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Track Tracts

Expert Advice
by Gordon Pine

Handicappers, contrary to popular belief, are not usually secretive about their methods. Most are willing to share � if not about specific bets, then in generalities regarding their procedures. My biggest advances in handicapping have usually come when I listened and learned something from one of my customers or friends. For instance, my proficiency with a handicapping program I designed is much higher due to instruction I've received from users who had worked out their own profitable methods of using the program.

One of the underpinnings of NetCapper is the idea that we learn more when we share our knowledge. Since we�re dealing with a parimutuel system, I don�t mean that every technique and play should be made public. As handicapping god Dean McMillan points out, losing your private edge is a legitimate concern. But if we share what we�re comfortable sharing, I think Mark Cramer is right, that we�ll get back more in handicapping knowledge than we give.

James Quinn and others say that one of the problems with racing today is the ignorance of the racing public, that if more horseplayers knew more about handicapping, it would help the game. It sounds good, but I don't think it's really true.  Sixty years ago, racing was at its peak of popularity, and the general public was incredibly ignorant of many handicapping basics.  Also, the more informed the general public is, the harder it is for the best players to make a profit. Thus, my semi-cynical goal is to help educate and empower a certain handicapping elite who will then fleece the unwashed masses. (A complementary goal might be to stupefy the general public with a clever misinformation scheme, like putting forth the idea that weight really is the most important handicapping factor � I�m open to ideas.) Lack of initiative and interest on the majority�s part will always keep capable handicappers and bettors a minority � I want to help this minority learn and earn money at this game. In the meantime, I expect to learn and earn more myself. And we can have fun taking the other 97%�s money.

I like to talk about the whys, the hidden logic of handicapping, but The Grandstand message board is strewn with pearls of wisdom from excellent handicappers. Here are some of them:

What it takes to win:

� "If [there] is one thing I learned from the Grandstand, it�s that �luck� plays a major factor despite one�s skills. This game is not as complicated as others want it to be. The same major handicapping factors still present themselves everyday. They just are expressed differently with the use of computers. What really counts is coming up with a game plan, testing it, correcting your mistakes, and keeping accurate records." Jim Mahon

Taking advantage of a bad morning line:

� "One way to take �advantage� of a bad morning line is to key the animal in a Pick3. I've cashed a lot of value tickets this way; I think that a lot of the crowd use the morning line to choose fillers in the late races of a Pick3. A horse lined at 8-1 that you know should be 2-1 or 5-2 usually will be. But they do have value in the exotics." mikekk

The need for lower takeouts:

� "...even a reasonable takeout level, perhaps 12% WPS and 15% two-horse exotics would literally open the floodgates to recreational handicappers (like yours truly) and afford them positive cashflow to their bankrolls. Just enough to contemplate full-time handicapping for profit. This is the BEST selling point the game has to offer. Racetracks making it easier for people to win $$." NJ Norm

The importance of luck in the short run:

� "I am not trying to be glib when I say �I got lucky.� I think there is more luck in this game than we generally give it credit for. I had two losing streaks of 43 races and 41 races in a row back within a three week period in February. Tapped my ESB account out. Ouch! Now while I have changed and THINK I have improved my spot plays since then, �you never know, you just never know.... And for example, I went 0-5 with posted picks here yesterday. Could be the start of another losing streak, yet two of the horses at 19-1 and 22-1 finished second. So my plays weren't bad, yet I get the collar.  One day/month LADY LUCK visits, another day/month she doesn't. Sometimes making more complicated than that can get us into trouble too." Sql Squirrel

Profitable spot plays:

� "Thanks guys. EVERYONE appreciates acknowledgement. But they are just mechanical spot plays using HTR/HDW factors ( that happened to get lucky. The spot plays as I recall basically looked for early speed/poor finish/High MLO/and especially for bad final time (to throw the Rag's off the scent, they are my �competition� hehe). Sql Squirrel

Turf course biases:

� "I like to play turf races at courses with a known �track bias.� Currently, at Del, in only three days of racing on the green, pace horses have won four out of five with no wire jobs (within 2L of lead qualifies). Thus, in constructing trifecta wagers or pick 3, etc. speed is a throw-out on top and is only used underneath. Of note to those currently playing the tough CD meet, speed is currently �king� in all CD turf races on Wednesday and Thursday when the temporary hedge is in use. For example, front-end speed won both turf races at that track on June 6." Horsemaven

Constructing trifectas:

� "I had decent success boxing one longshot with 5 other horses in 10-12 horse fields (50 combinations) of relatively cheap horses. I probably could have whittled it down to 32. I took the whole tri pool in the last race at Evangeline Downs one night doing that (only about 8K back then). I don't do it much anymore - my plays like that are in pick 3s - but that's a mistake on my part. I did better with tris; I should return to them, but I have a weakness for pick 3s that I need to get over, as, theoretical overlays or not, they are an overrated bet (but a fun one)... Clarification: I mean that I would box my overlay AROUND 5 horses. i.e. if I liked #1 as my overlay and selected horses 2-6 as the other horses I liked, I would play 1/2-6/2-6; 2-6/1/2-6; and 2-6/2-6/1. In the play at Evangeline Downs, my selected overlay hung on for third by a nose. Of course, last night at Penn National, my last race $400 exacta missed by a head - com ci, com ca." PV

� "Trifecta betting has been my specialty for several years. I like large fields (nine horses or more) and vulnerable favorites. I rarely box (one of the worst bets in racing) for the obvious reason: not every horse has an equal chance of hitting the board. I usually bet about $40-50 per race in $1 combinations. I place one key horse on top of five or six ($20-30). I will also use my �key� and one other with 5-6 others in the second and third slots. Occasionally, I will wheel. Thus, if my key horse wins and the other finishes second or third, I can hit the trifecta for $2. If the other �key� wins, I can still have the tri for $1. If the other �key� runs out, I can still have the tri since I've used multiple horses underneath. Typically, neither of my keys is the favorite and I'm hoping the chalk will be off-the-board." Horsemaven

� "What I would do is make the win bet-box the exacta for $5 with the 2 horses I fear the most and play $1 triples with the horse I fear most on top with all for 2nd and my pick for 3rd.Then I'd play my pick on top with all for 2nd and my 2nd choice for 3rd-This way if I'm right I crush the race... If I'm right about the race I want to score." Aaron

� "I'd rather use the legitimate faves in top TWO spots with [my horse] running 3rd, and cut my costs by narrowing down the place horses ala: favorite / 5 horses / [my horse] ($5) and 5 horses / favorite / [my horse] ($5) ...I'm trying to master this difficult wager (finally) and it all comes down to... is how one sees the race and formulates a wager to express those opinions." NJ Norm

Bankroll management:

� "Whether you call it a saver or not, I'd say it would be prudent to have a separate bankroll for each POOL. Of course not too many players would be willing to go to the trouble, but a layover in the win pool would have to be treated with a different betting amount as opposed to the exotics. Rare is the player who's integrated Win wagering with the exotics. This rare breed of a money manager is worthy of utmost praise. While I can exercise this �integration� of wagering pools, and learn from my mistakes, I'm not quite there yet, I hope to know more from my records over the summer." NJ Norm

Infoglut and maiden handicapping:

� "I am thoroughly convinced that in the age of information these days, maiden races, especially first time starters, are one of the last strongholds for value available to handicappers willing to take the time and effort necessary to compile the necessary data. The fact that the age of information makes commercial data readily available virtually guarantees a large degree of reluctance on the part of handicappers to gather and explore the data necessary to break through on their own. First time starters have their best chances in fields where the experienced competition is weak, i.e., maiden claiming races. Yet most racing �experts� declare that [these] horses entered in maiden claiming races are automatic throw outs. Favorites in these types of races are usually severely overbet, affording great value to first time starters a handicapper has a strong opinion on based on the strength of his/her data and its interpretation." RB

Computer handicapping:

� "The software I use searches all the races in North America and lists only those with a 50% plus chance of winning. So far three profitable fifty percent queries were uncovered by the SQL generator (uses genetic programming to randomly generate power rating for use in an odds line). The line is evaluated against a database and those lines (composed of randomly generated power ratings) with a 50% win rate and a 10% edge are saved queries. Just an automated way of generating software that I picked up from Behavior-Based Robotics by Ron Arkin and Intelligent Data Analysis by Berthold and Hand. I'm lazy guy who doesn't want do hundred of database queries the older way. Best just to generate them randomly somewhat like generating lottery numbers and then evaluate them against a criteria. The product of impact values turned into an odds line. The factors that are collinear tend to over estimate the chances of winning but some products tend to under estimate the chances of winning. In the randomly generated power rating I limited the queries to a maximum of six factors from a pool of 49 (standards like speed, pace, class and sartin style stuff and mostly those borrowed from various readings). The rating is called a 649 (named after the 649 lottery in Canada that is composed of 6 numbers from 0 to 49). I do however reject computer picks based on what I consider fatal flaws, this seem increase the win percentage. It is my belief that computer programs will become so strong that no human will be able to compete with them in the handicapping realm if the humans use just PP's. I can certainly imagine a computer phoning in a bet on an automated account after comparing odds to a internet tote board. Downloading PP's , generating plays, comparing odds and phoning in the bet all while you are at work or elsewhere. Profitable but not much fun." Dan Mowers

Trainer patterns vs. trainer stats:

� "I have no gripes with the type of numbers WJB and others use. These are two different approaches to trainer handicapping. Those are Trainer STATISTICS. My main approach is Trainer PATTERNS. This is where the STATISTICS guys fall off the mark. They base their wagering decisions upon ROI and Win figures...but often FAIL TO GRASP the particular subset(s) that could throw profits." NJ Norm

Playing it close to the vest, a Contrarian viewpoint:

� "What I don't understand is why Norm would choose to publicize the move. ...Even to blunt the argumentative force of our longtime HorseTalker, GrandStand regular and contrarian, WJB (along with Bill's withering blast of statistics in re the training habits of one David Hoffmans). :-D A serious horseplayer who's detected a trainer pattern with gargantuan longshot potential -- no less than the full timer who must live by his wits (and whose �research� is such as to lead him to intercept & join-in a small stable's well orchestrated betting coup -- has NO BUSINESS trumpeting his secrets in a public forum. Profitable trainer patterns, be they the fleeting momentary wisps whose very existence may be suspect or the more enduring things of beauty a paid statistician can love, are like poker Tells. They should be played Close To The Vest. It's no good tipping your mitt in a game as tough as this, where stolen signals can mean the difference between worthwhile profit and ignominious loss (..the mission statements of learned men and gifted teachers like Mark Cramer, Dick Mitchell, and Gordon Pine notwithstanding). And so my best advice is to belabor the obvious: Be not ashamed. If you think you might be on the cusp of quaking payday, tell no one! Suppress the temptation to share and your joy will be magnified. Tether ye sharpest insights; telegraph neither punch nor pitch. Absorb your windfalls quietly and you'll be the richer for it. Loose Lips Sink Ships. ...Other suasive slogans leap to mind, but enough!" Dean McMillan

This is just a random sampling of worthwhile handicapping advice. If your sagacity didn�t make the cut, don�t take it personally. I just grabbed a handful of pearls � there�s plenty more out there in The Grandstand. NC

Copyright �2001 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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