Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"I'm a Bettor"

Hi, you know me. I’m a bettor.

I rush up to the windows with zero minutes to post to get my bet down, fumble with my selections, get sneered at for messing up by Mr. Teller, and learn that I still had another six minutes to get my bet in. “They do that at Tampa Bay” someone tells me. 

I’m a bettor.

I was at the track and noticed a trainer who was suspended in a state, but was racing in another state. “What should I do” I asked. One of my friends said I should not bet because he is not “using the juice” there. Another told me that they are watching him for milkshakes so I should not bet. I don’t even know what a milkshake is, so I bet. He ran up the track. Maybe they were right. 

I’m a bettor. 

I watch the races on a Saturday and get confused so easily. “Why do all the races that I want to bet go off at the same time” I ask. “That’s what they do here”, someone tells me. 

I’m a bettor. 

A while back I was at the track. My horse looked to be bumped by another horse and I came second. Everyone said they would take a look at it, so I waited. Someone said “it’s the last race of the day so the judges want to go home.” Someone else said that the judges were watching a football game like they were at the Breeders’ Cup a couple of years ago. Someone else said that one of the judges probably bet the winner. I don’t know. All I know is no one told us anything, they put up the prices and I lost.

I’m a bettor. 

I was reading a story on one of the industry websites a couple of years ago and they told me that I should sign up for an Internet betting account because it was pretty cool. I looked into it and found one. They were right! This account gave me great service, free video and they even gave me a nice break on my takeout. Instead of losing a lot of money, I was only losing a little bit of money now. I was having fun. 

Then one day I got a letter saying that because I lived in New York I could not be a customer anymore. “That happened to me in Texas” said a friend. “Me too in Pennsylvania,” said another. Ditto in Virginia someone told me. Why did they tell me to sign up when they were going to not allow me to be a customer of them? Someone told me it’s because tracks and horsemen all need more money so they raised some sort of fee. But I found that strange; I did not just fall off the turnip truck. Billions of dollars have come from slots in some of these states. They have money. Why do they have to hurt us? 

“Maybe I will just go to the track again” I said, but a friend told me they were raising the price of parking and admission too. I don’t know what to do.

I’m a bettor. 

I was playing the races one day and the field was scratched from five horses to four horses. A professional gambler said I was stupid to bet a five horse field with high takeout, but I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then he told me that in the four horse field the track was still offering trifecta wagering. He said that was “criminal”. I don’t know much about math, but it does sound a little silly to have a trifecta in a four horse field. I have to watch these guys at this track, I said to myself. 

I’m a bettor. 

I like to wake up Saturday and get my email from horse racing. Every Saturday someone is trying to get me to bet a pick 6. I try and try and try but I never hit them. I get mails for a “Rainbow Six” and people like Andy Beyer tell me that’s even worse. 

Why do they always want me to bet something that I will never win? It seems mean.

I’m a bettor.

In Illinois they need more money, so they added a “surcharge”. I don’t know what that is, but I figure it’s going to screw me somehow.  Why can’t horse racing pay for things themselves when they mess up? It’s complicated, someone tells me. 

I’m a bettor. 

I’ve lived through it my whole life. Others “put on the show” and I don’t mean much. I should bet, even when the price goes too high, or they close down my online account, or they don’t show how an inquiry is handled, or when a trainer who is suspended in one place is not suspended in another or when they raise my parking prices. I’ve been through pick 6 scandals, and frog juice and signal fee hikes. I’ve been through supertrainers, and takeout hikes. 

Through all that, I and people like me, have bet and paid for purses so everyone can earn a living. Those who breed and ride and train and groom and shoe horses, among others.  I have not complained.  I was doing my job.

I’m a bettor. 

Last week I walked through my local track. I had not been there in quite some time. A racing executive said “I have not seen you in awhile”.

"No, I haven't been betting much" I replied.

He asked, “Why, is it because our purses are too low, or is it alternative gaming taking you away? Is it because of the bad weather?”

“You probably wouldn’t understand”, I said. 

I have not supported the industry for awhile, but I’m still a bettor. However, for all of you reading who are ex-bettors - the silent thousands who have left the sport forever the past ten years - let me say that I understand why you left. I understand completely.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Zenyatta & Will Take Charge - Some Horses Just "Have It"

With the Olympics only a couple of weeks away, I can't wait to watch one of my favorite Olympic sports, the biathlon. That's the sport where guys and gals ski for like 10 miles, then shoot a gun at a target. Yes, I am serious. I love that sport.

Remember when our basketball coaches made us shoot free throws after a long, hard practice? It was done to practice game-like conditions when we were tired. When we're tired, we make mistakes. We "break" in our fundamentals because our bodies are telling us they're about done.

In the biathlon that's seen almost each race. Evgeny from Uzbekistan is getting tired. Mats from Sweden (those Swedish skiiers kick some major butt, although all are not named Mats) catches him on a hill and Evgeny breaks. He's done. He misses his next few shots at the target to boot. His Olympic gold medal dream is over.

Similarly, horses who get tired tend to break. They want to catch the horse in front of them, or hold off the one coming, but they can't, because their bodies are telling them the discomfort of competing any longer is greater than their will to win. Their opponent has the will to win that goes beyond the usual will to win. Ask any trainer, when your horse has that quality, they are a glorious animal.

Bruno De Julio has been clocking horses longer than Miley Cyrus has been alive and he's seen it all. This month, in the Horseplayer Monthly magazine he wrote, what in my opinion is a fantastic column about a few of them, including Zenyatta and Will Take Charge.

"Shirreffs would send two workmates to deal with Zenyatta, one would make her work early. She would go after that one into the turn, but if allowed to stay on course, she would put away that mate and idle and get nothing out of her work, so, Shirreffs, threw a second workmate to jump into the work at the quarter pole and make her focus again and work hard to the wire. Even that sometimes wasn't enough as she would get lead in deep stretch and then idle out."

She had to chase and she had that will to win to chase as long as that target was in front of her. Even if she was getting tired and sore, and wanted to throw in the towel and get a warm bath and a bucket full of food, she chased. 

I enjoy handicapping - that's a given since I am a member of HANA and writing this article - but I am also a fan of raw athleticism. I don't think we give some of our top horses their due at times for being great athletes. It's something that not all of them have, and when they have it, I think it's completely magical.

To read Bruno's article, as well as many others from Barry Meadow, Melissa Nolan, Rich Nilsen and others, please click here. It's free and you can get back issues too.

To visit Bruno on the web and sign up for his newsletter and service, please click here. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Reviews are positive for Horseplayers tonight on Esquire.

And another reminder.

Later this week our February issue of Horseplayer Monthly is to be released.

We've got articles on Tourney play from Jerod Dinkin, Mike Dorr and Lenny Moon. Articles from Bruno DeJulio and Barry Meadow, Melissa Nolan and much more.

To access the Horseplayer Monthly, you can get it all right here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Doubling Handle in a Decade And a Reminder to Check Out "Horseplayers"

"It truly is amazing how growth can positively impact everyone while stagnation leads to tribalism and in-fighting and decision-making based on the fear of loss as opposed to the hope of gain. That’s unfortunately where horse racing is today."

- From "The Decade Double" right here.

Reminder, this Tuesday evening, Horseplayers debuts on Esquire. One of the horseplayers in the show helped out the Horseplayer Monthly magazine a time or two. The others are all favorites of many of us as well.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Do You Want Rolling Doubles Back in California?

Some horseplayers on social media and via our email have said they dislike the double change in California. Although they are happy the payouts are increased (the takeout was reduced), they liked the convenience of betting doubles in more than select races.

A horseplayer has started a petition to bring back rolling doubles. If you are interested in signing it, you can here.

Note: At HANA, we have not surveyed our membership on this question, so we just link this with that caveat. Clearly, if rolling doubles are returned, we are for them with the higher payout rate to increase churn and make the game more enjoyable for all of us, the customers.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fan or Handicapper? Find Out Now!

This article by Jerod Dinkin originally appeared in December's Horseplayer Monthly magazine.  To read that issue, or any of the previous issues, chalk filled with handicapping articles and stats, please click here. It is 100% free.  

In recent issues of Horseplayer Monthly, we’ve asked Q & A interviewees the following question: “What percentage are you a fan and what percentage are you a handicapper?” This is seemingly a straight forward enough question, but for those seeking a little guidance, here is a quiz to help you determine your ratio: 

1.    When planning a weekend trip to Lexington in April or October, which of the following best describes your dream itinerary/thought process about the trip?
A.    Two days straight without leaving the Bluegrass Room, except perhaps for an occasional restroom break, but only if there is more than 20 minutes left to the next post (10 pts)
B.    One day at Keeneland, one day visiting horse farms (5 pts)
C.    Feeding retired race horses carrots at The Kentucky Horse Park (1 pt)
D.    Putting on a set of goggles and doing the backstroke in a giant oak bourbon barrel at the Maker’s Mark production facility (No points, but sounds like fun)
E.    Both A and D, but not C (7.5 pts)
F.    What’s so special about Lexington? (Automatic disqualification from bettor or fan status)
G.    The Drive-Thru betting windows are the greatest invention since the gift of flight (20 pts)

2.    You overhear a discussion about the “Horse of the Year” and your first instinct is to think to yourself which of the following?
A.    Who cares? (10 pts)
B.    I will defend Zenyatta to the death (1 pt)

 Zenyatta - Breeders' Cup Photo

C.    I will defend Zenyatta to the death and then haunt you after my passing with impunity (0.5 pts)
D.    Yeah, yeah, yeah….Anyway, who won the fourth at Portland Meadows? (15 pts)
E.    Seems like a popularity contest for really wealthy grown-ups (no pts up for grabs, just an observation)

3.    The term “Dime Supe” refers to what?
A.    A four horse vertical wager made in 1/10 fractional increments (10 pts)
B.    An option that comes with the lunch special at Wong Foo’s (0 pts)

4.    While attending a Breeders’ Cup or Triple Crown race card, you must see and/or do the following:

A.    Visit the horses in the paddock before every race (2.5 pts)
B.    Concern yourself with sartorial choices (0 pts)
C.    Drink beer (5 pts)
D.    Have a mixed drink with any form of fruit or mint (1.5 pts)
E.    Only drink water since you, “can’t focus properly on your handicapping while buzzed” (10 pts)
F.    Remember to print out Track Bias and Trip Notes prior to leaving the hotel (15.5 pts)
G.    Check the website of the hotel you plan to stay in for the event ahead of time to confirm proper Business Center accommodations to make sure you can print out Track Bias and Trip Notes (16.5 pts)

5.    Let’s say “hypothetically” you went to France to visit your then girlfriend who would eventually become your wife as she finished her last week of a semester abroad at a large university. Let’s also “hypothetically” say that while she was in class, despite the French language proficiency of a preschooler, you purchased the French version of the Form, visited Vincennes Harness track, spoke broken French lacking any form of lucidity to a mortified teller who couldn’t stop laughing at a silly American, won four of six races with enough ROI to upsize from a croissant to a chocolate croissant (oui, oui) and was back in time for dinner. (100,000pts - especially if you passed on visiting the Louvre or Musee d’ Orsay)

6.    William Hill and Ladbrokes are:

A.    Characters on Downton Abbey (0 pts)
B.    British based wagering services (7.5 pts)

7.    My favorite horse of all-time is:

A.    The one in which I cashed the biggest ticket (10 pts)
B.    Silver Charm, because he always gave his best (2.5 pts)
C.    The one with the same name as my pet turtle when I was a kid (0 pts)

8.    Aside from horse racing, my other hobbies and interests include:
A.    Watching and/or wagering on football, basketball, and hockey (7.5 pts)
B.    Luge (0 pts)
C.    Challenging my friends to various bets such as which raindrop will get to the bottom of the windowsill first (100 pts)
D.    Watching the Oscars (0.5 pts)
E.    Watching the VMAs (-500 pts)

9.    You are most likely to be able to name:
A.    All of the winners of the NHC (25 pts)
B.    The Kentucky Derby winners of the past 20 years (5 pts)
C.    The Louisiana Derby winners of the past 20 years (500 pts)

10.    A Triactor is:
A.    The Canadian term for Trifecta (10 pts)
B.    A triple threat that can sing, dance, and act (0.5 pts)
C.    Unplayable in the state of Pennsylvania with a 30% takeout (25 pts)

If you scored less than 50 points, you are more of a fan than a bettor.  50 or more points and you are more of a bettor than fan. If you scored 500 or more points, e-mail me your contact information and you can join my support group.

In all seriousness, this is a great game no matter your specific fan to bettor ratio. All of us are passionate about the game regardless of our specific lens, slant, or specific involvement in it. Breeders’ Cup weekend was a nice reminder of what many of us love about the sport without care if your handle is five figures or two figures, you own a Classic starter or just a can of Classic Coke, or if you just love to be with friends and family watching thoroughbreds do what they do best.

For just a few days, hopefully we forgot about realities such as signal fees, ADW fights, medication issues, takeout concerns, and wagering integrity, and could take pride in all that is good about the game.

Good luck and good racing.