By Ray Wallin
The winter in the Northeast has been a bit balmy. As I am writing this article it is 62 degrees. Plants are confused and starting to bud and you can hear the groundhogs whistling in the distance. The summer months will be here before we know it. Since you are thinking about shaping up and getting your beach bod back, you should also think about shaping up your bankroll.
Everyone I know that makes their living playing the races keeps their bankroll in shape. Even our friend Rail Guy keeps his bankroll in shape, even though he will also tell you that he is always in beach shape since his body is “built like one of doze Greek gawds or something.’”
Once we get the visual of Rail Guy in his Speedo out of our heads we can focus on shaping up your bankroll. Successful horseplayers treat betting like a business. Successful horseplayers operate like a well-oiled machine.
#1 Create a Budget
We all have a different financial situation. Only you can determine how much money you are comfortable setting as your bankroll’s starting budget. There are several factors that you should consider when creating your starting budget.
How often do you play the races? Are you like our friend Rail Guy who only plays live racing at Monmouth Park? Or do you simulcast all year from your local OTB?
How much do you usually wager when you are at the track? Are you selective in your wagers and play one or two races or do you play most of the card?
How much available money do you have to commit? Junior’s college fund shouldn’t be tapped for betting.
Have you accounted for the resources you need such as par times or sire data? How about the costs of data files or past performances? Some online wagering providers will provide them for free as long as you bet on the race card that you download.
These are all things you need to consider when setting your starting budget. If you don’t you won’t have a bankroll for very long.
#2 Manage Your Bankroll
We’ve all seen “that” guy at the track. You know, “that” guy. The one that comes in and drops a ton of money 10 different ways on the first race that has a field of five and manages to miss every bet. He ups his betting in the second race and has a repeat performance as the only combination he didn’t play comes in. His day and entire bankroll went down the drain in 30 minutes.
Why? He didn’t manage his bankroll.
Don’t be “that” guy.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing your bankroll. Some people will use a set wager size for a win bet or limit exotics to an amount based on the number of combinations they are looking to play. Others will use a percentage-based approach where a specific type of play may be at 1 percent or 2 percent depending on their confidence level. Regardless of what approach you use, it is most important to have one. Otherwise you’ll be “that” guy and blow through your bankroll faster than Charlie Sheen.
#3 Optimize Your Bankroll
Maybe you are winning. Maybe you are losing. Could you be doing better with each dollar you are wagering?
Are you tracking you wagers by type? Are you killing the win bets and losing money on the exactas and trifectas? You need to see what bets you are structuring well, and which bets you are performing poorly with. It isn’t a matter of what bet types are churning a profit, but with what frequency are you hitting those bets. If you hit 8 percent of your exactas, but you hit a monster payoff, is this bet really a sustainable wager for you to continue placing regularly? If you are going to continue playing a low percentage wager, you should “right-size” the wager size so that it doesn’t negatively impact your bankroll in between winning wagers.
#4 Prepare For a Bad Run
The doctor comes into the exam room with a lifeless face and says, “your condition has worsened, I was hoping for the best, but I am sorry to tell you that you have a bad case of seconditis.” He leaves the room as you change out of your hospital gown wondering why he had you put one on in the first place. You know you have a long road to recovery.
All horseplayers hit a bad stretch of wagering at some point, even the professionals. How many times have you been at the track and thought to yourself, “I just can’t pick a winner today?” Probably more times than not. You need to make sure that your bankroll and wager sizes are sized so that you can survive a rough patch or losing streak without your balance hitting zero.
Think about the worst losing streak you have had and multiply that value by a number around 10. This should give you enough padding to endure a bad run.
#5 Protect Your Bankroll
Once you have a bankroll you need to protect it. Don’t mix it with your checking or savings accounts. When you do mix it with other accounts it becomes too easy to pull a few extra bucks from one account to another to cover an expense. Dedicate those dollars. Keep most of it in your online betting account and a reserve in PayPal so you can move money towards expenses like your past performances or data files. You can also use PayPal to move money between betting accounts if one balance is getting too low.
Keep the funds you need for you and your family to live separate from what you wager with.
Like anything, shaping up your bankroll is a living process. There is no approach that works for everyone and you need to figure out what works best for you. You are going to make mistakes and learn from them. Time for you to start shaping up and remember to avoid running into Rail Guy at the beach, no one wants to help him put sunscreen on his hairy back.
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.