Transcript of Podcast: Dave & Derek discuss some common traps into which handicappers fall. Part 4, Dave & Derek talk about the pitfall of the amount of time spent handicapping.
Dave: Let us move on to number 4, I think this is probably my favorite one. Number 4 is spend so much time handicapping that you must play the race.
Derek: I could write a book on this subject. When you invest a lot of your time, for me when I handicap and I have changed to a large degree, I have said before I do not like to handicap as much as I used to, so much of my stuff now is automated.
But back in the day, I would go through race by race, what are they trying to do here and so forth. Maybe forty five minutes, an hour for a race, I get four, five races handicap which would be a lot for me back in those days.
Then let us say they come off the turf, dammit I am playing, I put that much time into it, I playing these races. It was terrible, I cannot say it was a bad habit of mine now but it used to be absolutely awful and I hit this rule over and over again. When I handicap I was going to play the races, it did not matter if my 10-1 shot was 1-10 at post time, I am playing my pick.
Dave: The year was 1983 and I had this horse that I really liked, I had spent time handicapping the night before, I was doing a lot of trainer handicapping and I just loved this horse. I went out to San Anita, back then that is what you did, you played live unless you lived in Las Vegas.
It was the 8th race I believe on the day and they carted nine races. It was a turf race and I was so excited. They had this outside pavilion at San Anita and it was some kind of very ritzy party going on. Coincidentally there was a guy I bumped into there that I knew and he said I am in this party why not come in? They had great food and champagne and everything was free.
Since I was hanging out there it was beyond the finish line and I did not even watch the horses come out but I ran in and made my bet, whatever it was, it was a huge bet for me. The horses are lining up in the starting gate and I am watching it on TV because it was probably like a mile and an eighth or something like that. Then the gate opens and as they are running past me I realized the race is on the dirt. They took it off the turf! This was accidental but it was the same thing, it was the 8th race on the card and I have lived for this race all day long
Derek: I have done that so often and it is so embarrassing or I have gotten distances wrong. You handicap for a 5 1/2 furlong sprint and you are like wow why are they starting in front of me? This is off topic but I have a quick story for you just to get you charged about loving this horse and trainer angle. I do not remember any of the details, I am just going to give the basics of the story.
I find this horse in some race, first time starter on turf. I am going through and looking at some trainer stats and found that this trainer had done this before and had had some monster payoffs. There were some other tie-ins too maybe in terms of workouts, pedigree or the jockey that was used. I was so excited about this horse, it is going to be a bomb. I was already anticipating writing the article about it and looked at what I did, finished dead last. He was beaten by twenty three lengths or second to last. It was an embarrassing defeat. Needless to say there was no article boasting about how I came up with that play.
Dave: Let us bring focus to what we are really talking about here. Spend so much time handicapping that you really feel obligated to play the race. It kind of ties into the soap box story where the night before you were pretty much sure this horse was going to get you 10, 12-1, he might pay $40. In my opinion, I am not a guy who handicaps the night before ever.
In fact I typically do not handicap a race, I do not even open the race until I am done with the previous races, I might have three or four open at once. But I typically say I am in and out of a race in 3-4 minutes so I do not have the buildup. Other than Mr. Frisky I do even remember, I have a hard time remembering what year Big Brown was. I think most people have a tendency to take their methodology or systemology and make it more and more complex to the point where they are spending forty minutes on a race. How do they do that?
Derek: For me it kind of goes back to Steve Davidowitz’s book Betting Thoroughbreds and he talked about reading the trainer. The idea was you go race by race and see what the trainer and connections are trying to do. That for me is what added so much time. The point here with this rule is that I think too often at the race track we treat money like it is monopoly money.
I have heard this in relation to tipping tellers, this is going to make some people mad, I do not believe it. I would always use the auto tote, if you are really approaching this trying to make money who does this? When you go to work do you tip some random person at another cubicle just for the heck of it?
No you have earned that money, you have earned the money you bet. I think by looking at your money as being important and not monopoly money you realize I spend a lot of time but the races did not come out like I wanted as often, the turf or the odds are too low or whatever, you have to pass, let it go. I am preaching here as the guy who really did not do that. But I am telling you it never worked out in my favor by making those rash decisions
Dave: On that topic of tipping, first of all I am not an active track player. But when I am at the track which is very rare I do tip. I do not tip unless I am getting special service. In other words, I have never tipped a mutual machine. When I am sticking the voucher in and out, I stiff them all the time.
My point is if you are spending that much time in the race, let us say thirty minutes, my belief is that you are playing a different game. In other words the guy who is spending forty minutes a race first, he has to look at the card and he picks out five or six races to handicap. As he handicaps the race you have to realize the pleasure for him is the intellectual challenge of figuring the race out. I have an intellectual challenge but my goal is to be profitable at the end of the day and I suggest that the detriment in doing that deep handicapping is that it really does invest you in the race.
Derek: I totally agree with that.
Dave: The nature of our system is kind of like my and programming. I experience something I call scope creep. When I design software, I am going to keep this simple and pretty soon I can do this and a button to do that would be great and pretty soon the project has moved two magnitudes above what it is supposed to be. I think handicappers do this over a period of time. And guys like us who give them ideas and they say I need to add that, they do not take anything out. There needs to be a simplification process. What do you think of that?
Derek: I agree. That is one of the reasons, there are several reasons, I went to a more mechanical approach, and one is that you can subtract yourself from the equation. I think it makes the betting a little easier in some ways and maybe harder in some other ways that you do not have a feel for a particular race. If you are spending so much time it is like you almost have to play. If you look at time as money now you spend 4-5 hours handicapping and you have nothing to show for it.
You could make the argument that you have lost money just in that process when you do the data stuff it is so much quicker. There is obviously a lot of time spent in the research and putting everything together. But after that, like with my program now I can spit out past performances, reports. By the way that will be another show when you have so much data you think you are omnipotent which has happened to me as well. I think we have hashed that out, it is one of those things I think you have to fight against that.
That concludes Part 4 of 5 Ways to Destroy Your Chances of Winning!
About Derek Simon:
I love numbers and analysis and have been able to parlay that into an exciting career writing about two of my greatest passions — business and sports.
In addition to working as a freelance financial writer for Newsmax, The Motley Fool, Investopedia/Forbes, Beacon Equity Research and Investor Concepts (among others), I was also the editor of Small Cap Insider, a monthly newsletter highlighting investment opportunities in the small cap sector.
Currently, I am the editorial director for US Racing where I contribute written, audio and video content and oversee a team of talented and passionate writers.
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