By Jonathan Stettin
There are many ways to beat oneself in horse racing. Avoiding some of the obvious ones will improve anyone’s game, from the novice to the professional. In short, not being prepared, focusing on too many racetracks and races at once and not knowing how to bet are some of the blatant ways one can beat themselves in this greatest of all skill games, the Sport of Kings — thoroughbred horse racing.
Today, I’ll talk about what I think has become a common mistake and costs horseplayers’ money at every level. It seems almost every ADW (advance deposit wagering) company, television analyst, public handicapper and just about anyone else in the game willing to share their opinion — either free or paid — wants to steer bettors to pick-4s, pick-5s or even pick-3s.
First off, let me say that there is nothing wrong with this and that is not where the problem lies. I play these bets myself and they can be great wagers and offer excellent value at times.
The problem is that when most players get involved in these multi-race wagers, they tend to forget about other wagers and opportunities.
This is a mistake.
One of the most frustrating feelings after a tough day at the office (racetrack or ADW) is having a multitude of winners in multi-race wagers, but not cashing a ticket. It just takes one loss to kill most multi-race bets, so one can have a fair amount of winners and not cash anything. When some of those winners pay $20, $30 or, perhaps, even $40, it can make for an aggravating day — and one that, with some smart and savvy wagering, could have been avoided.
It seems almost instinctive to sit races out while one is alive in, say, a pick-4. While I am in favor of picking one’s spots and never oppose sitting out a bad race or a race that one doesn’t have a strong opinion in, do these races really fit the bill?
The answer should be “no.” If one doesn’t like a particular race, the why make any wagers at all?
If you have a good opinion in at least some of the races in a multi-race sequence, then my suggestion is to try to capitalize on them individually. Don’t waste winners and let them be lost in multi-race bets. What’s wrong with going after some exactas, trifectas and superfectas while you are alive in a multi-race play?
The superfecta is a ten-cent minimum bet at most tracks, so most players can definitely afford to add some of these wagers to their betting strategy. For a dime, one can spread out in some slots and buy enough coverage to have some deep longshots.
Exactas, while usually a $1 minimum, only involve two horses. Of course, one can add more for additional cost, but at $1 it’s relatively painless to get involved. I can’t tell you how many times I missed a pick-4 only to have a winning day, sometimes a big one, because I took one of my key price horses and bet it alone.
Remember: don’t beat yourself. There are a lot of opportunities during a day playing the horses, and you have to scope them out like a shark in the water. Don’t leave money on the table, just to be gobbled up by someone not content to sit back and hope the multi-race play hits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings, as he practically grew up at the racetrack. His mother, affectionately known as “Ginger,” was in the stands at Belmont Park the day before he was born as his father, Joe, worked behind the windows as a pari-mutuel clerk.
As a toddler, Jonathan cheered for and followed horses and jockeys, knowing many of the names and bloodlines by the time he was in first grade. Morning coffee in his household was always accompanied by the Daily Racing Form or Morning Telegraph.
At the age of 16, Jonathan dropped out of school and has pretty much been at the races full-time ever since. Of course, he had some of the usual childhood racetrack jobs growing up — mucking stalls, walking hots and rubbing horses. He even enjoyed brief stints as a jockey agent and a mutuel clerk (like his dad).
His best day at the track came on August 10, 1994 at Saratoga, when he hit the pick-6 paying $540,367.
Jonathan continues to be an active and successful player. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanstettin or visit his Web site at www.pastthewire.com.