How Nick Saban Can Help You Be a Better Handicapper

Nick Saban

Nick Saban – Photo Courtesy of University of Alabama (

Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. His ability to recruit and his brilliant football mind have brought tremendous success to the University of Alabama’s football program. Yet, it is his approach, or process, that is what can help you elevate your handicapping and even help you to start making a living playing the races!

“Becoming a champion is not an easy process. It is done by focusing on what it takes to get there and not on getting there.” – Nick Saban

Focus All of Your Energy in the Present Moment

Worrying about the past and thinking too far ahead only distract you from what is happening right now which will only cause you to miss something!

Remember that Everything Matters

I play a lot of horizontal wagers — Daily Doubles, Pick 3’s, and Pick 4’s. Often I will find a leg of a Pick 4 that I love, and two I feel good about. That usually leaves me with one race that I may have passed over in my initial triage of the races, the dreaded full field of first-time starters!

I could hit the “All” button, but that would make the wager more expensive than I am willing to go given my bankroll and the odds of the contenders I have in the legs of the wager. I could handicap the race in depth, looking at trainers and pedigree, or I could take the top few horses based on odds and save myself a ton of time.

You know how this story ends, right?

When you take shortcuts in anything, they come back to bite you later!

You have money on the line. Everything you do matters. You have to pay attention to details and do your thorough analysis if you are going to put your hard earned money on the line. Nick Saban says that every choice and every decision we make is what defines a champion. Every decision and every choice you make at the track is what defines a winning or losing horseplayer.

Eliminate Distractions and Outside Noise

Nothing is worse than sitting down to handicap and finding yourself watching cat videos on YouTube. Maybe you had a rough day at work and decided to have a drink or two or three on the way home from work. Maybe you have been up since 4 a.m. and finally sit down to handicap at 10 p.m. Perhaps your mind is on that big project at work that you are falling behind on.

You are setting yourself up for disaster by handicapping when you are not paying full attention to what you’re doing. When your mind is fatigued, impaired, or thinking of something else, your handicapping and judgment will suffer. Know when you are not in a good place to handicap and pass on that race card. Other times you need to turn the computer off when handicapping so you don’t get hung up trying to win an argument on social media or watching silly cat videos!

Relinquish You Attachment to Outcomes

You want to win. To be successful and profitable, you need to win. Yet you need to detach yourself from the desired outcome. This is the only way to maximize your potential and overcome the setbacks that you will encounter.

Face it, you will run into a day where nothing works. You won’t be able to predict the pace of a single race and will be left scratching your head as to why you did so poorly.

You need to keep working and honing your approach. Learn from both your successes and failures. Keep trusting your process and become increasingly proficient with each step of your handicapping. In my case it was a drive to improve my ability to predict the pace of a race. The more races I handicapped, the more proficient I became at identifying the most likely pace in a race, even if I was wrong about the actual winning horse. I built off that to improve my ability to select the contenders from the horses that figured to benefit from the pace. I continue to work on and refine my skills. I know that my ability to analyze pace is what makes me profitable year after year by giving me the right horses to play.

Trust your process.

“The more one emphasizes winning, the less he or she is able to concentrate on what actually causes success” – Nick Saban

Develop Toughness and Discipline to Face Adversity

You aren’t going to win every race, even if your handicapping is sound. Just like Rail Guy, you are going to be on the losing end of a steward’s inquiry or photo finish.

Get over it.

If you suffer a bad or unlucky beat, move on to the next race and don’t let the last race bother you. To be a winning horseplayer you need to be mentally tough!

Compete Against Yourself while Being Accountable

There is no “I” in team. However you are handicapping by yourself. You must be accountable for the wins and losses. You have to learn from the losses. Why did I lose? Why did I win? Was there a troubled trip? Did I misjudge the race?

You have only yourself and your bankroll to answer to.

Refuse to Get Comfortable

Most people taste a bit of success and start to ease up. Not Nick Saban. He is never satisfied and refuses to allow himself to see his accomplishments as good enough. He always feels he could do better.

You can always do better. You can continue to track your results. You can do both a pre-mortem and post-mortem to see what is really working and what is not. Keep paying attention to the details of your handicapping and questioning why what is working is working and how can you make it better!

Nick Saban has obviously had success with his approach winning six national championships. By adopting his method and approach maybe you could win a National Handicapping Championship or at least turn a bigger profit playing the ponies!

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