over this period with chalk was within one one-thousandth of a percentage point. 

Conversely, the two leaders with horses over 5-1 are remarkably similar as well. Yannick has won more, but is more overbet. 

From my research, harness racing is a little more variant than thoroughbreds in this realm and I think it has to do with aggression. Lately, as harness racing has become more and more of a speed game, aggressive drivers are slightly better bets, regardless of how much they win. 

There was a neat article on hindsight bias on the Pinnacle betting blog last week. This effects us all, whether we like to admit it or not, because like fear, it's in our DNA. 

Generally, the thinking goes - when we lose we lost because of whatever befell us, but when we win, we won because we were right all along. 

I noticed a little of this recently with a set of driver changes from what most would consider a bad driver to a good one. I watched this move (it went 1 for 7 with a terrible ROI), yet when the one win occurred it was still considered an amazingly smart angle. The six losses were because of circumstance, not the angle. Conversely, those who faded the angle were correct and making plus EV bets, but it was a seven horse sample, so we might want to put the greatness moniker on hold.  

I find we as bettors use this bias most in pick 4's or pick 5's. When we hit them we don't notice the ramdomness or luck when it's on our side, but when we lose we are patently aware of it - the quintessential bad beat. 

Personally, I like to analyze a pick five after it's complete and determine if I ended up making a good bet or bad bet - not based on result but on process. Did I have the right horses as "A's", did I miss something, did I spread too much or not enough? Was my ticket paying well over parlay? What mistakes did I make, regardless of the outcome?

As the article notes, analyzing bets from a bird's eye view helps us find our weaknesses, and like Lichtenber put it, "once we know our weaknesses, they cease to do us any harm."

We can find value anywhere - each race can have some - and Dennis's models do. 

Speaking of tickets and a bit about what I wrote above, constructing them is so important, as we all know, and sometimes things are beyond our control. 

Saturday's Meadowlands Pace card was a dandy, and I wanted to fade Jiggy Jog as a potential 1-9 chalk with M and M's Dream. At about a minute to (the dragged) post I figured I'd take a pick 3 or 4, but they changed the menu for the night and there was only a 20 cent pick six offered (this usually goes in race 8). 

Scrambling, I keyed my longshot, then spread, then keyed chalk Sylvia Hanover and finished my one ticket quickly. Then I went back and pitched Sylvia (because she's a mental mess and can do dumb things). Then I took another ticket then it was post time. 

Noteworthy, I had already taken a pick three in the previous race, with the 9 keyed in leg two of this pick six (which was a cash leg for me), who was my top choice. Clearly I should've started my pick six ticket with 9-9-5 and spread, for a ticket cost of a modest $9.60 or $14.40. I would've if I had time to think about my ticket, but I didn't. 

M and M's won, a 42-1 shot I used upset in leg four, and I missed a horse who was obvious at 5-2, because I keyed that leg. I think the pick 6 paid $23k. 

I know people like ITP and Chris on the Bet with the Best pod are swaying more and more bettors to the "ticket construction is as important as handicapping" angle, and this is a good thing. But even when we do focus on it, this game can bite you in the ass. 

We truly need to Boy Scout this game - always be prepared. I wasn't and I lost. 

The Big M had a nice handle that approached $6 million for Pace night, and that was surely helped with the Mohawk cancel after the monsoon hit. I think they did a good job with the card, however I was surprised the last five races (with two big stakes) did not see a pick five offered. Maybe next year. 

One gripe - tracks, in my view, should do better with making sure they have proper equipment changes, and broadcasting them on all available media. It's vital to us as bettors, and when the masses don't know that Oh Well switched from an open to a blind (when it's referenced in the post-race interview) they have to do better. 

I see some criticism on the interwebs about the length of the cards at the Spa, and frankly I tend to agree. Golf is doing everything to increase the pace of play, as has baseball. These cards are never ending. 

I know there's a schedule with TV and simo, I know this ain't a charity and handle needs to be raised, and I know circumstances like weather have an effect, but 35 minutes to post to the third today for a three horse field really seems silly to me. 

If thoroughbred players at the Spa see the name Phil Antonacci and don't know him, I think you should. They are an extremely smart harness outfit and their horses are always happy, sound and fit as a fiddle. As they say in the game, they don't miss much. 

CarlyK with the trifecta. 

Chris's Bet with the Best Pod had two new guests since my unscheduled blogging break - one, the amazing Andy Beyer and two, Frank Mustari, just out today.

Last up. If you think I'm not gonna post this pic on this blog, you're crazy. Garnet with #ChuckforHISAPrez

As always thank you for reading, have a super good week, and please, go cash some tickets!

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Backstretch Innuendo and the Friends of God

Happy 4th of July to my friends in the lower 48. I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday. 

I was listening to some backstretch rumor this week about what barn is doing what, and it got me thinking about Bob. No, not that Bob; another one - Cousin Bob. 

Bob was in his 20's when I was a kid and I thought he was just about the coolest guy around. He had tattoos and the most-excellent chopper you'll ever see. Cousin Bob was a biker dude. 

As far as I can tell (and heard) this was nothing nefarious, it was a bunch of guys and gals in their twenties carousing and living life. Then, just like with most of us, life got in the way. Bob was hired at a steel mill in the Southern Ontario town of Hamilton - Canada's Pittsburgh. 

Bob worked there for the next twenty or so years and decided as he neared retirement he'd live a little bit of life again. He broke out the chopper, got it fixed up and began riding on weekends. A couple of his old friends joined, then a few new ones. This group grew to eighteen or nineteen and they had a blast riding around, just enjoying the summer. 

One day they stopped for lunch and one of the cohort decided this new bike gang needed a name. 

After batting around several, one piped in with the new moniker that would stick - they'd be now known as the FOG - the "Fat Old Guys". 

A logo was created with the acronym along with a chopper with flames shooting out the exhaust, which I think was a bike gang logo staple. They proudly wore the patch on their backs, just like old times. 

One day about a month or two later the phone rang. One of Bob's FOG pals was in a tizzy. He received a call from someone in a *real* bike gang from Toronto. 

"They want to meet. They think we're a real gang and we're planning to encroach on their turf", said his pal, who I think was an accountant. 

Bob was perplexed, "Why would they want to meet with us, we're the freaking Fat Old Guys."

"That's the thing," explained Bob's friend. "They think we're the FOG all right, but not the Fat Old Guys. They think our gang is called "Friends of God". They believe we're a Christian bike gang and they had trouble with one once." 

"All I know is that you and I are supposed to be in North Toronto tonight at 9."

Bob knew enough about the culture that he had to show up, so the two of them drove to the meeting. Funnily enough, the accountant's wife made him pack socks and underwear, just in case he ended up in the hospital. 

Bob and his pal drove up and went in, where they were greeted by several real bikers, and one asked immediately, "Tell me about this Friends of God thing"

Bob explained that they were the Fat Old Guys, which (after some time) drew great amounts of laughter. 

"I told you this sounded stupid," said one, who went on to explain how Jimmy heard they were the new Christian gang through Rickie's wife Sue, who heard it from another biker from another gang's mechanic, who heard it from..... well you get the picture. 

They had a beer or two and went on their way. Crisis averted and the Fat Old Guys rode for years. 

Bob passed away last year and I think of this story often. It's one of my favorites for many reasons, not the least of which is the game of telephone it exemplfies. 

When I heard this week that this barn has this juice from this source because Jimmy knows someone's wife who knows someone, it brought it back once again. 

No doubt sometimes a gang really is the Friends of God, but more often than not they're just the Fat Old Guys. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone, and rest in peace Bob. You were one of a kind.  

Monday, June 26, 2023

Monday's World Famous Super Spectacular Blog - Lasix, CRW's, Taylor Swift's a Racetrack, Pick 5 Ticket Example, Ascot versus Oak Grove, We Bet Real Money Here, Rebates for Only a Few & We're in the Gambling Business

Good morning and welcome to this week's edition of the World Famous Super Spectacular Blog.  

It's the first week on the SSB without a thank you to the Russian bots because I ain't getting involved in that imbroglio. Instead, here's a cat video. 

Off we go!

Despite his (mostly unfair, they have free breadsticks) disdain for the Olive Garden, I have to side with my pal Chuckeroo, and as sad as it makes me, against our other chum, Brad Cummings protege Ray Bacon here. 

I'm honestly not much for the lasix debate in this sport because it sure gets tribal. But I'm a pretty simple guy: 

60% of horses bleed from their lungs. Can someone explain to me how it's considered cruelty to help them not bleed?

Helluva piece by Pat over at the TIF last week that I figure many of you read. The CRW wagering patterns are certainly formidable in this day and age. 

Some highlights:

  • The big dogs are in the harder to hit bet pools; for example, almost 4 in 10 bucks of the pick 5 pool is teams' money. Wondering why the sequence paid what it did? They probably had it. 
  • If you're trying to avoid the big money and look for value holes, try the doubles. 
  • Crunk proffers they're about topped out at approximately 24% of pools and can't bet much more than they are currently betting. The math seems to say so. Does this bode well or not for handle growth from here on out? Likely the latter in the short term. 
  • Pat shares a rumor they're after better prices in whichever way possible it seems (which could be a signal they're topping out). This makes sense regardless, because when they get a better price they can wager more. For those of you who've said *takeout matters* while shouting into a vacuum, there's evidence point 9 million for you. 
  • I don't tend to agree with the thoughts about CRW wagering hurting purses. Just because the chicken has wings doesn't mean it can fly. Lower handle hurts purses, and we've had lower handle for a long time. California's 2010 takeout hike to "save racing" that people at the CHRB meeting applauded likely contributed massively to this mess.  
  • Pat's ways to improve the situation are tough for me to argue with. 
Podcasts are many, but the hosts doing them as well as Beem (in my humble opinion) are few! Jason is such a personable fellow and seems comfortable with guests from all facets of the sport, and he sure was at-ease with Bettor Chris this week. Fun discussion fellas, I really enjoyed it. 

People outside racing often hear insiders say "they were born to race" and some's eyes glaze over. Those folks should watch this video of a beaver. 

I thought this was  a nice story on World On Edge, who was found malnourished, in some trouble, and nursed back to health to win races.

I'm not sure you've heard of her or not, but there's a woman named Taylor Swift who's having this big concert tour and I read about it in the WSJ today.  The whole she-bang is supposed to generate $1B in revenue, and after paying for all hosting distribution, promoting fees etc, she is left with about 35% or $350 million. 

If she were a racetrack, on a 20% takeout bet her host fee would be 7%. 

We often hear that the tracks should get more and more of the takeout and I get it. But if you're looking for distribution and growth, the business models say you can't do it alone, and that costs money. 

Unlike horse racing (outside the Derby), Taylor does have an edge through alternative revenue streams. The piece notes she can gross a couple million or so a night from merchandise and CD/Album sales, and she has big corporations like Capital One sponsoring the tour. The sport has tried to do a bit of this - especially through sponsorships - but it's not really a big part of anything. 

The new Omni Swinger wager at Woodbine is not doing very well, and I'm not sure it can last. On Thursday a 33-1 shot (6) beat a 25-1 shot (8) at the wire and the 6-8 swinger paid $15.55.  The pool was barely over $500. 

The amateur races at the Meadowlands as a part of their pick 4's and 5's have many shaking their heads, including some of the participants. This racing is moving towards an uncanny valley for me. I expect a harness race and I get to watch, well, whatever some of those races are. We know if you line up a set of horses at any major track it's going to drive handle, but sometimes I wonder how we bet real money on these races. 

So I bought this heat pump a few years ago off the internet and I didn't have the slightest idea how to install it. A buddy says, "I know a guy", so the guy comes over and he's like the nicest dude around. 

While we're installing this thing I have the races on the tee vee and he's stoked - "I bet, too". Since then, every few weeks or so, I get a text from him about racing. This week's:

Since I typed exactly the same thing moments before to a friend, I can only conclude that Larry the Heat Pump Guy is a brother from another mother. 

Marshall chatted about CRW wagering on Pete's pod this week. 

Two Phils won the Ohio Derby and there's a lot of "who did he beat" talk, but to me, coming off the Derby where he was the best of the lot, it's just a win confirming the obvious - he's pretty good. And as I type this, Marcus the Greek reports that he came out of the race with an ankle injury. Gosh, the ups and downs of this freaking sport. 

Tony Z popped into a horse tourney and won. Nice effort for Ed as well. It might be kind of remarkable to some that the exacta was a guy who couldn't tell you what Irad looks like onto a guy who probably knows what Irad had for breakfast last week. It's why the game is big tent, and why I wonder what kind of money we're leaving on the table with bad betting policy. 

The horse racing twitter is having a field day talking about the poor ADW coverage of the Ascot meeting. Watching along, it does feel nowhere near the quality of the work that Ray Cotolo is putting together on the Oak Grove harness feed. 
Mathematically sound tickets can be an exercise in frustration (Chris referenced this on the Beemer pod with betting value in straight pools), because we're not betting to hit, but to hit good tickets. There was a nice example on Tuesday night at Mohawk. 

In the pick five the fields were super short, and even more importantly not deep. We had:
  • A big chalk in leg one who looked vulnerable. 
  • What looked like two contenders in leg two. 
  • Co-six to five shots in leg three and in leg four
  • A spread race in leg five
Every sequence has a story. Going chalk then 2 by 2 by 2 and spread is your square ticket that you will likely hit, but there's probably no way it can deliver long term ROI. We clearly have to figure out something outside that main story. 

One person I chat with liked a horse to beat the chalk in leg one at 6-1, and then keyed, keyed, keyed, in the legs people would go two deep to cover, and then spread to six horses. It was an extremely sound ticket that only cost him $24 for $4. 

The horse he keyed in leg four was much the best, but lost to the other chalk, because of a horrible drive. The pick five paid $500, and my betting pal was sad faced. 

Our mind works in mysterious ways when we lose, and we may say to ourselves, "if I backed it up I would've hit for $500", but you have to back up three races, not one, at least tripling ticket size. And maybe you have to back up leg one as well. 

When we account for this selection bias, the ticket turns into a play defensive hellscape. 

At that point we're probably better off placing our ticket money into a $50 or $100 win bet in leg one on the 6-1 shot (to cash more than the pick five itself paid). 

In a five race sequence things can happen. We'll lose more than we win. And, as above in section two, the teams are firing on all cylinders. But I thought that was a great ticket that just didn't happen to win. 

I loved this interview with Johnny V after winning with Crimson Advocate at Ascot. You can't wipe the smile off his face. I know people in sports media talk about about "acting like you've been there before" blah, blah, blah. But seeing people happy when they're happy after winning a race is why we all get into this game isn't it? 

I saw this tweet from Quantum - a super sharp fellow - this week, and the last line "rebates should only be given to verified long term losing players as was intended" interested me. 

This is an opinion that the casinos embrace, but is it true for parimutuel racing?

I suspect the sweet spot for a rebate is for players who are close, but not quite good enough. I think the teams' volume is testament to that. It's where winning (even some of the time) makes one's wagering explode. 

But I can't argue too much with Quantum in a broad sense. If 99.5% of players lose, then rebates to losers means almost everyone gets one. Something I have long advocated. 

I really don't know, Andrew. When I first saw Flightline trending I honestly thought it had something to do with that sub.

Players like ITP (and it's a fave move of @lesstark88 too) believe in betting against a heavy chalk that shows even a hint of a problem, and players sure got that chance in the first at Mohawk on Thursday. 

The 3-5 shot came out hot, and the driver completely buried the horse, earning a call-up from the judges in the process. This odds-on loser helped the pick 5 pay a whopping $78,000 for a buck. The super in a short field with the chalk third returned $500 for a dollar (and for Swinger fans it paid about $5). 

I did my duty and pitched the horse and was actually alive in the pick 5 nicely; but the horse in the second leg that won I had ranked 9th, and it was only an eight horse field. Never in a million years. 

Like Ray Paulick said on the twitter, I too dreamed of being a professional golfer. Maybe Paulick coulda pulled this off but I couldn't have.

This is not a bad thought for those of us who want things to move along, but the key difference is baseball is in the entertainment business and horse racing isn't.  A race on a big stakes card is like an ice-cream stand on the pier on a hot summer day - if it stays open for 30 minutes instead of 20 it makes more bank. 

As blog pal @epo13 says sometimes, the sport is "gambletainment", and like it or not (and I know some of us don't like it) the gamble part is the one that brings in the revenue. 

Thanks for reading this edition of the Super Spectacular Blog. Just like every week, be nice on the twitter and go cash some big tickets.  

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