Bet Smart

If you plan to make a long-term habit of handicapping and betting horse races, you’ll gradually realize that it’s an endeavor that challenges you to constantly learn and adapt.   Such is the nature of gambling against your peers in pari-mutuel wagering.

The Daily Racing Blog has dabbled in horse-flesh wagering since the mid 1970’s.  Suffice to say, many stupid gambling mistakes were made the first couple of decades.  Know thyself, never stop learning.

So here then are a few tips to help you avoid some of those same blunders:

1. Prepare

It seems simple, but you need to put in the work in advance, handicapping the card so you know going into the day which races you have the strongest opinion about.  You don’t want to get to one or both of the last two races on the card and uncover the horse that you liked most for the entire day after already blowing through 90% percent of the money you budgeted.

2. Budget Intelligently

It’s difficult (for DRB) and it takes discipline to pass on a race, but if you like quite a few runners on a card, but love two or three, you should bet the majority (or all) of your bankroll on the horses you feel most strongly about.

If you’ve budgeted $100 for 10 races, why would you bet $10 per race when you’ve clearly identified your best bets?  If you love two or three horses, build a strategy around those two or three horses or simply bet most of your bankroll on those horses to Win.  If you are spending the day at the track and really want to have at least a little action on every race, bet just a few bucks on the races where you don’t have a strong opinion and leave most of the budgeted money for your top plays.

3. Demand a Price

There is no Value in finding horses that seem to be almost slam dunks to Win.  The Value might be skipping the race entirely or identifying long-shots to fill in underneath for Exactas, Trifectas, and Superfectas.

Your top plays should offer Value – in other words, a horse you think has a much better chance to Win than his morning-line odds when planning, or live odds when betting, indicate.  If you think a horse has a 25% percent chance to Win and the odds are 5-1, that’s Value.  If you think a horse has a 10% percent chance to Win and you get 15-1 or 20-1, that’s great Value!

4. Bet to Win

The Daily Racing Blog will always make straight Win bets on horses with Value, as well as exotic bets. If you make three substantial Win bets on horses at a solid value, you only need one Winner to make a nice profit.  If two-thirds of that money is tied up in Place and Show bets, you might need all three to run well.

The Win bet should be the key bet, especially for newcomers.  Takeout (the amount of money that goes to the track that is not returned to bettors) for Win, Place, and Show bets is less than most exotic bets.  Most importantly, don’t bet two or more horses to Win in the same race. You start out with at least one bet that’s a guaranteed loser, and it’s a recipe for disaster in the long term

5. Aim High

The best reason to play exotic bets, specifically Trifectas and Pick-4’s and, more recently, Pick-6’s, is that you have a chance to Win big.  The allure of horse racing when comparing it with sports betting is the chance to Win a bundle without risking that same bundle.

Try to find creative ways to use your top plays to make the most money, and if you can’t string together a Trifecta or multi-race wager you feel really good about, you always have the straight Win bet to fall back on.  But, if you connect a few decent prices around or underneath an 8-1 top play, you could be looking at a huge score.

6. Identify Vulnerable Favorites

This seems obvious, but over the years DRB discovered that handicapping is not just about picking the Winner.  The biggest opportunities often come when you identify a heavy favorite as vulnerable, or find several favorites that you have zero interest in betting.  That’s a great spot to make a stand in exotic bets.  Think about it: A significant percentage of the other tickets probably will include those favorites, while your resources are not tied to them and are instead dedicated to finding better Value elsewhere on the ticket.

We hope these (seemingly) minor suggestions help you to a profitable Fall racing season.   Feel free to chime in with some of your own personal pearls of Wagering Wisdom.


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