Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Better Bettor

A few years ago I found myself discussing wagering strategy with a friend of mine whose handicapping prowess I respect very much.  I had been reading a book on money management by Barry Meadow at the time and when I brought his name up in our conversation, my friend's response was quite simply "Barry is an okay handicapper, but one helluva bettor." 

What makes someone a better bettor than someone else?  Forget racing for a moment and think of casino games...  someone can play blackjack versus the house using optimal strategy and make money riding streaks, but put the same guy at a poker table and match his optimal strategy versus a table of guys who are bluffing and he'll be read and walk away at maybe a breakeven point.  When do you just throw optimal strategy out the window and go for value?  Back to racing...  you have done your homework, you know the probability of a certain event taking place, you know how the pace is likely to set up... but your returns are modest compared to others?

My wife is a better bettor than I am.  I play very calculated plays and make my modest returns while she finds a way to kill the mutuels.  Is it that I am not a big risk taker?  I would fancy myself a risk taker, heck I used to enjoy running into burning buildings and working as a construction professional I have to bid public projects and try to figure what amount the bid should be to be competitive without leaving any money on the table.  I handicap my competition at work - knowing what they pay their field staff, how they will staff a job, what jobs they have going on locally that they can either share services on or subs that they can lock up to package a deal with...  but why can't I pull the trigger and hit the big one?  Why can't I move off of my 'projected winner' and take the competitor that looks to offer the best value based on my calculated 'fair odds'? 

Have I honed my wagering methodology beyond the point I should have?  With the data I started collecting on every single wager I had placed over 2001 and 2002 I had started to refine my approach based on where I say profit and loss...  I eventually cut out a fair amount of trifecta, superfecta, and Pick 4 (and up) wagers and say my volume go down with my net return increasing the next year... but if your bread and butter is some semblance of WPS, it is a grind to make a buck versus hitting an elusive mutuel.  I guess it is just time to go back and start muddling through the data again, taking a step back and see what I am missing.

Food for thought on a busy Sunday night...


  1. Good post! You know what to bet and when to walk away - now you need to learn when to bet big. Betting that is best described as "exasperatingly frugal" allows for a well-funded retirement (YAY!), but does not win a contest. Just once (maybe a few times, I like the whole retirement idea) I'd like to hear you say "LET IT RIDE!"

  2. I admire anyone who runs into burning buildings. I tend to do the opposite. :P