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.