Increase Your Bottom Line

In my first article, I talked about many of the factors that need to be considered when setting a goal for gambling. I demonstrated how one particular plan was flawed. How can you use the questions I posed to lay out a successful plan and increase your profits, or at the very least reduce losses?

     1.    How much of a bankroll do you have to put towards gambling on horses? The answer to this question for most people is -- at least initially -- going to be a fixed amount. If the answer was $5,000, it’s unrealistic to believe you can magically make another $5,000 and increase your bankroll to $10,000.

If you mapped out a goal, only to find out your bankroll was too small to achieve it,  what can you do? My advice: Listen to what professional athletes are often told and play within your abilities. Do your best with what you have as opposed to trying to swing for the fences. You don’t have to be Albert Pujols to win at the races. You can be David Eckstein as well. As Clint Eastwood once famously said, “A man has to know his limitations.”

Don't make bigger bets and hope you will succeed. I can't think of a better test than to try and build your bankroll through betting!  If you can't do this, other methods of your plan are flawed and need to be fixed. In “Pace Makes the Race,” Dick Schmidt recommended starting with $200 and building from there with solid bets. If you can’t do that, he reasoned, there’s no reason to think you can succeed with a larger bankroll and swinging for the fences.

2.       What expenses do you have that directly relate to wagering on horses? The instinctive thought here is to cut expenses as much as possible. The reasoning is seemingly obvious: The less you spend on things for handicapping, the more you have for betting.  

I believe that instinct is wrong here. If anything, I would recommend that you increase your expenses if it will help you achieve a better return on investment (ROI), or if they will allow you to play longer hours, or decrease the time needed to handicap. Many people cringe at the thought of paying $600 for a piece of shiny new software. I guarantee, however, that there is software out there for any type of player that will move up your game in some manner.  

If you are an at home player, spend the money for a very nice monitor and a great television screen, if at all possible. I could list many more examples, but anything that makes the experience of betting horses more comfortable and/or less time consuming is probably worth the expense.
3.      How many days per week can you handicap and wager?  The best advice I can give here is to map out a schedule, and don't deviate from it. If you decide you will not play on Sundays, don't be tempted to do it because you had a poor day betting on Saturday. Having a schedule is also important for those with a family. I'm no Ann Landers, but if you are neglecting your wife and children to gamble, you should probably find a new endeavor.
4.    How many race cards can you realistically handicap and bet? It’s become increasingly common to try and wager on as many cards as possible in order to find as many overlays as possible. That’s tempting but there is also the danger of overreach. Again, you have to know your limits and play within yourself. Go with what feels comfortable and use all the tools you have available to expand your menu.

If you are a Daily Racing Form handicapper and like to watch replays and make notes of all the races on the tracks you follow, it is highly unlikely that you can play more than one or two tracks successfully. If you are using software of some type, you might be able to play 10 or more tracks in a day without much difficulty. The key is to handicap the races where the expectation of winning is high, and don't waste time on races with a poor expectation or where your own record is poor. Finally, never bet a race you dismissed as unbettable after trying to squeeze in some last minute handicapping.
5.      How many weeks a year can you handle wagering? This is a related idea to #3 above. Set a schedule and stick to it. I doubt many horseplayers are going to be vacationing on the first Saturday in May or on Breeder's Cup day. Plan ahead for days you know you don't want to miss, but allow for breaks in the year. Breathers to recharge the batteries are critical. In those periods forget about racing, and come back to the fold only when you planned to do so.
6.      What percentage of the races you handicap do you find quality wagers? I consider a quality wager one where I have a solid opinion not shared by the general public. The only way to increase the quality wagers you make is to increase the number of solid opinions you have. There are many ways to do this, and I'll list just a few.

Watching replays and making detailed notes is a great way to find things the public will miss. Obviously, I think having solid pace figures and learning to use them will give you an edge over the public. There is some great pedigree information available from BRIS that is well worth the money. Other possible edges include studying trainer patterns, foreign race information, post position and track bias analysis, workout patterns, paddock behavior, form cycles,     etc.
7.      Do you bet primarily straight wagers (win, place, etc) or exotics? This is a personal preference. Some things to consider include which tracks you are playing, what is the size of your wagers, and are you betting into the pools or not. In the latter, if not, know the limits your betting service imposes on your wagers.

If you are betting into the pools, understand how your wager size can change the payoff when you win. A $100 exacta bet at Aqueduct will not have nearly the same impact as the same – even a lower -- bet at Hoosier Park or Sam Houston.
8.      What is your expected return on investment based on previous success or expected success? Future articles in this space will deal mainly with handicapping and suggesting ways to increase your ROI.
9.      Are you getting a rebate? If you are not, can you? The recent closing of Pinnacle to U.S. - based customers came as a major blow to a lot of players. However, plenty of options remain available to the intrepid few, both off-shore and pari-mutuel. I recommend waiting a few months and researching the different possibilities. Then, create a page listing all the pros and cons of the sites before making a final decision.

Hopefully, the first two articles on this site will help you develop a solid plan for attacking the races. No matter what, however, you won't win money unless your ROI is in the black, or at least doesn't lose more than your rebate earns. You also need to bet enough money to exploit your ROI. In the next article, I will begin examining ways to improve your ROI while maximizing the amount of money you can put through the windows.

© 2007 Craig Milkowski