by Frank Cotolo
Last time out, Bettors Banquet (BB) defined handicapping (full story here) and yet, even those who have known the strict definition all along most likely continue to define it as amateurs have for decades — as the process of finding a winner, that is, a bet.
Stop it. Please follow the BB columns as they lead you to paths of profit probability, especially now, as the racing season becomes thick with races, stakes and overnights, that will undoubtedly offer great betting opportunities. Along with a developed talent for passing races that in the long run will do nothing to benefit your betting bankroll, you are crossing the threshold onto the professional platform.
Horseplayers are a stubborn lot. They are too loyal to minor elements that have brought them success (not necessarily profit) in the past. They become entrenched in their own devices, most of which are subjectively measured. One person weighs a handicapping factor heavily while another person feels it plays no role in which horse will win. The evidence each presents is skimpy, tenuous and bias to their experiences.
What else, then, can each do to actualize accuracy? They can handicap by strict definition, using the simple mathematics of gambling—percentages.
Here is the handicapping doctrine to institute change: Measure each horse’s chance to win, then assigns odds (chances by percentage) for each horse in the field — which, remember, is the definition of “handicapping.” That is the essential start to finding races worth playing and finding (not choosing) winners instead of picking them.
This is simpler than anyone truly cares to accept, because old habits die-hard. But die they must, and hopefully with no legacy. Get ready; it is time to handicap “by the book.”
Step one: Learn the simple translation of odds to percentages. I have always been shocked that this level of arithmetic is not implicit among horseplayers. Ask any player to give you the percentage value of 3-1 or 6-1 or anything-to-one and do not hold your breath for a correct answer. So how does one learn these values? It is simple, because the World Wide Web is crawling with free odds-to-percentage tables. Go to a search engine and enter “odds to percentage table.” At Google alone there are 63 million links to easily readable tables. You will only need one to always have by your side when handicapping, at least until you can memorize it.
Step two: Forget about making any kind of wager. Betting on a race must be the last thing on your mind when you handicap correctly. Wagering will become a product of how you measure a race, as well as if you wager on it at all, and how you manage which bets you engage. Proper money management is an important topic we will thoroughly cover in future BBs.
Step three: Ignore the Morning Line odds. A track handicapper makes odds based upon how he or she thinks the public will support horses in the field. Never be influenced by such predictions — you must be assigning odds that are based upon your sole opinion, answering this question: If the race at hand were to take place 100 times, how many times would each horse win?
Step four: Go back to step one and referring to the odds-to-percentage table and your opinions on each horse’s chance to win assign the percentage values of odds to each horse so the total equals one hundred per cent.
Reread the steps and study the odds-percentage table you got free from the Internet and get into this with enthusiasm. This will produce another moment that will change your history of betting on harness racing forever. This is an edge that will serve you greatly and place you among the smartest, most cunning horseplayers in the world and, most importantly, it is an edge that will lead you to choosing the best races to play and playing horses you may never have considered wagering upon using your old, tired methods—the ones you called handicapping.
Once you become acquainted with the odds-percentage table and approach each race with no intention of betting on it, (being extremely objective) you will be capable of measuring any size field to a one hundred percent total. You may have to calculate a second draft, adjusting some of your assigned odds, but it will not take as long as the time you may usually spend looking for a winner.
Because you are not looking for a winner.
The final draft of each race will be a personal product and when it supposes differently than your enemies (the betting public in any particular race) you will have the strongest weapon available to sensationalize upon the public’s mistakes.
Tips on quick and accurate personal-odds writing using examples from recent races BB has addressed are coming up next time.
… to be continued.