By Ray Wallin
You are a good handicapper. In fact, you are a great handicapper. Yet you still don’t make any money at the track.
You need a nudge.
I’m not talking about the old Monty Python skit “Nudge Nudge”. I am talking about something like a call to action.
When I was a little boy my mom took me to the pool. She was determined to have me learn to swim that summer. I was scared of going in the water that was over my head. She tried every trick in the book. She threw coins in the pool hoping I would jump in to get them. She tried bribery by offering me new toys if I got in the water and held my breath under water for 10 seconds. My sister would swim by to show me that it was safe and that if she could do it, so could I. A couple of weeks of me sitting on the side of the pool with my feet in the water or wading in the ankle-deep kiddie pool went by with no results.
My dad wasn’t a very patient person. I knew when he came to the pool the day was going to be different. It started off the same with the usual coin toss and pleading for me to get in the pool with the promise of a new Matchbox car. It was then that my dad got up from the chair and came to the side of the pool where I was sitting.
He gave me my nudge.
He picked me up by my arms and flung me into the pool. Immediately, I was kicking my legs and moving my arms to try to get back the safety of the side of the pool. When I did make it back to safety, he looked at me, my mom, and my sister and said, “I told you he could swim,” and walked back to his chair.
I’m not suggesting that we toss you in the infield pond at Monmouth Park, but you need someone to give you a nudge at that track.
In my 30 plus years of handicapping and betting I have heard a million excuses and reasons why someone can’t take the next step towards being profitable. Here are a few of them and how to get a nudge past that thinking.
I hear this excuse a lot and not just about handicapping. People say they are going to wait until they are ready to have kids. They want to have finances in place, a bigger house, and be in a desirable school district. If you wait until every condition is perfect, you’ll never have kids. The same holds true for handicapping.
I always encourage readers to pursue new ideas and angles. Playing them on paper for a little while is a great way to hone your skills and see if the angle or method works. Yet, when you have real money on a race you are more likely to make different decisions than when you are playing with Monopoly money.
Just like the couple waiting for the planets to align to start a family, you will need to “put your money where your mouth is” to see how you do. Play small. Play the minimum wagers. You’ll find that you learn a lot more a lot quicker when you have a few bucks on the line.
A day at the races is overwhelming for a new player. There is a lot of action and a lot of distractions. Those 20 minutes between races feel like five.
Simplify your day at the track.
Start off with having a routine. It can be as simple as watching the horses in the paddock, walking back to your spot, and heading to the windows at five minutes to post. Lather, rinse, repeat. Having a routine at the track will take the time crunch element out of play.
Are the types of wagers and figuring out how many combinations you are trying to play too overwhelming? Plan to play wagers that you understand only. Stick to win bets, exactas, or daily doubles at first until you are more comfortable with how the other wagers are structured.
If handicapping was easy, everyone would do it. It isn’t easy. That is why so many people lost money at the track every year. If you want to win, you need to find an edge over your fellow handicappers.
Thirty plus years ago my Uncle Dutch had a beat up notebook he carried with him that had his own trainer and jockey stats for the Monmouth Park meet well before they became commonplace in the past performances we all use today. I have two handicapping friends that are religious in taking trip notes from race replays the evening after live racing is over at Gulfstream Park so they can tell more about a horse’s potential than the abbreviated comments line we see with each running line.
Whether it is horseman stats, trip notes, or some other factor that you figure out that isn’t public, you won’t have an edge over Rail Guy unless you put in the time.
This is the first cousin of “it’s too much work.” You would have the time to do the work if you made some priorities in your life. The average person spends just under two-and-a-half hours a day on social media. That is two-and-half-hours of time that you could spend honing your handicapping skills or reading a handicapping book for inspiration. Instead, you are liking your high school friend’s cat videos and taking a test to see what kind of potato you are.
This is the grand finale of excuses.
We all fail. No greatness ever occurred right off the bat. There was always failure first. Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 different materials trying to find a filament for his light bulb. Did he give up after the first failure? No. He learned from that failure and applied what he learned to the next material he tried.
Your handicapping is no different. You are going to fail. Not every contender you pick or bet you place will be a winner. Some races will be lost by no fault of your handicapping and others will be won the same way. You will need to learn from your failures so the next time you see that one-dimensional front runner you will be able to tell if he has enough endurance to last on the lead or if he is a habitual quitter.
Everyone that I know that makes a living playing the races needed a nudge at some point. For some it was the confidence they needed to apply what they knew at the track. For others it was to focus harder on their skills so they would stop making the same mistakes over and over. Regardless, consider this your nudge to put your handicapping skills to use and make some folding money this year.
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.