|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Tampa Saturday Picks
I had a rough time on Thursday, going nine straight races without a winner before hitting a 3/1 shot in the tenth to cut my losses from $180 to $120. Brutal. Then again, I had a +$400 night at the $50NL tables at the best online poker site last night, so I can't bitch too much.
Bare bones on the picks today. It'll be mostly favorites with longshots to watch mixed in:
1) #1 Goldinrunner
2) #1 Caper on Holme and #11 King Dreamer
3) #3 Iron Willful (watch #2 Taurus and #7 Daunting Pleasure, especially the latter)
4) #6 Quite The Guy
5) #10 Skipping Wild (watch #9 Halo's Wildcat)
6) #5 Jewels N Gems
7) #5 Shin Feign (watch #3 Frontier Fanny)
8) #9 Crystal Current and #5 Capozzene
9) #1 Amorama
10) #6 Bluegrass Cat (watch #4 R Loyal Man)
11) #9 Heza Wild Guy
12) #1 Heaven's Symphony
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Live Updates on the Tampa Card
· Race 1 just finished, and the four horses I mentioned ran 1/2/3/4. I was a photo-finished nose away from cashing a win ticket (a weak $2 winner, due to odds when I laid the bet) on #10 Mischieviousmoment who was nipped at the wire by #7 Heartlight. I had $2 on #10 (he was 4/1 when I laid the bet, under my playable number) and $4 to win on #4 (who I didn't like that much, but I bet him at 7/2 before he trickled back down to 5/2).
· Totally missed on race 2. #6 Hermit's Rest ran a good one, but went off at 5/2. I can't play him that low. I had win bets on #2 ($4, off at 7/1) and #7 ($7, off at 9/2). Neither factored.
· Getting killed today. I played $5 win bets on #4 (15/1), #5 (5/2), and #12 (9/1), with $5 place bets on the two higher odds horses too. None scored with the top group. 47/1 Flying Enough won, and no I didn't have any money on the horse. Three races, zero tickets cashed.
· Ugh, let's just all agree today that either I have no idea what I'm doing or that I'm a disciplined gambler who won't take odds that I deem too low on a contending horse. Pray for the latter.
Hey! Where'd The Email Thread Go?!?
It's right here, archived back to save front page space...
Thanks to Aloysius, JoJo Dancer and the Biggest of Mikes for weighing in yesterday. Much fun.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Picks For Thursday 2/16/06 at Tampa Bay Downs
Jesus, them's a lot of words posted here today... This is it for now though, I promise
1) I have #4 Buff'n Tuff as a tepid 2-1 favorite. another step forward would do it. I like the trainer keeping her fresh with workouts, but I'm not excited about her. #7 Heartlight is a classy horse, but hasn't run or worked but once (on the chart) since December. Can't endorse below 9/2. #8 Takealuhkaround is a false favorite. Woke up with a 2nd last out, seemed like a plodding pace and finishing 4.5 furlongs for this filly was uninspiring as all hell. I like a longshot #10 Mischieviousmoment. Good work since her previous workouts in December, both her 3F and 4F clockings were a full second faster. I'd play this horse at 5/1 or better with confidence. Like her improvement.
2) #2 Ealing Park is a classy horse, has the 2nd off layoff angle, but I'm confused if this is the obligatory post-claim tag jump on a quick turn, or is this a trainer who thinks this is a legit shot? I like a minor step forward here - 3/1. #1 Blazing Heatrix is another false favorite. I like the stalking trip and class drop and there's a steady improve that fits his previous pattern. I just don't trust the connections - 5/1. #4 Gly Star has the 2nd off angle and likeable work in Dec and Jan. 5/1 seems generous for a possible pacesetter here - 4/1. #5 Florida's Quixote is out of a MSW win in October and the workout pattern is more consistent than exciting. A share maybe? - 4/1. #6 Hermits Rest is a bridesmaid type who laid off, worked out, stepped up and then won. I just don't like 6F for this horse. Like the connections though, trainer is 22% returning winners to the circle - 7/2. #7 Miesque's Boy is inconsistent and may have spiked last out. That being said, I trust the connections have him in a good spot to succeed and this aggressive jump in tag is something that pricked my ears - 5/2.
3) #1 Perfect Red Nails has a trainer/jock connection that's 5-7 in the money, and the trainer is 27% with Maiden Claimers. Dig the hell out of Smoke Glacken as the sire, although I don't know much about his spawn. He was a great sprinter though. Watch the place pool for him, I think this'll be a live bet there. #4 Molly's Cat showed first flash of wire-to-wire pace at 7F last out and I can't ignore. Lugged those last 3F though - 5/1. #5 Dinnerat Event has a trainer at 27% with MCL horses, and this one set a nice pace with a solid Beyer last out. Last two workouts were spectacular - 2/1. #6 Alie's Dolly needs another step up to contend. Hate her connections - 4/1. #12 Ms. Cimarron is a horse to ignore at your own peril. Very, very fast last two workouts, and she's never done that before. Is she ready? The trainer wins with nearly 30% of all McL horses. I say yes - 3/1.
4) #2 Five Alarm Flyer gets a class drop, and I like her ability to stalk from the post position. Hotter pace than her recent races might help her push her edge - 4/1. #3 Oli's Charm has a great shot. Won her last two, has the 2nd off angle and 2nd with the jockey onboard. Like a step up here - 2/1. #6 Starship Stripper has a jock who ran this horse two different ways in her last two. If she can be held close up, she'll improve. I don't trust Bush though - 9/2. #9 She's Angelic is a very live longshot. I love her work. Trainer and jockey are 4-4 in the money, and while they could have left her in lower company, they bumped her up. Big shot to score at a nice price - 3/1. #10 Lost Question absolutely must be included in exotics, she's 50% career in the money.
5) #2 Sox It To Me will stalk, and I like another improvement to move her back to peak condition. Why did they switch to Gomez on mount though? - 7/2. #3 Magnificent Matty is a false favorite, I pass. #5 Premiers Secret is a pacesetter and without rival Sweet Hello giving her fits, she'll strike - 2/1. #10 Judging Lady needs to be played in exotics.
6) #22 Fly By Peru has lousy connections and took forever to break his maiden. Like his last, but recent work doesn't endorse a play. On the improve, but too inconsistent for serious play - 9/2. #5 Gonna Blow had a bad last effort, but good 4F work since. A reset to a high 50s Beyer isn't out of the question, and would work here - 5/1. #7 Chorus Lion got a great ride by Houghton in his last, and I think the trainer finally has this horse's head on straight. At least, that's my guess - 5/2. #8 Broadway Buck gives me the gut feeling of being overrated, but put out a real game effort last out. Trainer/jock are 25% with winners - 4/1. #10 Shoot Out has all connections pointing to success. Great last workout, class drop, and Castillo knows this horse well. His morning line is fair - 2/1.
7) #2 Kickn Chickn has three straight wins, but hasn't run on turf since a lesser class try in West Virginia in July - 4/1. #3 Pretty Galore has excellent recent work and could post a Beyer in the early 70s. Might need a race to round into shape, but history shows he might not - 3/1. #5 Exclusive Hopper had great figs in 2005 and an Allowance pedigree. Like that she's an El Prado mare, which pegs her as classy and capable. Lukewarm feeling though - 7/2. #7 Bright Pyrite is consistently in the money, must be considered in exotics. #9 Lotsa Yes has great consistent speed lately, but no turf experience - 5/1. #10 Make It Last is 4-5 in the money (1-2-1) on the turf and fired a 5F bullet on 1/27 for good measure. Like way better than her morning line - 3/1.
8) #6 Did He Biteyou - Like to rebound to a fig in the high 60s. A little concerned about extra furlong after last, but not too much. 80s on the chart not out of the question - 3/1. #9 Cody's Lucky Appeal was the betting favorite in an $8500 claimer, and gets a tag drop here after that one. A return to form? Let's toss the last and peg him at - 2/1. #12 Waving Monarch is a pacesetter and there's not much other speed in this sprint. Hate workouts, hate jock, big step up. Can't endorse - 6/1.
9) #1 Cloudynhot gets Lezcano on a strong horse, last out firing near top Beyer in field. Like a lot better than #1A, see who gets scratched - #1 = 5/2. #2 Sage's Dream had a bad last race but great recent work. Excellent, actually. File this longshot for a play - 5/2. #5 Singforyoursupper is classy and maybe worth a play at a nice premium over my line - 9/2. #9 Silence Is Golden is a bridesmaid type, but has the top Beyer here. Bullet in the slop on 2/4 over 5F is encouraging - 3/1.
10) #2 Marley's Revenge is so very ready. Won last with a fig of 87 at this class and distance. Bullet on 2/10 for good measure over 4F - 2/1. #5 Tio Lupe is a router with pace dialing back. He can grab the lead if he wants it, but this is a curious trainer move - 9/2. #9 Dirtymoposse has been solid off the layoff. Great workout patterns, a real contender - 7/2. #10 Chaotic Achiever wired the field last out, but has been off over a month. I would have liked to see an apparently sharp horse get more work than that - 7/2.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
A New Feature Here At Gambling Blues Dot Com
I'm clearly bored today. So how about a quick dramatic reading of someone else's web content to cheer me up? It's like my own podcast, except I just leave myself a voicemail and yank the WAV file afterward.
Anyway, via the delightful Mimi Smartypants, I present a reading from Your Produce Man. He's clearly excited about melon.
Grab It Here
What Works For Me
From my comments a couple of posts back, bcd wrote:
how do you go about making your opinions on your picks? i assume all your betting is off track.
I started to write a comment back, but it got a little long so I thought I'd post it instead:
Trying to articulate exactly how to look at the form and pick a horse out of nine to twelve possibilities is the thing I'm struggling with right now.
Basically, part of it is that the Form is a collection of data that's consistently structured but tells a different story for every horse. In some cases I'm looking for speed figure discrepancies, in others I'm looking for speed figure consistencies. In some cases I'm looking at class and trainer intent, and in others I'm looking at class and trainer capabilities. I can show someone what I'm looking at as it pertains to a specific horse in a specific spot ("What is he doing in this race?" or "Look at how the trainer has moved this horse into a position to succeed today."), but there's no ten-point plan as to what you should or shouldn't look at first. I made a ton of mistakes and learned to read the story I feel the Form is telling me. Frankly, I don't think the Form tells any two handicappers the same stories, we're just seeing thematically consistent information to come to similar conclusions.
The other part is that despite some huge steps in the right direction, I'm still an obvious novice at this game. I'm putting good pieces together in my head and have been identifying some good plays lately, but for me to try and explain how to play this game would be similar to me teaching someone how to cook. I can do a few things fairly well using some middlingly non-awful technique, but there are a lot of people who are doing it better, have written about it already, and have been part of my education to this point. And yeah, that goes for both cooking and handicapping.
One of the things that becomes very apparent right away as you're reading books on handicapping is that there's a similar tone to what you're seeing in poker books when they say, "It depends." You should raise with pocket Queens pre-flop, and you should consider laying them down to a re-raise and a re-re-raise if that happens. But it depends on what you know about your opponents, what they think about you, if you're playing limit or no limit, and any other of a variety of factors. Horse racing is filled with shoulds and shouldn'ts as well. You shouldn't play a win bet on a "classic bridesmaid," a horse that has shown he cannot win but seems to pop up in the money from time-to-time. Well, you shouldn't, but what if the horse has dropped in class? What if he's training better than he ever has? What if the other horses aren't even bridesmaids but long-time losers and total non-factors?
And while the "it depends" factor is in the books, so is the constant reminder to figure out what it is that works for you. Some people play only the big stakes races, others play trainer angles, jockey connections and even breeding is used as a factor. Here's what's working for me so far:
· Playing Big Fields In Competitive Races - I've said before that I play at Tampa Bay Downs for two reasons: less "smart" money going through the windows, and more competitively large fields for other bettors to make mistakes in. While anyone can spot an obvious 1/9 favorite in a five horse field at Bay Meadows on a Tuesday, it's more difficult to pick from a twelve horse lineup when three to five have a realistic shot at winning. And the more horses the other bettors can make errors betting, the better the payoffs on the horses I'm not making mistakes identifying*.
*Don't take that as an ego-fueled statement, where I'm declaring how much better I am at this shit than other people. I make my mistakes too, but if I'm making fewer mistakes than the average casual gambler, I'm happy and will get paid off.
· Being Prepared - You absolutely cannot make a handicapping and a gambling decision in 20 minutes on a competitive race, so why wait until the horses are in the paddock to look at the program for the field? It's crucial in this game to make good bets, and by good I don't just mean betting on the horse you think is going to win. It's more complicated than that, as you have to interpret the board to see if the value is there for your wager, and if youre going to pull the trigger, how much to pull? Play a win bet only? Does an exacta make sense? Are you confident enough to play the double or pick-three? You can't make these decisions flippantly and expect to do anything but lose. When your handicapping is done and you're ready to make a decision that decision can be made without additional pressure.
· Trainers Hold The Key - It's not enough to look at only recent or past form, you've got to understand whether the horse is prepared (in your opinion) to run his best race today, and if that best race is going to be enough. The key to preparation is in the trainer's intentions. Has the horse been working out well? Is he being asked to do something today that he's had (enough) success doing previously to be a factor? Does the trainer show that he's handled horses in situations like this before with success? I'm more likely to trust a Kirk Ziadie sprinter than a Laurie Pompell horse in any scenario (hell, I'll trust Ziadie in any scenario over Pompell), as Ziadie knows how to get a horse ready to run short and fast. I like a horse that's showing improvement, and with a quality trainer and a solid workout pattern you don't even have to see races under a horse's belt to predict a step forward.
· Early Speed Matters - When I'm looking at sprints, the ideal scenario I'd like to see is a capable (but not overlaid) horse who can get out front early on an unchallenged pace. Multiple horses vying for the lead can lead to a tired bunch of leaders by the time they hit the stretch. An unpressured leader is likely to have gas left in the tank. When I see that scenario, which isn't present all that often, I pounce.
I'd think a little more here and offer a few more, but not only is this getting long but I've got more races at Tampa today to handicap... Good luck to me.
Monday, February 13, 2006
BG / Al Can't Hang email post forthcoming later this week. Anyone want to suggest a topic or three?
And no Matty, we're not going to talk about bacon. It's not something on which Al and I disagree anyway.
With names I recognize and many I don't, I can't say "thank you" as individually as I'd like for everyone's donations and kindness over the last week. I thought I'd toss the list (as of just now) out there to give a big group thanks, and if you've got a blog I don't have listed over at right, contact me (email add'y linked at the end of every post) and I'll get you added right away. Anyway, big thanks to everyone on this list:
OtisDart, LAprivileges, maigrey, speclj, Jhartness, Troublecat, JoeSpeaker, scurvydog, Tactix, dustdevil505, BadBlood, FatDanS, Boobie Lover, chrisdhal, blinlk182, AgSweep, DoubleAs*, bdidde, jjok, dragonystic, JamesAt15, Change1OO, Guinness, jerge88, misst74, stb, randomsam, bigslicknut, pastamancer, thefilmgeek, wilwheaton, willythewise, bdr1968, drizztdj, StatikKling, April98, S.Nickerson, butchhoward, BigBry, Joanne1111, Frankl66, a104I9, HermWarfare, glyphic, zagga, DrPauly, TheSevillian, Blog-Penguin, FatBaldGuy, jg-2323, poker_dude25, DonkeyPuncher74, SnailTrax, DuggleBogey, garthmeister, TNSpaceman, AlCantHang, sellthekids, ZeRat11, Jerseyjoe027, peacecorn, Zeem, penner42, Otterchaos, Mourn, biscutblocker, heffmike
*Who sent me the more thematically consistent (to our group) $27, which was worth at least seven additional dollars in amusement to me when I saw it last week.
I can't tell you all how much this all helps, and what this community has meant to me these last few years. Thank you all.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
The First Thing Is Knowing What The Hell You're Doing
"...You have to say that handicapping is more important (than being a "good bettor") because if you can't handicap it's hard to bet. You have to know what you're betting on. You have to know why 3/1 is a good price or a bad price. I haven't bumped into the guy who picks 100% winners, so you better know what value is, otherwise you could be a good handicapper and lose money. But if you don't understand how to pick them, you could be a mathematician and not make money. So I think it's important to know a lot about both." -- Dave Cascuna from Six Secrets of Successful Bettors
I was goofing around last night with my little brother and my YouBet feed, and we were trolling for horses with goofy names to bet on. We watched a 6/1 horse named No More Borsch, on which we snagged a $2 win ticket, run a distant second at Golden Gate, paying nothing to win, but $7.20 combined to place and show.
"So we lost?"
"Yep," I told him. "We only had a win ticket out on him."
"So why don't you bet win/place/show every time?"
"Because that's no way to make money."
I took him through my wager log for the last 30 days (over 150 individual bets, by the way - and I'm up a very, very negligible amount) and showed him the types of payouts I was hitting on my bets. $19.50, $22, $14, $42, $27, $121.60, $53.30, $83... It's almost embarrassing to me at this point to show a single digit payout on a wager. Frankly, if I have one it means one of two things: either the butt-end of a cheap exacta that had greater possibilities came in, or one of my $2 win bets on a horse with "Bob" in his name managed to beat his gelded opponents.
The thing is, this isn't really the part of the program where I tell you that you have to "crack some eggs to make an omelet" or some such shit. Actually, very little of the bets I've hit were big dollars chasing longshots or anything remotely similar. Compared to the size of the bets that accompanied the profits, I was actually getting 2/1 or 3/1 odds on the tickets I've been cashing. That doesn't sound like chasing or pressing on long odds to me.
What I've found is one theory and one style of wager that's been working for me in certain scenarios. First, the theory:
Be prepared and have a strong opinion if you're going to make a serious bet.Look, I'm an "action player" too, and if there's a race going off I have a hard time not having a couple of bucks on it. But if the money going into the race isn't going to be smart, it's not going to be big either.
I'm working hard on my pre-race (hell, pre-race day) analysis, and while I'm still figuring out how to best articulate what I'm learning here, I've found a stage of progress where I can feel confident that the opinions I'm forming are informed and intelligent. Not perfect, not as good as a seasoned veteran, but I'm no longer dead money at the track. I'm quite a ways away from being a profitable-type player, but I'm at the point where my hard work is replacing luck. I'm seeing races unfold as I imagined they would, I've got a good grasp on who's live and worth a look in most cases, and I'm a far stronger player than I was mere months ago. And it's all due to the work I've put in.
"You've got to spend the time to handicap. If you're showing up at the track and you're buying a Form on the way in, you're dead. Long term, you've got no shot. You might get lucky that day. You might get lucky that week. But you cannot show up at the track and do the necessary handicapping in the 25 minutes between races. In my opinion, it's just not possible to make an intelligent wager based on such short handicapping." -- Brad Free, as above
The wager style I've adopted is as old as the game itself. First, when you've got the strongest of opinions, play bigger than usual. Secondly, I'm avoiding the money flushing black holes that are most of my exacta/trifecta bets and eschewing the show bet completely (for pussies). I'm playing my "Prime Plays," those horses on which my opinion is generally the strongest, with a win bet, and often a place bet as well.
"It's a very good idea for a bettor to concentrate on the bet types that he is technically good at." -- Steven Crist
"My favorite wagers are good old-fashioned win-place bets..." -- Cary Fotias, both same as above
The sixth today at Tampa provides a good example as to what I'm talking about. After running through the race I landed on #8 Time for Friends, and set my own oddsline at even money on her. I felt confident that this horse would have to get shot on the backstretch to lose this race, but still had to wait to see if she was going to be a "Prime Play" for me or not.
Off Odds - Tampa Bay Downs 2/12/2006, Race 6
8) (Time for Friends) 2/1
2/1 on TFF was a gift. Had she been sitting there at 6/5, I'd have played her small, but 2/1 was worth a few more bucks. Then, I had to determine whether or not it was worth making a place bet. What you want to see is the place money spread out among five or six of the competitors somewhat equally, with no egregious favorites (who ruin it for everyone). Here's what I saw running up to post time.
Place Pool Totals - Tampa Bay Downs 2/12/2006, Race 6
Pool Total $35,229
What odds, at worst, am I getting with these place pool numbers?
What I'm assuming, in a worst case scenario, is that the horse I'm wagering on is going to come in either first or second with the highest (or, in the case of our #8 horse, the second-highest) possibility on the board, splitting the money based on the weight each choice carries in the pool.
Take the pool total of $35,229 and hit it with the track's takeout percentage (the "vig"). I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'll assume 20%. That leaves us with $28,183. What part of that is going to be paid out in profit? Add the place pool totals for the #8 and #5 together (again, my worst-case scenario) and subtract that number ($14,249) from our $28,183. Because if I win I get my $2 bet back plus profit, this is a key step.
Let's make the math easy from here. Profit payout will equal $14,000, to which each horse is entitled a share of half. That's 7,000. With $7,000 (roughly) in the place pool on my choice, I'm entitled to a dollar's profit on my dollar's wager, but since we work in multiples of twos at the track, I'm getting my $2 back plus $2.
Where I'm from, that's called EVEN MONEY. And that's our worst-case, although it would take a major miracle (a win or place by the #4, #6 or #9) to see anything more than a dollar north of a $2 profit on this wager.
Now, where again did we set our horse's chances to win? Oh yeah, even money. If you're willing to make that your win price, you're already assuming your horse is going to win this race 50 times, were it to be run 100. Wouldn't you think that the possibility of your horse finishing second on some of those tries he misses might be fairly strong too? And taking the same odds you'd have been willing to play to win in the place pool? Another gift.
Think of the place bet as a minor insurance policy, assuming you handle it correctly. In this scenario, our break-even factor on the wager would be to insure every dollar we bet to win with an equal dollar to place. We're assuming that 50% of the time we'll cash 2/1 in the win pool (+$4 net per $2 wager), and 1/1 in the place pool (+$2 net per $2 wager). We also won't lose our original wagers, so that's a gross total of $10 returned per $4 wagered. We also have to assume that some percentage of the time we're going to finish second. With no money returned on the win wager, but at least $2 net profit on the place wager, we're going to break even.
Today's race was a terrific illustration of this strategy. Approaching post time, I was getting the premium price I was demanding on my horse, #8 Time for Friends. I would have played this horse at any price above even money, but a full point higher established this as a prime play. My standard play is a $5 win bet, a prime play would bump that to $20. With an even money oddsline (again, at worst) in the place pool, I placed a $30 wager as well.
#8 Time for Friends let #10 Lady Pioneer get out there and get frisky on the lead early, stalking her smartly from about a length and a half back. She made her move on the crest of the final turn, but so did #2 Tactical Go Go. Go Go unwound from at least five lengths off the lead and pushed three-wide to within two of the leaders as they entered the stretch. For the first few strides straightening out, Time for Friends looked like she was going to show her speed and put the field in her rear-view mirror, but couldn't find the extra gear. She wasn't slowing down, but she wasn't pulling off. Lady Pioneer couldn't be shaken from her place off the leader's hip coming down to the wire, and Tactical Go Go was gobbling up the distance between them very fast. Tactical Go Go and Time for Friends hit the wire together, and it looked at first glance like Go Go got it. It was close as hell, and I remarked to Bob that I wouldn't be shocked to see a dead heat called here, but if this race were three feet longer, Go Go definitely had TFF passed by.
As they were examining the photo, Bob asked how I did. I knew I was cashing at least the $30 place bet, and that was going to be for more than $4 and less than $5. I figured $4.20, and that's $63 returned. With $50 total wagered on the race, a $13 consolation prize was going to have to do. Of course, if they saw my horse crossing first...
Official Payouts, Tampa Bay Downs 2/12/2006, Race 6
#8 Time for Friends $6.20 / $4.40 / $3.00
#2 Tactical Go Go ... / $7.60 / $4.20
#10 Lady Pioneer ... / ... / $3.20
The photo showed Time for Friends' nose hitting the wire less than an inch in front of Tactical Go Go, and I was cashing a winner. The $20 win bets paid net $42 profit, and the place bet was a net $36 score.
Seven races played, cashed tickets in two, and ended up $30 some-odd to the good. Solid day, and even with the rough patch or two I'm bound to hit, at least I know at this point I can play this game.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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