by Ray Wallin
Are you a good handicapper? Are you a great handicapper?
Maybe you are, but if you can’t manage your bankroll you’ll never make a dime off your picks, let alone make a living playing the races.
It is the downfall of many great handicappers who have winning systems and approaches. Sometimes, you don’t make the smartest decisions.
When I used to grace the grandstand at Monmouth Park, I was friendly with a local guy we called “The Trader”. Ryan had a variety of licenses and had dabbled in the stock market, but could be found every summer afternoon by the rail at Monmouth. He had been an exercise rider, on and off, and knew firsthand some of the quirks of the local horses from his early dawn rides.
Despite knowing some of these horses well, The Trader couldn’t capitalize on it. He was always trying a new system that he guaranteed was going to be profitable that day. After all, that new angle hit three times on Thursday, so it was going to be huge today!
That was rarely the case. Week after week, he kept throwing good money after bad.
Remedy: Just because something shows a short-term return, doesn’t mean that it holds up in the long-term or that there aren’t other factors which may negatively impact the results. If your new angle or system is untested, play it on paper until you are comfortable with how it performs — and understand how and when to use this information.
We’ve all been there. You know you nailed the pace scenario of the race. You have a single contender that is the lone strong early speed. He has a huge class advantage given the way the conditions are written for this race. You have crafted every ticket imaginable around this horse. Even at short odds, this one will make your day when he wins. This is why you are at the track today.
He’ll make your day alright… until he doesn’t! That pesky presser nipped him at the wire by a nose! How could this be?
Alright, so you wonder how you will salvage the day and get back in the black after putting so much money on this one horse. You look at the rest of the card and figure you can take a shot with some of the other races you had multiple contenders in and you should be fine. You even up your bets a bit to try to maximize the returns.
Next thing you know you lost twice or three times as much as you would have if you had walked away after the tough beat. Both your ego and your bankroll leave the track bruised and beaten.
Remedy: Even when your handicapping is solid, there are going to be days you can’t win. Stick to your plan. Determine a money management system that works for you and stick with it. Remember the 90 percent rule: Unless you are 90 percent confident in playing a race, don’t play it!
Who doesn’t love going to the track with a group of friends? Who doesn’t love sitting on the grandstand apron at Monmouth Park on a beautiful summer day enjoying a nice craft beer?
However, you know how this story goes. You did your handicapping and either your buddies start giving you confidence about your lesser plays or you get your beer goggles on. Next thing you know you are playing horses that you were not that confident in or your judgement is impaired after that second IPA and your bankroll starts taking a hit.
Remedy: There is no need to be business all the time, but do your homework the night before and stick to your plan when you are at the track. Don’t let your beer goggles destroy your bankroll.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”? Well, the same holds true for horse racing.
Very rarely do I have a race that has one contender. When I do, I craft my tickets around that lone horse in exotic wagers. More often than not, I will have multiple contenders in a race that I am confident in. I may have one contender that I feel stronger about than the others, but I often have two or three horses I like in a race. When I play vertical wagers or multi-race wagers, I use multiple horses per race as long as the odds aren’t too short.
Remedy: Learn from your losses. Don’t be afraid to use all your contenders in a wager if the dollars make sense.
Without a bankroll it doesn’t matter if you are a great of a handicapper. By avoiding the common bankroll destroyers, you will be able to not only continue to play the races but be able to grow 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.