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. 

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