By Ray Wallin
Just about 90% of people fail to reach their strategic goals. That is worse than the 80% of people that fail at their New Year’s resolutions.
Strategic goals are different though. They are based on research, planning, and reflection. Strategic goals are the long term vision and have quantifiable and qualitative results. If you are serious about becoming not only a winning handicapper, but a very profitable handicapper, you need to think strategically.
Recently a struggling handicapper reached out to me about how to make more money playing the ponies. I wish there was a simple answer to that. If there was, I wouldn’t be working my day job. Yet as we emailed back and forth it was clear that this gentleman had a solid handicapping foundation. He was winning, but not at the level he wanted.
While I could not give him the magic bullet to making endless profits in the track, I was able to leave him with a couple ideas to help him on his path to finding his own way to more profits. He knew what was working for him and was willing to look back at his betting history to see where his strengths were. Suddenly he had a plan and was ready to move forward.
But like those New Year’s resolutions, we don’t want to see him fail. Once you have figured out what the vision or end game looks like, you are ready to execute. If you follow a few simple tips, you will be one of the few to reach your strategic handicapping goals.
If you have ever hung around the track enough, you have heard some real “pie in the sky” schemes and ideas. Our good friend Rail Guy at Monmouth Park is notorious for having those types of epiphanies after a race ends. “Dat hoss dat won was fourth off da layoff for a new barn, I think this angle is a winner. I’m gonna track it.”
If I had a nickel for every time Rail Guy had a brilliant idea to track or new figure he was going to create I would be retired by now. Instead, his hundreds of great ideas die on the vine. They vanish from his mind as quick as they come to him. I’m not saying that every idea of his is going to be a winner.
I have had the same magical moments that lead me down a path of tracking and dissecting various figures and spot plays. I have notebooks full of ideas I have been meaning to try out and track, but only a few make it to the trial phase. I wish I could say I have had a lot of success, but I haven’t. Some ideas fizzle out quickly, some die a slow death, but there are the rare few that become powerful plays in my handicapping arsenal.
“I have not failed 10,000 times – I’ve successful found 10,000 ways that will not work.” – Thomas Edison
As you start to execute your strategy of winning more at the track, you need to understand the effort you are about to undertake. Make a plan that is doable, and you can incorporate into your normal day without making it feel like a chore. You need to set reasonable expectations. You may not be successful and will need to establish a cadence to either continue the effort or let it go if the results are not positive.
Now you have a vision of what you want to achieve. You have committed to putting in the effort and have set reasonable expectations for what you plan to do. That is all well and good, but you need to now make sure your handicapping and research is aligned to the strategy you have established.
Now you need to hold yourself accountable. You need to make sure that you that you have only positive influences and support in place to work towards your strategy. I’m not talking about a personal cheerleader, although that would help. Instead, it is having the right spreadsheet set up for tracking what you need or the right consistent source of data or information. Having these in place supports your effort and makes it easy to control and maintain.
By finding a way to make working on your strategy seamless to your daily handicapping you will continue to stay committed to achieving the end result.
You have established your strategy. You are committed to it. You are aligned with what you are set to accomplish. That is all great, but you need to talk to yourself. I am not suggesting that you are like Crazy Larry who talks to himself at the track and can hold an entire conversation about bar shoes, but rather taking the time periodically to review the progress you are making. Take a look at what your early data tells you or look back at your notes to see what knowledge you have gained through working towards your strategy.
Be specific about where you see this information taking you. Is it driving towards your strategy or away from it? Don’t be afraid to evolve the strategy as needed based on what you are seeing in real time. There is no reason to try to shove that square peg in the round hole.
This tip almost goes without saying. You need to track performance and constantly check in on it to see what direction the data and results are going.
Identify early what the metrics you want to achieve. Establish thresholds of what defines success. Is it a certain win percentage or a target ROI? Is there consistency to the results? Will it hold up over the long term?
By measuring and monitoring your performance you will know if you are on the right path of if you need to rethink your path forward.
Going back to our friend Rail Guy’s long list of forgotten ideas, there is no way you can possibly track every idea that comes into your head. If you try to do too much at once, like people with their New Year’s resolutions you will become overwhelmed and quit. Only take on what you know you can handle, even if it means you have to defer a couple of ideas to a later time.
Innovation is essential to finding a new edge in the game, but don’t let it derail your strategy.
By following a few tips to execute your strategic handicapping plan you will find sustained success in the long term. You will step up your handicapping game and get closer to your dream of making your living playing the races.
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.