• Thinking Small

    POSTED Sep 27, 2012
    I’ve had a bad couple of weeks on the betting front.

    My best handicapping angles and methods have taken an extended vacation from winning and, for the first time since I started betting seriously, I lost my head on Monday and turned a small losing day into a major red-ink debacle.

    But I realized something as my selections were spitting out the bit at the 1/8-pole (or, perhaps, I re-realized something): I don’t handle losing very well… and that’s probably never going to change.

    For better or for worse, we are who we are. Unlike the man or woman “trapped inside” a body of the opposite gender, no amount of surgery can help folks like me reach the sane bettor within — that little voice pleading with us not to bet the eighth race at Thistledown simply because our fifth-race “goodthing” at Arlington Park imploded like Vince Young’s pro football career.

    We can kick ourselves for being idiots in this regard — a surgeon may be able to help with a shoe trapped... well, someplace it’s not supposed to be trapped — but, ultimately, overcoming psychological issues, habits and addictions is no easy feat (just witness Dr. Drew’s “success” rate).

    It is especially difficult when one is trying to change a single aspect of their behavior, but not the behavior as a whole. For example, while most of us would probably agree that one can avoid alcoholism by not drinking, how many of us believe that an alcoholic can successfully manage his/her addiction simply by drinking less?  

    In other words, there is a difference between quitting and controlling. Yet, the latter is what sound money management at the racetrack is all about: passing bad races, seeking value, taking the good with the bad — still gambling, just smart gambling.

    So, with this in mind, I have decided to steal a page from Howard Sartin’s book.

    Who is Howard Sartin, you ask? Well, in addition to being a very controversial figure, Howard “Doc” Sartin was the founder of the Sartin Methodology, a form of pace analysis still used by many handicappers today.

    According to Sartin, in 1975 he was asked to counsel a group of truck drivers who were also degenerate gamblers. Rather than preach abstinence or attempt to delve into the roots of their destructive behavior, however, Sartin took a different tact, a tact that became the rallying cry of his methodology.

    Sartin realized that this group of truck drivers had a problem with gambling not because of the gambling per se, but rather because they lost money as a result of it. Hence, his novel solution: “The cure for losing is winning.”

    Of course, this is tantamount to Sigmund Freud telling women that the cure for one of his better known theories is to consult that surgeon I was talking about earlier. On the surface, such a notion seems silly, almost childish. Of course, the cure for winning is losing! The cure for baldness is hair, but that doesn’t help guys with receding hair lines, does it?

    Still, there is something to what Sartin says, something even a little profound. The fact is my batty betting is always triggered by the same thing — losing. When I’m winning, I wager like a pro. I treasure every dollar earned and every dollar bet; I structure my bets based on the value they offer; I pass races that appear to be dubious (for whatever reason).

    When I’m in the throes of a losing streak, I do the opposite. I throw money around like I’m Floyd Mayweather at a strip club; I let the tote board alone dictate value; I froth at the mouth. (That last bit isn’t true, but it conveys my demeanor rather well, I think).

    Hence, it seems to me that I have two options if I want to wager successfully: 1) Quit betting irrationally during extended losing streaks; 2) Avoid extended losing streaks.

    As you might expect, I’ve tried the former time and time again with varying degrees of failure, but the latter? Not so much. So, just for grins, I decided to look into it.

    Of course, the first thing that came to mind as I pondered how to avoid extended losing streaks was finding ways to increase my success rate (a higher percentage of wins equals a lower percentage of losers and, as a result, fewer long losing streaks).

    Toward this end, I looked at the average winning odds of my best methods and found that, with few exceptions, most were in the 5-1 area. My “Top LSR” method, for example, has averaged a $12.70 mutuel this month and a 51.4 percent ROI, which sounds great until one considers that method selections have won just 23.8 percent of the time and are 0-for-9 since Sept. 16.

    This got me to thinking: What if I restricted my play — at least the bulk of my play — to horses with lower odds. Clearly, I’d still be looking for overlays (this must always be the case if one hopes to win long term), but by focusing on shorter prices, I’d surely cash more tickets, right?

    To test this theory, I used my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line) and looked for the following:

    A) Fair Odds of less than 3-1.
    B) An in-the-money (third or better) finish last time (within seven weeks of today’s race).
    C) A 25 percent Win Rate or higher.
    D) A 0.25 Class Rating or greater.
    E) Last-race Brisnet speed figure equal to or better than today’s par.

    I then added the crucial ingredient to this small-overlay concoction: morning line odds or post-time odds greater than the horse’s fair odds, but less than 5-1.

    (Click on image to enlarge)

    Somewhat surprisingly, the morning-line odds criterion produced better numbers (40 percent winners, 24.7 percent ROI in August and September) than the post-time odds criterion did (38.0 percent winners, 14.1 percent ROI), but both techniques provided an abundance of profits, as well as consistency.

    So, the next time you find yourself in the midst of a wagering slump, give this lower-odds approach a try. It won’t make you rich in a day, but it might keep you from going mad... as you gradually pile up the profits.

    FREE Past Performances for 'Super Saturday'

    Click the link below to get your free Brisnet past performances, including my speed rations (ESRs and LSRs) for the six graded stakes races at Belmont Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012

    Belmont Park Past Performances with Simon Speed Rations and WFR Fair Odds

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