American Turf Magazine
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Oct 15, 2004

The Professional Way to Play

By: Ray Taulbot

If racing fans could somehow be persuaded to forsake their unrealistic

attitudes toward horse racing and adopt the professional's down-to-earth

 position, they would soon discover that winning is much more fun than losing.

This writer entertains no serious hope that he can convert the racing community

as a whole. But if he can convince a few of his readers that the professional"s

way is the profitable way, he will feel more than amply paid for his effort.

First, let's examine the contrast between the thinking of the average racing fan

 and the professional turf speculator. The average fan is a day-dreamer who

envisions quick riches acquired with small operating capital, very little effort,

anda mode of play which permits him to indulge his peculiar whims. In short,

 he dreams of taking a $20 bill and piling up profits without employing any

degree of self-control.

His attitude toward turf speculation can best be summed up as "fun and games."

 He often resents any suggestion which deprives him of making the 101 blunders

 common to many turf enthusiasts.

The pro views his turf operation as a business, one upon which his livelihood

 depends. Therefore he never takes excessive risks. To use a poker expression,

 "He plays 'em close to his vest."

Whereas the average fan has a fondness for long prices, which often leads him

 into taking excessive risks, price is of secondary consideration to thepro. Like all

 of us he prefers a good price, but he never permits price to become the

deciding factor.

He knows that price is of no value if after the race he has to tear up his tickets. As

 John Barsell once remarked, "Any price is better than aloser," a difficult argument

 to refute. Thus, the pro places safety ahead of maybe.

The pro's prescription for success includes the following components:

Know-how, operating capital of an amount sufficient to accomplish hisprofit

objective, patience with a capital "P" and self control as it pertains toceasing

 action when the profit objective has been attained.

Adequate know-how embraces far more than merely having a sound knowledge

 of the basic principles of so-called handicapping. One must know which races

on a card should be passed, and which races may be playable because they are

 of a type that usually offer the selector a reasonably good chance of finding a

 horse that enjoys some degree of advantage over its competition.

Of equal importance is knowing how to wager so that one can attain the highest

 possible degree of safety consistent with a price that is large enough to attain

 a profit objective.

There are various betting methods. But there are only two which are employed

by the majority of professionals: they are the one-three scale win and place,and

 flat betting to place only. There are a few pros who are what is commonly

termed show bettors, but most of these men do not adhere strictly to flat

 betting. Some of them use various methods of progression and regression.

There are also some pros who always bet their selections to win only.

The most successful are the 1-3 men and the place bettors. Theman who

employs the 1-3 scale depends upon attaining his profit objective on any

selection that fails to win but does place at a price of at least four dollars.

 The four-dollar place price is based on the fact that when the wager to

place is three times the amount of the win bet it will give the operator a

 net profit of 50 cents on the invested capital dollar even if the horse does

 no better than finish second.

The place bettor seeks an added degree of safety by placing his entire wager

 to place, which will result in a net profit of 50 cents on the invested dollar

 if the place price is three dollars.

For example, if the wager is $50 to win and $150 to place, the horseplayer

 will net a profit of $100 if the horse fails to win but does place at a price

of four dollars.

The man who places the entire $200 wager to place will earn the same net

 profit if the horse places at a price of only three dollars.

Upon first thought, one might be inclined to believe that the horseplayer

 who employs the 1-3 scale, will over an entire year earn a much higher

 profit than the man who confines his wagering to place only. Surprisingly, this

is not true when identical selections are used. There will be a small difference

in favor of the 1-3 man, but when this difference is viewed in comparison with

 the degree of safety involved, the small additional margin of profit becomes

 less attractive.

This brings us to the third component in know-how: patience. One must

have a large degree of patience because if you are to take full advantage of

 the safety factor you are not going to find many acceptable selections on

 any given day.

The fourth and final ingredient in the know-how of successfulturf investing

 is equally as important as the preceding three. This one requires more

self-control than the average fan possesses. No matter how many selections

 the average pro may have on a given day, he ceases play with the first cashing

 wager that attains his profit objective, which is usually 50 cents on the

 invested dollar.

The question inevitably arises: why would anyone stop their play if they have

 what they consider to be three good selections on the card just because their

 first selection results in a net profit of 50 cents on the dollar? The answer is

 simple:because they know that when their first selection accomplishes their

 profit objective, atthat point their cashing percentage is 100 percent, and they

 are smart enough to know that it is extremely risky attempting to improve

 upon that figure.

Moreover they knows that if they continue and their next selection fails to

make good they will be in the red instead of ahead for the day, and no pro

 likes the idea of ending a day in the hole.

If a horseplayer has two or more acceptable selections, and the first selection

 loses he must, of course, continue play because that is the only possible

course he can follow unless he is willing to stop with the first loser and call

 it a bad day. Most pros will not do this because they are inherently

percentage men.

But when the first selection loses he knows that the cashing percentage is

zero at this point, and he will move along to his next selection, if any,knowing

that the chance of cashing a bet is now in his favor.

Many people believe that everyone who bets on the outcome of a

horse raced is a gambler. Not the professional operator; he is a conservative

 who strives diligently to avoid every risk.

At this point the reader may say to himself: "The foregoingis fine; it is

interesting and probably the most effective way of conducting one"s turf

activities. But it seems that one must be a good selector before he can

profitably adopt such a mode of play and so far you have not told us what

can be done about this feature of work."

There is no doubt that the more skillful an individual is as a selector the

 better he will fare. But it does not follow that the fan who is unschooled

in handicapping is a lost soul. He is not, provided he can bring himself to

confine his wagering to a certain type of horses.

We don't mean to imply that a system or angle can match the

production of a well-trained, experienced selector. But there is a certain type

 of horse which, if one will confine himself to that type alone, will compensate

 to a marked degreefor his lack of skill as a selector.

If this type of horse is backed to place, only and the minimum profit objective

 is set at 50 cents on the invested dollar, any man who can read the past

performance charts has a reasonably good chance of removing himself from

 the ranks of the chronic losers.

We are aware that not every one can afford to make the $200 wagers required

 to earn a net of $100 on the basis of 50 cents on the invested dollar. But

there is nothing to stop a player from scaling down the profit objective.

If, for example, a handicapper is satisfied with a net of $10,they need to bet

only $20 to place, knowing that if the selection pays a three-dollar mutuel

 they will have accomplished their financial objective. If they wish to shoot

for anaverage net of $20 a day then they must make flat wagers of $40 to place.

Only a very wishful thinker would dream of collecting on every selection

they back. Therefore, one must be prepared financially to carry any losses they

may suffer and still be able to continue operation on the same basis as their

 original flat bet wager.

The type of horse we are suggesting as an exceptionally good wager will not

be found in every playable race on a day's card. In fact, when we eliminate

all types of maiden races, jumping races, handicap races and all added

money races, wehave only the claiming races and allowance events to consider.

Key Horses in Claiming Races

1. A horse that has started within the past 14 days and was entered in

this race for a price (or in a grade) as high as or higher than the top claiming

 price named in the conditions for today"s race.

2. The horse must have finished in the money or within 2-1/2 lengths of

the winner in one of its last two races when entered for a price (or in a

grade) as high as or higher than the price or grade for which the horse is

 entered today.

Note: Never accept a horse whose in-the-money race, or the race where it

finished within 2-1/2 lengths of the winner, was any type of maiden race. In

addition: an allowance race at a major track is considered of a class higher

 than any entered claiming price.

3. If two or more horses qualify, select the horse that finished in the money

 or within 2-1/2 lengths of the winner in one of its last two races in the

 highest claiming grade or class. If tied, select the horse that ran

most recently.

Key Horses in Allowance Races

1. A horse that has started within the last 14 days while entered in either

a name handicap or stake race.

2. The horse must have finished in the money or within 2-1/2lengths of the

winner in one of its last two races, and the grade of the race must have been

 higher than allowance class.

3. If two or more horses qualify, select the one that finished in the money

 in the highest class within its last two starts. If tied on class,use the horse

that ran most recently.

There will be days when there is no qualified selection at the given track;

on other days you may find two or three acceptable horses.

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