Monday, March 27, 2023

Monday's Super Spectacular Blog: Incrementally Improving Everything, Good Podcasts, and Revealing How Much the Computer Teams Bet (and Lose!)

I think I am going to write a weekly blog on Mondays to summarize a few things I see during the week. 

I'm planning to use headlines like "super spectacular", or if that doesn't work, maybe "4 Ways Racing is Fixed, And Number 3 is the Smoking Gun!" for click bait. I really have to get traffic up because all that seems to visit me here are degenerate horseplayers and Russian bots. Or if I link a @shottakingtime tweet, some sort of porn site. 

I might sell advertising for, I'm not sure, maybe for stuff I see late night on TVG like My Pillow or Cialis. 

Anyway, welcome to the first Super Spectacular Monday Blog!

Does this confuse you as much as it does me?

Someone suggests an improvement for the sport, and is met with one of these answers: 

"We have bigger fish to fry"

"That won't fix the game, we have big problems"

"We don't have time for it because it's too small"

Whether it be a change to industry data to encourage more third party apps, incrementally lower takeout, or what @insidethepylons goes through when he encourages the sport to be better on the gambling side (better tickets won't save racing, go back to the basement!) it's always the same. 

The article this weekend, "It's Time for Racing to Nuke the Jackpot Bet" will probably be another one on that list. As o_crunk noted with the numbers he looked at, jackpots are losing steam and aren't as popular anymore (and there's reasons for this). So in terms of appreciably moving the needle, the needle ain't gonna move much. 

But it's just kind of bad. Racing is Henry Ford and if he said incremental improvements don't matter because of bigger fish to fry, or this process change won't appreciably matter on its own, we'd probably have never heard of him. 

I think in racing the zeitgeist is always about the 'big' something. A cereal box, a Seabiscuit movie, a Netflix special, or sports bettors suddenly flocking to the third at Mountaineer. 

That isn't how the world works. It's boring and incremental. I think we should ban jackpot bets, not because doing so will change the world, but because they stink for customers. 

Bucky on the twitter talked about how computer teams blanket pick 5 or 6 carry pools and cover things mere mortals can't (and get rebated more than us mere mortals can). True; the man isn't just good for beer, Onlyfans and Costco references. But boy, when they miss, they can miss hard, almost exponentially increasing payouts. 

Saturday at the Big M, they missed one horse, the 22-1 shot in race 10. And this triggered nice prices  with complete logical horses, many of us, like @john_rallis or @ryanwillis1 had. 

Despite this coverage, that 22-1 shot turned a pick six for 20 cents into a $56,000 payoff. The pick 4 into an $18,000 payoff. If the teams hit those, I'd be shocked. It's not their bailiwick. 

I was staggered analyzing what the computer teams wager (and lose when they aren't on) through the records Pat Cummings requested. 

On Pegasus Cup Day where about $44 million was wagered - 

One team - yes a single team - bet $6,461,347 and realized a profit of $2,418,141. 

Another spent $288,557 and cashed only $27,459 for a staggering loss of $204,794. 

One bet $1,760,658 and cashed tickets totalling $1,375,251. 

For contrast, Twinspires' ADW California hub (probably retail players) wagered only $339,075 and cashed $220,321. For many readers of this blog they might want to know that Woodbine's HPI system wagered $803,581 and cashed $668,219. 

The CRW space is some huge money, but it can mean some huge losses. Like the old baseball saying "he hits them where they ain't", if as smaller players we figure out where they aren't once or twice a year, there's our big edge. Easier said than done, of course. 

I watched the Louisiana Derby and was reminded yet again about the power of early speed. Kingsbarns was slated to be an early leader off his 144 Timeform early figure in his last and the early pace was supposed to be meh. And you know he was there to win. The colt loped on the lead and paid $12. 

Obviously I don't want to be anecdotal about this. This horse could've lost because another challenged him in a 46.2. But year after year, the power of early speed is where we seem to find edges. That turf horse who wins and pays $35, blowing up our pick 5's is often of this variety. Then we scratch our heads on twitter, as it was so obvious. 

Can Forte get beat next weekend? He has post 11, has the points, so maybe one of these nondescript challengers does, and if it happens, I suspect it will because the horse went gate to wire. 

Even the breeding space is doing the "look at what they're doing over there" thing. It's no longer just for us and Hong Kong racing anymore. 

By the numbers - The @RyanWillis1 cranky rating for the week was 6. I think James MacDonald broke on three trotters he used in a row, too. He's coming along. 

Chuck Simon President of HISA status update - not yet

From what I noticed, Mike Joyce bad tweets for the week to ITP totaled zero. I think they are actually starting to like each other. It'd be so cool if this ended up in a 90's style buddy movie like Tango and Cash. 

Jason Beem learned art this week; teach that man to paint, he's going to the prom. Meanwhile Ray Cotolo, announcer at Rosecroft, made a movie about life, love, death, burritos, Paul McCartney and the afterlife. There was a lot going on there. 

As for other announcer news this week, Larry Collmus called Dubai, Gabe Prewitt got side tracked at some poker room, and something happened with Vic Stauffer. 

Ed DeRosa showed us that people actually do still go to the races proving once and for all that most ABR content is not doctored. 

Why do the amateur drivers at the Meadowlands want to park everyone out the whole race, no matter the fractions? Two of three races like this occurred on Friday and the third would've been the same scenario, but everyone is too afraid of James Slendhorn parking everybody out. For confused thoroughbred readers, this is like someone who rarely rides a horse going 21.2 43.3 in the Belmont Stakes and other riders who also never ride a horse professionally engaging them.  This is one of life's great mysteries. 

Yonkers has a $10k seeded pick five pool on Thursdays starting this Thursday. 

I think one of of the smartest handicapping people on the twitter is Chris at @derby1592. He started a new betting pod about wagering and I think it's just great. His first guest was Marshall Gramm. I could wax on about my history of win betting, a topic which Marshall speaks about on the pod, but I've clearly typed enough and you're probably bored with my nonsense. If you're interested in these topics bookmark Chris's pod. I'm sure future content will be dandy. 

Have a really nice Monday and thanks for reading the Super Spectacular Blog. And to my Russian friends, cпасибо.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Same Game Parlays Mostly Suck, But Horse Racing's Version Don't

The Same Game Parlay (SGP) space has grown in sports betting with everyone, probably including your book offering them. 

The concept is not difficult to understand - you can bet the Leafs to win, Austin Matthews to score two, and the game to go over 6.5. These three items are inexorably linked, but if you like the Leafs, like so many of my friends, this is a great bullish way to support your team and win some money in the process. 

Sportsbooks in Europe have been using these as "bet builders" for quite awhile. But they are priced much differently. An Austin Matthews hat trick with a Leafs under 2.5 goals parlay is a mathematical impossibility, The Leafs scoring over 6 and a hat trick will see the opposite effect. 

Some of these advertised bets are gross. And players have to watch what's offered like they're Sherlock Holmes. Many books aren't on your side, and it seems some players don't even know it. 

Over in racing land, our parlay bets are different, because there is no house.  In fact, we can use them to our advantage. For example -

  • If a track is playing to a sneaky bias we notice, we can construct a pick 5 ticket with this in mind. 
  • If a trainer has been winning, and has two horses in a sequence we can use smartly as keys, we can 'parlay' that trainer's horses to some benefit
Now, certainly other bettors can do this too which can degrade value, but will they be priced the same as the SGP linked above? Not even close. 

I guess this represents another example of the advantage of proper ticket construction. If Sportsbooks are advertising and modeling probabilities by changing the odds based on the linking of events, why wouldn't we, as horseplayers, want to be in the same lane?

An NHL or NBA game tonight will have a theme based on points scored or myriad other factors, and that theme will be linked mathematically to data points, and the end wager will likely suck. The tickets we play in tonight's pick 5 at Yonkers could have a theme, too, but there will be no sportsbook Big Brother deciding the odds for us. They most definitely don't suck. 

If we're throwing up tickets that look like a dog's breakfast, we're just not doing it right. The sportsbooks say so. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Racing's Internal Growth Impediments

I was reading the Financial Post this morning and came across an article on mining in the Tundra

This industry has always been a soft spot for me, living and working in it in my early life. And the way this industry historically ran was quite simple - you'd find something good, raise some money, see if it was feasible, and raise some more money privately to generate revenue. Now it's much different. The new government blocked new projects because of climate concerns, so the money dried up. Then, when the same governments decided new metals needed for things like batteries had to be produced, the money and pipeline through private investment wasn't there, and these projects continued to wither. 

So, to get them off the ground the feds decided they had to subsidize these projects. Big companies now do nothing and wait. $27M here, $100M to BHP there, all from the taxpayer. Chuck Fipke and his stable likely wouldn't exist if he found something today, unless he was given public cash. 

Mining's customer is now the government. And as the article alludes, they know it. 

I saw a tweet from o_crunk last week talking about purses --

"More than half of the purses distributed in US t-bred races this year will be derived from supplements, subsidies and other non-racing gaming. Would seem that "racing" knows who their customer is."

Racing's customer, it can be argued, has always been the government. It's always been highly regulated. However, 50 years ago it was different, because the revenues received came from betting. More handle, more money to taxation, more money to purses. Purses rose, governments did well. Racing was still beholden to this metric. 

Now, with handle meaning so little, and being constrained by decades-old archaic policy (where amazingly tracks can't even charge lower pricing without going through some board or commission if they want to), it's not even a customer anymore. In other words, customers aren't customers. 

This is not the way other jurisdictions work. Although still regulated, racing downunder has been doing at least 'okay' the last twenty years. You can start a betting company in Australia with racing at the fore. You can operate an exchange, or fixed odds, or a tote. If your tote company makes more money at 8% juice, you're allowed to do that. If you offer racing, the people who run the Cox Plate aren't after you for a higher signal fee or threatening to cut you off. Tracks who do well with lower takeout and any subsidy at all certainly aren't looking to raise takeout like Kentucky Downs; they'd think that was silly.  

And what follows is probably not that surprising. The sport functions better. 

Racing's customer in North America, and anywhere really, will always include the government. HISA, new whip rules, lasix, having an old white haired guy cut ribbons will be around forever, and this signaling is for one entity.  


But in some instances the sport works without shackles because the customer still makes up the majority plot in their focus. They're allowed to promote the betting, promote the product and price the product. They're allowed to entice wagering, and they consider profit ahead of margin. That, in the end, if done correctly, can mean more purse money. 

Canadian miners are sitting on the corner, hard hat in hand, lobbying for money because the age-old tenets of business - delivering an end-product to customers - don't apply to them anymore. Welcome to the club old friend. 

Have a nice Monday everyone. 

(graphic, Thoroughbred Idea Foundation)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Twitter Spaces Dust Ups in a Sport Who Has Never Had a Phil Ivey

Last night's Uncle Bill twitter spaces, where TVG's Fanduel's Mike Joyce joined some raucous horseplayers was, well, kind of interesting. 

Background for the uninitiated - warm and cuddly Inside the Pylons, in his warm and cuddly ITP way has been hammering the programming in this sport we play on the twitter.  His ire has been focused on the way the sport publicly presents tickets for pick 4's, 5's and 6's, and his thought is that they do not teach players how to be better gamblers. 

Lots and lots of people in this industry don't like that, and I think that's understandable. Their craft is being attacked, along with their colleagues. 

To his credit, Mike Joyce decided to stand up for himself and joined the chat. 

Mike made his points, which focused around the fact that networks like Fanduel, or any in-house handicapper tends to pick horses first, and make tickets second. And the tickets they construct are constrained by small amounts so casual players can follow along. This, I think, is true and have heard and seen this for years. 

ITP's point, which we all know, is that the tickets are a problem because after you handicap a set of races the job is not done, it's just beginning. If the sport does not teach newbies good habits, or oldies to blow up their old ticket habits, the game is in more of a ruinous state. 

There wasn't exactly a meeting of the minds on that. And I don't think it's because people are stupid, or whatever pejorative we want to throw at it. It's because it's what we do in this gambling sport. 

In the 60's, 70's and 80's we knew the name Beyer and Quirin and Quinn and Ainslie and what did they all have in common? Picking a winner; even Beyer's (great) book was titled that. It's just what we do - try and find a winner. 

From that point, every pre-game show or blog piece or discussion on Fox Sports 1 involves that - scoping out a winner. And there are some who are great at it. The two Matts, Andy Serling, David Aragona and countless others do their jobs exceedingly well. 

But in this sport, that's where it ends. 

During the poker boom, and thereafter, it's the opposite. 

Turn on the TV, you'll see a host who knows everything about the sport - the players involved, styles of play etc. But beside him or her is Phil Ivey, who talks about the gambling side as a professional. This involves what he'd do in certain situations, when to gamble, be predictable or unpredictable, what the math says to do, and when to go against it. 

Who is racing's Phil Ivey? Who's been there to scope out how to play a pick five with EV, been there to show how to play a vertical where a favorite looks hot in the post parade, to make tickets that are mathematically sound; tickets that factor-in game theory, verticals that aren't pyramids?

Some may say it's not important, but I vehemently disagree. O_crunk on twitter recently said that retail players - the players Mike Joyce speaks to each day on TV - lose around 40% each year. 40%! The state lottery of Massachusetts dropped scratcher takeout to below 20% on tickets. When we tell people who yearn to play a game with a chance to win that they have a better chance at a lottery, we're dead. 

Ticket construction and good gambling won't save the game, but most of us believe it will make that 40% loser a better player. Giving them good handicapping skills and opinions that Fanduel and others do is half the battle; the other half needs to be joined. When it is finally joined (and I think some smart enterprise will go this way at some point), it's not only good for Mike Joyce and his colleagues, it's good for this glorious game. It can finally exploit its edge over other gambling games, because this sport has two sides of it that can attract two types of customers - the handicapper and the gambler. 

Have a nice Friday everyone. 

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