Horse Racing 101

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For the first time in my gambling career, I am going to place some wagers this Saturday at an OTB. I know nothing about horses or how they are raced. I do know that a higher Beyer Speed Rating is better, but I don't know how to use it quantitatively, if at all. I am not a handicapper.

What I do know is this: there is a known bias in parimutuel betting. It is known as the favorite-longshot bias. Essentially, horse gamblers are bigger degenerates than sports gamblers. They like the satisfaction of being able to pick the longshot, and hence the heavy dogs became overvalued. Before tracks started taking such a large rake out of the prize pool, this meant that betting on favorites was likely a positive EV outcome. I'm not sure there is currently a positive EV outcome at the track anymore, but I'd like to wager as intelligently as possible.

Again, remembering that I know nothing about horse racing, I'm going to go through a couple of examples of the way I intend to bet on Saturday, with about $50 wagered as the goal. Remember, the idea is to maximize wagers on favorites.

Example 1
Eleven horse field
#2 - 2/1
#4 - 5/1
#10 - 8/1
No other horse shorter than 13/1
The way I intend to bet: $2 box 2-all ($40), $2 box 2-4,10 ($8), $2 box 4-10 ($4) = total $52

Example 2
Nine horse field
#1 - 2/1
#5 - 3/1
No other horse shorter than 10/1
The way I intend to bet: $5 box 1-5 ($10), $2 tribox 1,5-1,5-all ($28), $1 tribox 1,5-all-1,5 ($14) = total $52

Example 3
Ten horse Field
#3 - 2/3
#9 - 8/1
No other horse shorter than 15/1
The way I intend to bet: $10 Win 3 ($10), $5 box 3-9 ($10), $2 box 3-all ($36) = total $56

Example 4 - Kentucky Derby
Twenty horse field
#6 - 5/1
#13 - 3/1
#15 - 4/1
#16 - 4/1
No other horse shorter than 15/1
The way I intend to bet: $2 box 6,13,15,16 ($24), $1 tribox 6,13,15,16 ($24) = total $48
Current juice for the Derby sits at 37%. Those are solid bets.

Obviously, my two goals are going to be: get down on favorites and bet races on the simulcast that have a few big favorites and the rest of the field sucks. If I assume that the posted odds will attract people to longshots, this seems like a reasonable strategy.

Any horse betters out there care to weigh in?

7 comments:

rexfordbuzzsaw said...

As a casual horse bettor here is how I approach it when I go to the track.

A) Pari-mutual betting sucks.
B) Only Win, place and show bets.
C) Look at the morning line odds, Compare them to the current odds and whatever horse has moved up the most(e.g. 3-1 to 7-1.) I pick. Horse payouts are based on the % people are betting so no need to worry about forward or reverse line movement.

Not saying this is incredibly profitable, in fact it is probably damn near impossible to be a long term winner at the track, but this strategy has led me to a few small winning days. I mostly go to the track to get drunk.

am19psu said...

Compare them to the current odds and whatever horse has moved up the most(e.g. 3-1 to 7-1.) I pick. Horse payouts are based on the % people are betting so no need to worry about forward or reverse line movement.

Wouldn't reverse line movement still be something to look for? I have to imagine that good handicappers and "inside" information exist.

rexfordbuzzsaw said...

"Wouldn't reverse line movement still be something to look for? I have to imagine that good handicappers and "inside" information exist."

It may, but my Track experience(Weekend days at Saratoga) I feel like the public money far outwieghs the professionals out there. I would imagine this is the same for a big race like the Kentucky Derby.

I also think there are less professional horse bettors because the juice is so crazy.

Eric said...

I have a hard time noodling how you could figure out whether an odds change on a horse could be construed as a reverse or forward movement. If you're betting parimutuelly, anyway.

I suppose if you're placing your bet on a fixed price, and see a move that contrasts to the parimutuel odds movement?

I've always used horse racing as an excuse to lose money faster than normal.

am19psu said...

I have a hard time noodling how you could figure out whether an odds change on a horse could be construed as a reverse or forward movement. If you're betting parimutuelly, anyway.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying it. If I'm leaning the #3 horse at 2/1 (because of the favorite-longshot bias) and the posted odds move to 3/2, then I would consider that reverse line movement.

Eric said...

Maybe I'm oversimplifying it. If I'm leaning the #3 horse at 2/1 (because of the favorite-longshot bias) and the posted odds move to 3/2, then I would consider that reverse line movement.So you're applying a broadly based phenomenon on a single situation. I don't know, this seems to me like saying "Casual bettors like favorites when betting on sports", then applying that bias to all favorites whose line gets shorter to conclude reverse line movement.

am19psu said...

That's exactly what I'm doing, rightly or wrongly. Without knowing one horse from another, isn't it better to apply something known about a population to a sample (realizing there is a lot of variance not being accounted for)?

Obviously, this is unlike sports betting because of Wagerline (et al.) and intuitive knowledge.