Simply put, Dick Schmidt was the Real Deal.
He was a real handicapper, who made real money betting on the races. He was a fine human being as well.
Dick was a Sartin Methodologist when I came on board with the Methodology in 1987. When I put out my first software product, ThoroBrain, in 1990, we became close friends. He began using my software in June of 1990 at a time when using anything but Sartin-produced software was a big no-no in the organization. I remember getting a call from Dick with a request for a feature change because he was using TBrain clandestinely.
ThoroBrain was a neural network program that trained on past data. As it went through the data, whenever it improved (i.e. reached a new level of learning) it would beep. Dick’s request was for a way to turn off the beeping.
The problem was that Dick would be sitting at the head table while the other movers and shakers were speaking of their handicapping and the beeps were gathering way too much attention. I recall Dick illustrating his attempts to circumvent the problem by covering his laptop with a jacket to muffle the beeping sound.
Dick’s approach was pure Sartin to begin with but eventually he became involved with Tom Hambleton’s book project, Pace Makes the Race. The original work was Tom’s, but when he struggled to get it finished, he enlisted Dick’s help. Together they tremendously simplified the Sartin Methodology’s approach to the game.
What they did that was so ground-breaking was to move away from velocity expressed in feet-per-second and use simple numerical ratings instead. This was a huge leap forward, and moved many Sartin players away from the “smoke and mirrors” aura that had surrounded the Methodology for several years. Although Howard wrote a chapter in the book, and whose name was in the largest print on the cover, it was really Tom and Dick who extended the method itself.
What I learned from Dick about horse racing was that you just had to “Go do it.” Perhaps the best illustration of this was how Dick became The Real Deal.
For the first several years that I knew Dick, while he was a learned handicapper, he was not actually a big bettor.
In 1992 (I believe) Dick and another well-known Sartin handicapper teamed up for a Master’s Class in Las Vegas. This was billed as a week-long, total immersion teaching class. As I recall, enrollment was limited to 30 people. There were so many requests that they actually did two weeks! The cost was (again, from memory) $500 per person.
The concept was to teach handicapping for a full day on Tuesday and then spend the next 5 days handicapping races live. Dick started with a $200 bankroll – then the Sartin standard – and publicly committed to betting 10% of bank on each race. He also committed to disclosing all his tickets before each race. On Sunday evening, he called me very excited. He said, “Do you know what I did today? I bet $1,600 on a single horse!”
He went on to say that the bet was $600 to win and $1,000 to place. The horse ran second.
It seems that Dick had just had a heck of a week, and turned that $200 into a final fig of over $12,000!
He told me that it was a real struggle getting past his comfort zone, which, at the time was only about $40. Of course, he blew past that very quickly only to find a new comfort zone. (There is a lesson in that.)
Just to prove that it was no fluke, he started the next week with $200 again and took it to $10,000 by the end of the week. See why he was changed forever?
Another thing Dick taught me was that when you think you have a workable system, give it a reasonable test, then start pulling the trigger. In other words, don’t waste a year testing your system. His contention was that most people who do that really do not want to play. They just want to test.
He believed that losing was a destroyer of the heart and that the pain of losing was not actually about money. He felt that money was just a way of keeping score.
Another thing I learned from Dick came after he announced that he was going back to playing after about a 6-month layoff. He said that he was going to play a couple of days with $10 bets. When I asked why he’d play for so little money, he said that even though he’d had huge success at the window, like everyone else he had to rebuild his confidence with a couple of winning days.
Above all else, Dick was a fine human being. He was an extremely generous man. I happen to know that someone close to his family had blown up their financial life by making a bad investment in a pyramid scheme. Dick stepped up and simply wrote a check for the 5-figures they needed as a gift.
Such a man was my friend, Dick Schmidt.