Friday, August 9, 2013

Changing My Focus (Back to the Pick 4)

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." - Arnold Bennett

I took a hiatus from handicapping.  I needed a mental break from the repetitive nature of approaching the races (much like I needed a break from golf as I was developing bad habits again and reinforcing them in my muscle memory).  It was a bit awkward coming back after more than two weeks on not doing my daily routine of handicapping and am changing my focus once again to chasing Pick 4's with value and/or guaranteed pools.

Any time you try to change your mindset, you find yourself full of doubt and being overly conservative - much like my last Pick 4 effort at Woodbine.  I played a $.20 Pick 4 on a Wednesday with a guaranteed pool of $100k.  Granted I won, but the bet was essentially a wash since I could not bring myself to eliminate any entrants in the opener where I hit the 'All' button - a field of mostly first time starters out of the twelve betting entries.  I had originally had five entries, but could make a case for at least another four, which at that point I got too conservative and felt that I might as well cover the whole field.  My gut choice went off at 18-1 and finished a respectable second to a much lower odds horse.  The latter races I was more comfortable with and managed a single in the third leg (scratched down to a four horse field) that won and paid a whopping $2.60.  The second and fourth legs were a favorite and second favorite - resulting in a less that stellar payout based on the risk.  I had hung my hopes on a bomb in the wide open maiden race.

I find that when I am pointing myself towards contest play, it is hard for me to be consistent in Pick 4 play when looking for the top choice - whether it is based on likelihood of outcome or best value of the logical contenders.  When I am chasing Pick 4's, I have a hard time landing on that 'top choice' for contest play.  So I accept that there is some give and take based on what I am focusing on.

It is encouraging to see more regular guaranteed Pick 4 pools - both thoroughbred and harness.  Woodbine offers an early $.20 Pick 4 with guaranteed pools typically ranging from $75k to $100k on every racing day.  Saratoga has a $.50 Saturday Late Pick 4 with a guaranteed pool of $500k (which will be an all stakes $1M pool on 8/24), and even Los Alamitos has regular guaranteed Pick 4 pools, just to name a few.  The USTA Strategic Wagering Program has added smaller pools on harness tracks which can be found daily ($5k - $20k at a variety of venues) and even offers free PP's for these wagers via Trackmaster.

What is the most baffling thing to me is that neither Equibase or the Daily Racing Form list any of these guaranteed pools when they post their daily list of carryovers.  I think many bettors would want to know that there is a nice sized Pick 4 pool guaranteed when they scan over the carryover lists - instead, one can find (at the time of writing this on Friday 8/9 morning as posted on Equibase Mobile) - Indiana Downs Pick 6 $135; Mountaineer Pick 6 $857; etc.  I will grant you that they do hit the big carryovers as well (Louisiana Downs Pick 5 Jackpot $810,340; Arlington Pick 9 $97,576, etc.); but why not highlight the big guaranteed pools?  Wouldn't this be a great way to entice people to bet these pools so the track does not potentially take a loss by filling the balance of the pool?

Just something to ponder why I mull over today's $.20 Pick 4 at Woodbine, awaiting scratches and changes to see if it is even playable, and to see how how playable the $500k pool will be on tomorrow's Saratoga Late Pick 4 after all of the rain and today's races being taken off the turf...

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