Busting Out Of a Slump

(Photo via https://talktohistory.wordpress.com.)

(Photo via https://talktohistory.wordpress.com.)

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. There are those days that no matter how well you think you have handicapped the races, you can’t win to save your life. Some people will deny that they are in a slump and just call it a bad case of “seconditis” or, as Yogi Berra once uttered, “Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.”

Even Andy Beyer talks about this in the opening paragraph of the first chapter of his classic book “Picking Winners.”

“Even a winner will necessarily experience more frustrations than triumphs, and when the frustrations come in rapid succession he may wonder if the struggle is worth it,” Beyer wrote.

Whatever you want to call it, we have all been there at one time or another.  So how do you weather the storm with your confidence intact?

Take a Break

Just like the horrible slice in my golf game, sometimes when I can’t win, it is time to just take a break from the game and erase the “muscle memory” of whatever it is I am doing wrong. By taking a break of a week or two I find that I forget what it is that I was doing wrong when I get back to handicapping with a renewed interest.

Make and Follow a Checklist

I do well with lists and organization. In the course of my normal handicapping I look for upwards of 40 different spot-play angles on top of my normal pace analysis. Sometimes I get complacent and forget to check for everything I should be looking for. Making a checklist of what to look for will keep you on track with what you know works and you won’t miss a strong spot play.

Read or Re-Read a Handicapping Book

Was there a handicapping book that helped shape the way you approach the races?  As I discussed in in a previous article, Tom Ainslie was an early influence back in the 1990s and I often refer to his book when I am looking for some inspiration. Books that influenced my approach to pace analysis are also on my list of books to revisit when I am in a funk – “Handicapping Magic” by Michael Pizzolla, “Modern Pace Handicapping” by Tom Brohamer and “Extreme Pace Handicapping” by Randy Giles. By revisiting a book that inspired you, you may remind yourself of a factor that you have started overlooking or have been looking at incorrectly.

Play On Paper Only

When things aren’t working it costs you money. If you are not the kind of person that can’t miss a week of your favorite meet, like me over the summer with Monmouth Park and Woodbine, sometimes the best thing to do is play the races on paper until you figure out what wasn’t working or you get hot again.

Look at the Charts For Your Meet

Maybe you have tried playing on paper or taking a break — to no avail. What else can you do?  Start looking at the recent charts for your favorite meet. Perhaps you were beat by chance or had disqualifications or troubled trips eat away at your bankroll. Has the track bias been running different than normal? Perusing the charts can point out when the normal bias does not have the normal impact.

Regardless of how you need to beat the slump, you’ll get back in the right mindset or the short lived bias at your local circuit will correct itself. Then you’ll be uttering Yhprum’s Law: “Anything that can go right, will go right.”

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of US Racing.

Ray Wallin
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 ray.wallin@live.com.

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