Monday, September 20, 2010

Pari-Mutuel Puzzles

Speak to most in racing, they will tell you that the tote system is just fine. However, as players, we tend to disagree. Time and time again, it seems we live it, while others speak about it.

We were alerted today to the third at Finger Lakes. At post time, the odds flashed 6-1 on the four horse in the third race, Cat's Playmate. The gate sprung open and Cat's Playmate left with the pack, but stumbled right after the start, unseating the rider.

Over the next half minute, the odds on Cat's Playmate, sans rider, went from 6-1 to 8-1 to 12-1.

Can anyone in racing tell us, when looking at this, that everything in the pari-mutuel system is fine?

When horseplayers ask racing for fixed odds betting, which is available in places like Australia through tote companies and betfair, we are not just whistling dixie. We are asking because our system has a severe problem.


Mike D said...

I don't know. The odds moved only about 4% on that horse (.111 chance to win to .077 chance to win) while the 2 (post-time fav) moved from .33 to .40-.50 depending on the decimal payout. Given the odds moved up on 7 of 8 horses from 0 MTP to final, I'd say the more likely explanation was large computer betting on the 2, and all moved up.

HANA said...

Hi Mike,

It is very possible.

However, the bigger picture is the point, in my opinion.

You have a horse that went from 2-1 to even. It's like the Bears being +200 this weekend, but you get paid even money after the game is over. Sports bettors would not be sports bettors too much longer.

Or the stock market. Getting a fill at $1, but finding out you have to pay $1.59 a share after you bought.

Not to mention: People watch that race and see the jock get dumped. Then they see the odds go up to 12-1 from 6-1. How do we tell them our game is secure and honest?

This system was great when we were a monopoly. But now, it is proving to be what it was: A sad system in a modern world.


Scott said...

the tote system in theory is fine, it's the mechanics of it that suck.
The pool size is pitiful for starters, so a big lump on the 3 would do that as every horse other than the 3 has drifted at least one tick. But it's incidents like this that bring the integrity of the system into question, rightly or wrongly.

It's 2010. The technology is there to have updated and final tote figures within a few seconds. Moving to more exact decimal odds rather than fractions would be a big step forward too.

The_Knight_Sky said...

I think Mike has a point. Somebody readjusted their wagers when at the 3 minute mark the part of the entry 1a Sweet Strike was scratched. That left 1 Artaxtic Princess to run for purse money only.

This event skewed the advertised odds. Horse Racing cannot be pulling the rug out from underneath with the last minute scratches under the parimutuels system. If this practice continues, I'd have to stand in line to support the need for Fixed Odds Wagering. The time has come

Of equal concern to me is the failure of the starting gate to produce a clean, fair and safe start for all the competitors in the race.

The gate sprung open and Cat's Playmate left with the pack, but stumbled right after the start, unseating the rider.

Nothing is being done to improve the starting mechanism and stewards continue to overlook the initial moments of the race which is every bit as important as the final furlongs.

Anonymous said...

Seems a horrible race to use as an example of a flawed tote system. You have a bad morning line, a vet scratch and two-thirds of the pool arriving between 0 MTP and FINAL.

Mike D said...

I'm not arguing the need for tote reform, simply that the proximate cause for the change was the action on the 3, who didn't end up winning, and probably also the 9, who did.

Look at the win pool totals. $25,000 came in from 1 MTP to final, $20K of which was 0 MTP to final. That's 66% of the total win pool.

So, I understand it looks bad, but the cause/effect does not bear out. Computerized betting explains it much better - if we required computer bets to come in earlier, say 0 MTP, then the odds distortions happen much earlier.

Totes can be reformed in many ways - decimal odds, fractional betting, close at 0 MTP - but let's pick our battles.