Friday, December 6, 2013

Getting Ahead

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." -Agatha Christie

However in my case, it is getting restarted.

Over the last few months, I had lost my focus, drive, and motivation with both my profits and confidence in my selections suffering as a result.  While I had been making great strides with my 'homemade' sheet, figures, and pace analysis/prediction over the summer, my enthusiasm for both handicapping and the sport of racing diminished.  After still trying to run my sheet, handicap, track results, and place a few wagers with minimal success or interest, I had to finally realize that my head and heart were not in my work and that I needed to shut it down for a while.

Handicapping racing all year is a grind and unlike my friends that specialize in finite meets such as Saratoga or Del Mar and on sports like football or baseball, there is no 'light at the end of the tunnel' for me to shoot for.  Year long meets often require constant attention - bias tracking, results, trip notes, etc.  It is only natural to have your interest wane periodically, but at some point we need to recognize that and take a break before burning out while seeing our confidence and bankrolls suffer.

What were the signs of my 'handicapper burnout'?
  • Feeling an obligation instead of a desire to handicap 
  • Not wanting to make the necessary (and relatively minor) improvements to my sheet
  • No interest in flipping on TVG while working on something in the basement (which is normally my default 'background noise' down there)
  • Feeling that my routine of detailed record keeping was a chore and not an opportunity to validate my theories
  • Not being open to considering change - by not logging any of the nuances I saw in a particular race/condition I could not validate/challenge/modify my logic accordingly
  • Missing obvious factors when handicapping by not putting my full effort into my work
  • Lack of confidence - when you take the sum of the parts above, it is becomes hard to succeed and things start a downward spiral

Wednesday night marked my emphatic return to handicapping and wagering (not that I was ever really gone) by playing Woodbine.  While my confidence in my own abilities had diminished a bit prior to taking a break, I found that I was handicapping and preparing for last night's card with a renewed vigor and was rewarded handsomely for my efforts by nailing the early Pick 4.  I was mentally able to work through multiple pace scenarios to develop my contenders for each leg and turned my $28.80 bet on the $.20 Pick 4 into $219 and change.  I was locked in.  The adrenaline rush was back as I watched one of my contenders fly up the stretch late in the last leg to win at the wire.

What I learned and how to stay on track:
  • Work towards something - Monmouth SSC, NHC Tour event, etc. - a milestone date of some sort
  • Don't take on more than I can handle - last year I tried some ongoing contests at Paceadvantage which had me focus on tracks I don't normally handicap and ended up taking more time than I really had to handicap
  • Set realistic goals - the next 'phase' of my sheet isn't going to happen quickly or easily (analysis of a race for all of the likely pace scenarios and figure what the likelihood of each is) and I have a ton of minor tweaks to make prior to that even happening... but I can plan the logic and how I am going to accomplish this
  • Hit CTRL-ALT-DEL more often - for example the winter is great for this; a week of bad weather equals a week of not really being able to play certain tracks
  • Blog more - the more I talk about my theories/ideas/selections; the more I want to do it
  • Re-Engage with some of my fellow horseplayers and bloggers
  • Interact with new handicappers/horseplayers - inspire them and you will also find inspiration
  • Have fun - your passion should never feel overwhelming

In other news, Monmouth Park's Simulcast Series Challenge 2014 dates have been announced (1/4, 2/16, 3/15, 4/5, and the Invitational Finals on 4/26).  Kudos to Brian Skirka and his team for getting this information sent out on 11/7 which allows us to plan for these dates a lot earlier than in years past.  I am going to be pointing myself towards one or more of those dates again, and anticipate making both the SSC Invitational Finals and NHC Finals!

Time to get ahead and make 2014 a career year!