Saturday, July 17, 2010

Choosing What's Most Important

That's your charge - handicapper, gambler whatever you may call yourself - deciding what of the many, many pieces of information available is the most important in making your betting decisions. And that's just for one race! Playing multi-race wagers or deep exotics takes a replication of excellent effort several times over. It's no wonder the very best of us hit between 20 and 33 percent of the time. Maybe you'll get hot and just "see" the races for a limited time with multiple big ticket hits, but this will be followed by longer, colder streaks.

With so much numerical data packed into past performances, whether they hail from, Brisnet, Equibase or where ever, there is more than enough information to keep a handicapper busy for hours on end. The keys are to limit what information you'll use to determine winning wagers and what information you'll disregard. Knowing everything simply makes placing winning wagers more difficult.

If the above statement sounds counterintuitive consider this excerpt from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable:
"Show two groups of people a blurry image of a fire hydrant, blurry enough for them not to recognize what it is. For one group, increase the resolution slowly, in ten steps. For the second, do it faster, in five steps. Stop a point where both groups have been presented an identical image and ask each of them to identify what they see. The members of the group that saw fewer intermediate steps are likely to recognize the hydrant much faster. Moral? The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will formulate along the way, and the worse off they will be. They see more random noise and mistake it for information."

Sound familiar? What really do you need to know about a race to determine a winning wager?
  • Some pace information - who will take the lead? will she have company? does the pace scenario favor your pick or will he have to work against it?
  • Some rider/trainer stats - you can't dismiss a trainer that wins 33% with first time claimers, 28% off a long layoff or a jockey that moves a horse up on the turf. (An aside: great and well-know jockeys bring horse odds down, but don't necessarily get them to the winner's circle.)
  • Limited breeding info - does she have winning siblings on the turf? can he get 10 furlongs? does the sire have a high percentage of first-time winners?
  • Track bias if any exist - for instance hardly any horse held the lead at Monmouth yesterday (July 16) discounting all front-runners, period!
  • How much are you willing to bet?
Beyond this you must develop a system, you are comfortable with. Some may use speed numbers of some kind exclusively, track bias or some developed power rankings based upon their own inputed data. Does this make anyone a consistent winner? Hardly.

Check out the horse wagering pick websites and they'll give you up to four possible picks per race, then use those four picks to show you how much you could have won - if you somehow managed top put their four picks per race into a winning Pick 3, Pick 6 or even exacta tickets. It's bull...throw enough on the wall and see what sticks and then tout your winning shit! A simple Pick 4 using four picks per race is a $256 ticket for every buck.

Pick what's important, toss what's unnecessary, choose wisely and put yourself in a position to get lucky!


  1. Tony,
    Well put! You made some great points and btw, I've been meaning to read "The Black Swan" for some time now.

    I seem to do my best handicapping when keeping it simple and not trying to over-analyze a race. Sometimes I'll get so mired in data that i can't see the big picture. In those times, I take a step back and focus on the fundamental elements of the race you identified above. There's always more data, but knowing the difference between useful and distracting information is key.

  2. Steve,
    Appreciate you stopping by...sorry you missed the pick 5 by one - turf sprints are tough period, no matter the horse's age.

  3. Tony,

    Good stuff. I've already pared down my game. I am trying to use what I think is novel information to give me my edge.

    I've gone back to paper wagering on horizontal wagers, picking spots to wager on DD's, Pick 3's, and Pick 4's. Fortunately for the theory but unfortunately for the bankroll, I hit the Summit of Speed Pick 4.

    I used an $8 ticket to win back in '05 when ROCK HARD TEN finished his career with a Goodwood H. win. I was hooked...hit a few more times since. Now the wager is no longer offered. C'est la vie.