by Ray Wallin
Are you sabotaging your bankroll?
I bet you said “no.” I bet you said that emphatically, too!
Some of you may be winning at the races; some of you may be losing at the races. Some of you may even be making your living playing the races! Even if you are grinding out a profit, you could be doing better.
Time to ask yourself the following questions:
Are you doing too much?
When you sit down to handicap, are you scanning through four different tracks? Are you grabbing past performances for Lone Star Park just because you can? You are stretching yourself too thin. I’d rather know and understand a meet like my home track, Monmouth Park, than play Remington Park on a whim when I know nothing about how the track runs or who the horsemen are.
Do you spend time with people who cause you to change your betting style?
You are in the paddock looking at the horses. You know you have a play on the five in this race and it should be at nice odds, but you can’t figure out the exacta. Our friend Rail Guy strolls over and says, “You know you got to take da two and da three underneath him … dey can’t miss.”
Maybe Rail Guy is right. Maybe Rail Guy is wrong. Why deviate from your strategy because Rail Guy says to? Chasing wagers you don’t feel confident about is a surefire way to burn your bankroll.
Do you say “yes” to every race?
About a decade ago I was minding my own business in the non-smoking half of the Borgata racebook. Realizing that I already smelled like an ashtray, I couldn’t help but overhear the degenerate in the front of the section getting in another horseplayer’s face. “You ain’t nothing. You ain’t no great handicapper. You don’t even play every race.” Proud of himself, the degenerate turned, continued to mumble and headed up to the windows.
What is the need to play every race if you don’t feel confident about it? We aren’t playing the races with Monopoly money. You are not going to feel good about every race so play only what you like. Remember the 90% rule!
Do you waste time?
We are all guilty of this one. You sit down to handicap and figure you’ll get onto YouTube to catch some replays from Belmont to see how the track was handling. But wait, a new cat video is posted and 101 Soccer Fails is only going to steal six minutes of your life.
Those are six minutes you are not going to get back. Those are six minutes where you could have found a race worth playing tomorrow. Instead, you got to see more cat videos instead of padding your bankroll.
Do you worry about what other horseplayers around you think? Are you comparing yourself to others?
Size doesn’t matter. We’ve all heard that before. Depending on the size of your bankroll, size does matter. Looking back to my days on the second floor of the old Meadowlands grandstand, I can remember the nights when the Marine and the Schnoz would end up at a table with me. The Schnoz was a small bettor. On nights when the Marine would show up, that would change.
The Schnoz would play under $5 to win and $1 (or lower) exotics. When the Marine was there he’d say things like “If you like it you should bet the farm,” or “You’re never going to get rich with those bets.” The Schnoz would then up the ante on his bets a bit. Instead of a $5 win bet, he’d go to $10 or $20. He’d play $2 exotics and add combinations. A bad beat or two later he’d be done for the evening having blown through his allotted bankroll for the night before his seat was warm.
Don’t worry about what others think. Your money is your money, not theirs.
Do you bet over your head?
Everyone has a different money management approach. If you cap yourself at a max loss on a race card, do you know to stop once you have hit that point? Are you then running to the ATM to try to make it back on the next race?
If so, you are betting over your head. It may be a bigger problem if it is going beyond your horse-playing bankroll and impact the rest of your life and finances. If that is the case, seek help and call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Do you sweat every tough beat?
In sports and horse racing not everything goes your way every time. A couple weeks ago I was playing the Marlins who entered the ninth inning down by four on the road. I chalked it up to a loss. When I checked later I found out they battled back to tie the game and then won in extra innings.
I wish every handicapping story ended that well, but sometimes the Padres blow the lead in the ninth and you are left wondering how the bullpen could be that bad.
Whether your horse blows a four-length lead in the stretch or encounters trouble at every turn of the race, you are going to be on both the winning and losing end of these situations at some point. Appreciate when they go your way and let it go when they don’t. It will all balance out.
Do you constantly doubt your handicapping?
Young Jeezy sang the line “Scared money don’t make no money.” While this isn’t exactly my genre of music, he is right. If you don’t have confidence in your approach to handicapping how are you going to have confidence in the wagers you are placing? You’ll be forever saying “Coulda, woulda, shoulda” about every race. You’ll either pass on the race or play much smaller than you had intended.
Keep records of your handicapping. Gain confidence in what you know is working. Maximize your profits based on your strengths.
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about earlier races?
Do you know what Rail Guy’s favorite topic is during the post parade of the eighth race on the card? If you guessed that bad beat he had in the first you are correct. It was “dat dumb steward’s fault,” “dat one veered out into my six hoss,” or maybe “the sun was in da jock’s eyes.” Either way, he is still hung up on that race, seven races later.
Let it go. It is too big of a distraction for you to focus on the race at hand.
Do you think you know it all?
Do you consider yourself an expert on all things racing? When was the last time you picked up a book, checked in on a web forum, talked to a fellow horseplayer, or read an article (other than this one)?
Horse racing is an evolving game. Whether it is a track bias changing, new race conditions, or new sires having a huge impact, you won’t know if you continue handicapping in a vacuum. So, pick up a book, talk to Rail Guy, and check in on a forum like Paceadvantage, who knows, you may learn something.
If you answer yes to any of these questions, go back and ask yourself, what could I do differently? By making even one small change will help you to stop sabotaging your bankroll.
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at email@example.com.