The Right Spot


To make it as a professional handicapper in today’s times one must be adaptable. There have been changes in the game that have affected how we approach it. I think some of these changes have decreased the already small percentage of players who do actually beat the game. Today, we’ll talk about one of these changes and how I think it’s best to deal with it so that it doesn’t make it more difficult to win than it already is.

Many of you will not adhere to this advice for primarily three reasons:

  • You don’t believe it.
  • I it goes against the natural impulses inherent to many gamblers.
  • You lack the discipline.

Regardless of which of the three reasons it may be (or if you have another one altogether), if you are not following the advice to come, then I’d be willing to bet you are not beating the game. For me, that is the ultimate goal and the only benchmark which determines whether you are good or not.

Redboarding, posting winning tickets and plays and self-promoting posts mean very little in determining whether you are any good. Neither does your opinion of your own skill level. At the end of the day, there is just one criterion: Do you beat the game?

Years ago it was easier to beat the Sport of Kings. There are many reasons for this and each of them could be the subject of an article, or, perhaps, discussed briefly collectively. Today, however, we’ll deal with just one of the reasons — perhaps the easiest to overcome with some self-discipline.

There was a time when you walked into the racetrack to play the races and you were limited to betting the races at your local track. There was no simulcasting or options for wagering at other tracks. There was no online wagering, no cell phones — they even locked the pay phones once the races started.

You were pretty much confined to your home track. Simulcasting and the options that it, along with online betting (Youbet is the first ADW I remember), brought were welcome additions and changes to the game. Nobody was really thinking about the effects on daily attendance at the time; we were growing with technology. Bettors had more options and, on the surface, this was good.

The options are still good — very good, actually (the more, the better, in my opinion). The bad part is the distractions and “chasing” they can cause. Chasing is when you bet more tracks and races then you normally would due, usually, to compulsions or in an attempt to recoup lost money from earlier in the day. Both reasons are bad and I’d suggest the battle slogan: “Live to fight another day” (easier said than done for sure).

Patience and self-control is a prerequisite to beating this, the greatest skill gambling game in the world, the Sport of Kings. If you don’t have both you are not going to win long term. It’s that simple.

So, with all these choices of tracks, races, and wagers, how does one decide how and where to wager their money? Obviously, this decision will greatly impact your level of success and your return on investment (ROI).

Of course, you should look at things like field sizes, takeout and quality of competition — all issues that affect value, which is also something you should be considering. Big field sizes lead to bigger pools, more options, and, thus, larger payouts. Lower takeouts leave more money in the pool for the winners (hopefully that’s you) to split. Better competition, at least at times, decreases field sizes, but I think compensates for that by running truer to form, on the average.

I believe, however (and it has certainly been this way for me), that you need to focus your attention on one or possibly two meets where you are in “the zone.” You can’t follow every meet and handicap fifty races a day. Nobody can.

Focus on where you are comfortable, up to date, and in the zone. Follow the results even on days you may not be betting to stay in the game, so to speak. Know who’s hot, who’s not and who’s due for a turnaround. Try not to be distracted by all the monitors and tracks running simultaneously and, of equal importance, try not to chase.


Don’t try and follow and bet every meet and every race. Make the right choice of when and where to invest and stick to it. You’ll increase your odds of winding up in that small percentage of players that are beating the game.

Jonathan Stettin
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

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