Monday, March 3, 2014

A Professional Horseplayer's Day

This interview with Mike appeared in Horseplayer Monthly. To read the March 2014 issue with 32 pages of Handicapping interviews and insight for free, please click here. To follow Mike on Twitter, he's at @silk1900.
Mike Maloney of Lexington, Kentucky, is one of the select few horseplayers in the sport who derives his living from wagering. He does not have a fancy computer team behind him. He does not write complex algorithms, or have a system robotically looking at the pools. He’s a good old fashioned, hard-working horseplayer, just like a lot of you. 
Mike is also extremely pro-racing and pro-horseplayer. He was involved with the NTRA Players Panel, and is a HANA Member, who served as a Vice-President. 

We thought we’d visit with Mike to get an idea about how he goes about his day. Perhaps some of his thoughts can help you at the simulcast center or racetrack. We thank Mike for taking time out of his busy day to share his insight. 

“Early morning is my only free time,” said Mike. “It’s when I get things done I need to get done that are non-racing related. Not until about 11 A.M. does my day begin.” 

11:00 A.M.:  “I only live about ten minutes from Keeneland, and during that ten minute drive I tend to gather my thoughts for the day. I handicap myself more than most I think, because my past results show money management is something I need to constantly work on.

"One thing I want to do on the drive is get into my mindset of my betting limit, which is what I can lose for the day. If I approach that betting limit I know I have to cut my bets down or stop betting all together. My betting limits change depending on how I am doing, and they help me a great deal. Having a philosophy where I cannot get too worked up, or go on tilt, is very important to me as a horseplayer.

"I also want to think about what tracks I may play, the weather, the bias in my bias notes, whether I have any watch-list horses I want to structure bets around, or if there is something unusual I want to remember, like a carryover in a certain pool."

Noon: “When I arrive at the track I want to ensure I am prepared to play, so I spread my notes and past performances across my desk [Mike plays the races in a de-facto “office” during simulcast and at a table in the Blue Grass room when racing is live].  I then get all the up to date changes, off the turf and weather. I discuss a few of my thoughts with my playing partner and see if he agrees or disagrees.  I check my database where I keep all my trip and bias notes and notes on any shippers. Currently, Kentucky Downs, Arlington, Belmont and Churchill Downs are the tracks I am most focused on. Other tracks, like Delaware, Fairplex, and Gulfstream are on my radar, and I will make some spot plays at those.”

12:30-2:00 P.M.:  “I am not averse to playing one of my spot plays or a horse I really like early, but for the first hour and a half, my success or failure is maxed out if I tread lightly. I want to check all tracks, even the tracks I am not 100% focused on, for any apparent bias. If I have a “day-maker” I like later in the card who is trained and ridden by a specific rider, I want to see how they are riding, or how their horses raced early, if they have one in.  If a rider is riding well, and if a trainer’s horse really fired early, I am possibly going to up my bet size for their entry later on the card. Throughout my history as a bettor, my results are better in the second half of cards, so I try to stick with this formula. Every half hour I am learning more and more.“As an aside with trainers, I find it important for me to keep track of what they’re doing. I worked on the backside for a time when I was young, and simple things like changing a blacksmith can really throw a stable hot or cold. I joke that I keep my ear to the ground to see if a trainer broke up with a partner or spouse, because in my experience, things like that can make a difference. I want to be in tune with what’s happening.”

2:00 P.M.:  The close of the early cards.  “If I am comfortable in making a larger play, I head to the windows. I could be betting a pick 4 or pick 5, or just the race itself with verticals. I’m comfortable with my ticket structuring because I have been doing this for so long. There are only so many ways to play a race, and I have about 20 different structures based on the size of the field, horse, or bets available. When I am reading off my tickets to the teller I am barely thinking about them, and I can keep an eye on the monitors for any changes or races going off at different tracks. It’s multi-tasking that has become second nature.

“How I approach the last several hours of the early cards is dependent on what I mentioned earlier:  my betting limits. If I am up a certain amount, I will adjust the limit so I take losing out of the equation. If I am down close to my limit, I may make a couple of plays and if they do not succeed, I am done for the day. We as horseplayers tend to be compulsive and we love the thrill of picking horses, but that can get in the way sometimes.

"This approach keeps me in a good frame of mind. When I win, sometimes I get serene and conservative, which is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.  If I am having a good day and feeling it, I want to be aggressive. If I am having a bad day and things are not falling into place, I need to be conservative. This may not be the right approach for everybody, but it’s good for me.”

4:00-7:00 P.M.:  “At this point of the day I’m settling down from my prime cards, and watching the early races at a late track, or watching the last several at a Midwest track like Arlington. I have probably been watching Arlington closely, and I want to remember if horses I thought would race well did, and if there is any bias I can take advantage of for a late carryover bet, like a Super High Five.

“Usually around 6 P.M., if I have no spot plays I am interested in, or the late cards have nothing too interesting, I close up for the day. This involves up to an hour of doing my taxes, making my trip notes, and updating my database. At times I will print out the past performances for the next day and have a quick look at them.

“At around 7 I probably head home, or meet someone for dinner. I unwind for an hour or two and then head back to work on tomorrow’s cards. Sometimes, if I am in the right mode, I can handicap for a few hours to get ready. On off days [generally Monday and Tuesday for Mike] I may spot play, or work on my speed and pace figures.

“At home I find that I’m always immersed in racing. Most of the time, I have TVG and my laptop on, watching a race that’s going off from somewhere. For example, Mountaineer is on right now and the first two races are turf races. Some of these horses may show up at Churchill, so I want to have an eye on it.”

“I hasten to call this ‘work,’ though, because I love it. I consider myself fortunate to have a job that I enjoy.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll bet he hesitates to call it work too.which