This article originally appeared on page 3 in this month's Handicapping Monthly. To get your copy for free you can download it here, and sign up for free future copies, as well.
As a father of two little ones, in a two person working household, with a job that requires a fair bit of travel; free time is at a premium. In my own experience, this game requires a huge time commitment to be effective. Even with the aid of a sophisticated handicapping software provider, time is the single most key ingredient to successful play. Perhaps this is not the case for others, but my best results have been in years where free time was abundant.
I’m sure many of you out there in Handicapping Land are in a similar situation in one form or another. I’ve found myself quite frustrated over my recent handicapping results, but only have myself to blame as no one is putting a gun to my head and placing these losing bets. No matter the reason for a losing run (time constraints or other distractions, bad handicapping, poor ticket construction, swings in short term luck, etc.), the bottom line is that the individual is in charge of their own destiny. If you blame any third party, it’s unhealthy and will lead to more losing. A bad ride, a nose bob, a tough trip – these are all short term uncontrollable events. This tends to even out in the long run one way or another.
One of the most appealing aspects of handicapping is the thrill of hitting a big ticket as the financial rewards are coupled with the satisfaction of being right. Most handicappers I’ve come across have an inherent competitive streak, which is of paramount importance. While that drive is key, the rush associated with it can also lead to addictive behaviors and/or poor habits. We constantly must fight the urge to put money through the windows/ADWs arbitrarily, without thinking it through, and that’s where I find myself. I’m so inherently competitive that I expect to win regardless of extemporaneous factors. In retrospect, in between taking the kids to gymnastics, soccer, and music class, putting down that bet on the second at Saratoga is a losing proposition, but my competitiveness hinders that poor short term decision to make a bet. The combination of less time, forcing too many bets, poor ticket construction, and countless other points are impeding good decision making.
One of the biggest detriments to better results can be boiled down to our own psyche. Too many horseplayers fail to recognize their own limitations, whether by lack of knowledge, lack of introspective thought, or some combination of the two, and waste an incredible amount of time repeating mistakes. That is, we have too much ego to admit failings or not enough collective knowledge to overcome them. Even if we spend countless hours playing the game, we fail to learn about ourselves along the way, and in turn, allow certain personality traits to inhibit success. I’ve learned I need time and concentration to be successful, and without it, I’m a losing player. Each of us, with rare exception, fall victim to ourselves in one manner or another.
No matter what your specific situation might be, think about what factors outside of the actual fundamentals themselves lead you to handicapping success. I know I need time, time, and more time and will endeavor to only place a bet with ample legwork completed. Each player should objectively look in the mirror, study their carefully complied records, look at the bankroll, and truly assess what makes you successful. More importantly, understand what makes your life as complete as possible and where your handicapping fits into it.
Be honest with yourself, relish your life, and enjoy your handicapping.
Good luck and good racing.