Thursday, December 10, 2015

Selling Horse Racing as a Gambling Game of Skill A First Step
-by Andy Asaro

Those of us who love the game often say that horse racing is the greatest gambling game of skill ever created. But in 2015, gambling on horse racing - when compared to other games of skill that are thriving -  is becoming one of the worst games for customers and non-rebated gamblers who are charged retail takeout rates.  This is due, in part, to prohibitive pricing (high takeouts), difficult multi-leg hard to hit exotics, the proliferation of jackpot bets, and the complexity of analyzing the data from past performances.  This has caused even the most experienced gamblers to have a much more difficult time just breaking even. 

When most of us learned the game and fell in love with racing we had a choice of wagering to Win, Place, or Show, along with two exactas per day with maybe one Daily Double.  In the late 1970's it was much easier to make it through the learning curve, simply because we cashed more tickets.  We became life-long customers by enjoying the great experience of solving the puzzle that is each race, and of cashing tickets at a rate that at the very least gave us the impression that we had a good chance to win.

The Industry has reached a point where it must "sink or swim" based on a model without alternative gaming revenue like slot revenue, or instant racing, or online poker.  It is evident that there will come a day when those revenues will decrease or go away completely.  Because California racing does not receive alternative gaming revenues I believe that California is ground zero in the fight for the future of Horse Racing. California racing must proceed on a sustainable model based on earning revenues directly and indirectly from gambling on horse racing alone. I would argue that an optimal pricing experiment is significantly more important in California precisely because there is no alternative gaming revenue. 

The best way to begin an optimal takeout experiment in California is to eliminate breakage on Win, Place, and Show (currently 15.43% takeout) AND to lower exacta takeout to 16%.  I believe that this experiment makes sense for a couple of reasons:

For decades, "breakage" for most experienced horseplayers has been synonymous with "stealing".  A simple change to eliminate breakage on WPS bets by paying to the penny will be one of the most talked about stories of 2016.

Horseplayers everywhere will not only applaud the change, they will support the first jurisdiction to eliminate breakage on Win, Place, and Show with their gambling dollars.  

The objection to eliminating breakage is that there are worthy causes who need the revenue from breakage.  The best example of a worthy cause is financial assistance for backstretch workers and their families. By eliminating breakage on WPS, revenue that was once derived from breakage will now need to be shifted to revenue derived from takeout. 

Second, California racing must shift from a prohibitive 22.68% takeout on exactas to an industry low 16% takeout.  We know from prior analysis that handle would have to increase approximately 30% to be revenue neutral.  Over time it is my view that handle will increase in two horse exotics by more than 30%, and the goodwill lost from past moves in California (e.g. the 2010 takeout hike) will serve California well long-term.  

These are the risks that need to be taken if California intends to be a viable industry three, five, or ten years from now. 

The most common objections for these specific recommendations are that they will cannibalize other wagers and total revenue will drop.  It is true that your current customers will shift some of their play to these lower takeout and easier to hit higher churn wagers, but at an optimal takeout rate like 16% exacta churn can be like a snowball going downhill.  And, when you hit an attractive price point, academic gambling research (including studies commissioned in California as far back as the late 1980's) shows handle and revenue will grow for an extended period of time.  That is the sensible way to increase handle, revenues, and market share that is already being cannibalized by the competition. For California racing to succeed it must be first to make these changes. 

It is imperative that at the same time these recommendations are put into place the industry must begin to change the way it currently promotes horse racing.  People love to gamble and they love gambling games of skill. There must be concerted efforts from organizations like America's Best Racing and the Jockey Club to promote Win, Place, and Show wagers, along with other low takeout and high churn wagers.  Selling horse racing as a great gambling game of skill and allowing people to experience the excitement and fun of higher churn, lower takeout wagers, will without a doubt increase interest from new players the industry needs. 

Together, with a strong industry push and a two-pronged attack that encompasses fair pricing and aggressive marketing, we believe this strategy will be a winning one.

Optimal Takeout (Defined)

The price point that drives total wagering handle upward to where total long term revenue becomes maximized for tracks, horsemen, and governments.

Note: Selling Horse Racing as a Gambling Game of Skill A First Step was written by Andy Asaro. For those of you who might not know Andy is a horseplayer advocate and proud HANA member who lives in southern California. Andy is passionate about California Racing and in my opinion has some solid ideas about how Track Management, The CHRB, and the TOC can get on the same page and get California Racing off the path of the status quo and onto a path to success.

After reading what Andy has written, I decided two things. First, I agree with just about every word, and second. that I would run his recommendations here on the HANA Blog.

Jeff Platt, HANA President

Monday, November 9, 2015

Player Spotlight Segment: Emily Gullikson

We recently did a “Player Spotlight” segment with Emily Gullikson.  Emily is a relatively new horseplayer, and we asked her about what got her involved in horse racing, what her handicapping process is, and some other info. 

Q:  How long have you been handicapping? How did you get the bug?

A:  I am still relatively new to handicapping, playing for just about five years. My background and career is in athletics. I spent a lot of my childhood around horses. I rode hunter/jumper and worked at the barn, I would be there all day with horses. I went to the local track a few years ago and what got me hooked was the Racing Form and the handicapping aspect. I did not know anyone at the time that was into racing. I read books, and searched out anything I could that would help me learn. I’ve been a full-fledged player ever since. 

Q:  What type of handicapper would you generally be described as? Are you a data cruncher, angles, pace, speed, watch replays, or a pure combination of them?

A:  Form cycle. I’m looking at a lot of different factors such as replays, trainer angles, pace, and performance figures to assess a horses’ form and condition going into the race. Watching replays is a big part of that. One of the roles I have at OptixEQ is writing trip notes. I have watched, without exaggeration, thousands of races and race replays this year covering Gulfstream, NYRA tracks, CD and Keeneland. Writing trip notes is a lot more in depth that just picking up on the winner, and the obvious trouble. It is important I watch every performance and grade that effort properly. Within the notes, I will include projections such as, shorter, needs to add/remove blinkers, needs a drop. The visual aspect has become a huge part of my handicapping. 

Q:  In your Twitter bio it seems you are competitive by nature (sports, fitness). If so, do you think being competitive is a reason why you enjoy the pursuit of handicapping?

A:  Playing in handicapping tournaments certainly brings out my competitive side. I’m semi-retired from actively participating in sports. That urge to “train” and “compete” is engaged when gearing up to play a tournament. I play better when I’m sharp and mentally prepared. The preparation and steps involved getting ready for a big handicapping tournament are very similar when I got ready for a game day. 

Q:  What do you most like about horse racing?

A:  Earlier today backed at 6/1 at Belmont. I watched as this “best bet of the day” stumbled out of the gate and instantly lost all chance. Immediately followed that up in the next race, with 26/1 tourney horse that absolutely stood in the gate, spotted the field, made a late rally to get up for fourth and then galloped out past the winner.

One of the most memorable times in my life came standing on the winner’s circle rail watching Zenyatta in the 2010 Vanity. Horse racing, in mere seconds, can bring out every possible emotion. There is nothing like it. 

Q:  What do you think can be improved in the sport for someone like you, as a customer?

A:  From a handicapping and player aspect I would like to have more information available about the horse on race day. This includes equipment changes, such as a first time starter debuting in blinkers, the addition or removal of front wraps, and shoe information/changes. When a horse is scratched by the veterinarian the reason for the scratch should be listed. Along those lines, I would be interested in knowing the weight of the horse coming into race.

Another improvement that should be implemented is the way inquiries and objections are handled. Ideally, we could be watching the video as the stewards are watching the video, listening to their discussions, along with the phone conversations with the jockeys involved.

This piece appeared in the October edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Press Release - For Immediate Release From HANA

 Keeneland’s Breeders’ Cup Takeout Is Arbitrarily Increased for Customers North of the Border

HANA Calls For Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, Woodbine to Respond to Customer Pricing Concerns

For Immediate Release

(October 29, 2015, Keswick, VA, The Horseplayers Association of North America): The Woodbine Entertainment Group, the entity which Canadian horseplayers, through live, OTB and Internet, wager on horse racing, has announced the betting menu for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup has been significantly changed.

Takeout rates for the 19% trifecta, superfecta and pick 3 pools at Keeneland have been increased to 27%, place and show from 16% to 18%, and two horses exotics, super high 5, pick 4 and 5, from 19% to 20%. Only win and the pick 6 were left the same as the host track. 

“Woodbine drew the ire of many this spring when they created a new pick 5 with 25% takeout, which was well above the industry standard of 15%. Now in the fall we see Breeders’ Cup takeouts have been massively increased. We at the Horseplayers’ Association of North America call on Woodbine and the Canadian Pari-mutuel Agency (CPMA) to address these issues. These are policies that are driving more and more horseplayers to other games of skill, further eroding horse racing’s betting customer base, and hurting the entire industry,” said Horseplayers Association of North America President Jeff Platt. 

“According to their release, Woodbine said they are instituting this new measure in part because of “significant taxes” that are applied on wagers that are not seen in the US. The truth of the matter is, in Canada, and Ontario, only 0.5% of every dollar wagered goes to the provincial government, with 0.8% to the federal government. Simulcast deals made between Woodbine and horsemen groups which penalize horseplayers are on them, not on the customer, and should’ve been updated long ago to reflect the 21st century simulcast market,” added Platt. 

In Canada, horseplayers cannot patronize a competitor this weekend to escape the high takeouts and lower payoffs. Woodbine has a monopoly on pari-mutuel horse racing wagering in the country. 

For more information please contact
For the web link for the above release, please visit here:

The Horseplayers Association of North America is a grassroots group of more than 3,000 horseplayers. HANA believes that both tracks and horseman groups have become bogged down with industry infighting and have completely forgotten something: The importance of the customer. HANA hopes, through proactive change on several key issues (including but not limited to), open signal access, lower effective takeouts, affordable data, transparent medication reform and customer appreciation, the industry’s handle losses can be reversed.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Weekend Preview - Suffolk Downs Trying 15% Takeouts

While much of the attention in horse racing will be focused on Keeneland and Belmont, Suffolk Downs will be hosting their second of three planned race cards this year on Saturday afternoon starting at 12:30, and this time they will be having 15% across the board takeouts.

"We appreciate the Massachsuetts Gaming Commission working with us on the takeout reduction," Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said in the article linked above. "Historically, even when we had relatively larger field size, it's not as if we've ever had a signal that was in high demand due to the purse levels. On Saturday we'll be returning 85% (of money wagered) to the bettors, and it will be interesting to see if there is a positive response."

This takeout reduction at Suffolk is a unique opportunity for horseplayers to really get value across the board, but especially in three pools - exactas, trifectas, and superfectas.  According to our chart, 15% is the lowest exacta rake by over 3% and the lowest trifecta and superfecta rate by 4%. 

Field size is also strong, with an average of 9.1 starters in the 12 races, and seven of the 12 races have fields of ten or larger before scratch time.

So while we certainly understand that Keeneland and Belmont will get the bulk of the wagering dollars this weekend, we thought we would let you know about this chance to play these races at Suffolk, given the rare chance to play into some low-rake pools.  Whatever you decide, best of luck with all your wagers this weekend.

Your HANA Team

Friday, September 4, 2015

Member Poll Results: 4 in 5 Support USADA Framework

In July a poll was issued regarding the Barr-Tonko Bill, which would allow US Anti Doping Agency to create the Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Organization. This would be an independent, non-governmental, non-profit governed by a board comprised of six USADA board members, along with individuals from the Thoroughbred racing industry.

 The results of the poll showed 83% support from horseplayers.

The full poll, along with comments from you, is published in today's Horseplayer Monthly magazine, a free downloadable emagazine, that you can get here. 

Also in this month's magazine - A Q and A with TimeformUS's chief figure maker, a preview of tomorrow's big Kentucky Downs meet, handicapping tips, horseplayer news, and much more.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Research: Slot Revenues Are Hurt By Increasing Takeouts

The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers on Wednesday announced the results of a report by Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis about the nation's slot machine industry. The results will be no surprise to horseplayers:

"“While statistical correlations on a state-by-state basis vary due to any number of factors, the broader, aggregate trends would suggest a rising hold percentage has not translated into incremental gaming revenue for operators during the post-recession era,” the report concludes. “In fact, they very well may be contributing to its decline.”

Often, the horse racing industry discusses takeout reductions and makes conclusions in rudimentary fashion, i.e. if a super high five bet's rake drops from 15% to 10% and does not attract more dollars, people do not care about takeout. This, as the above study shows, is exactly not the way to look at it. It needs to be looked through a gambling lens. It's about hundreds and hundreds of exactas paying $40 instead of $50, which over time, degrades bankrolls, where bettors feel they have little chance to beat a game.

Interestingly enough, racinos in Florida bucked the trend. They lowered takeout by a whopping 32% since 2006 and increased revenue from slot machines.

Slot machine users, like scratch lottery users have been defined as "non-price sensitive". They might not make decisions based on a hidden hold, but they know when they're broke too often. When they do, they stop playing. Horseplayers - in fact, all gamblers - act the exact same way.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

8% (Harness) Takeout High Five Debuts at the Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – This past Saturday night, one lucky player cashed the jackpot Super Hi-Five in the last race at The Meadowlands for over $173,000.  The wager was placed through TVG by a bettor in Virginia.  It was the second time this meet that a person took home over six figures on the Jackpot Super Hi-Five Wager.

Given that there are only ten racing dates remaining in the 2015 Championship Meet, rather than begin a new jackpot pool with only one month to build that pool, The Meadowlands has made some changes to its wagering format.

The fifth race will continue to offer a Super Hi-Five each night, but there will be no jackpot carryover pool.  The pool will pay out each and every night and it will carry an industry-low eight-percent (8%) takeout rate.  It will be offered at the $.20 cent minimum.

The Meadowlands races Friday and Saturday through the Hambletonian in early August.  8% takeout on this bet is the lowest takeout offered on any bet, in North America, Thoroughbred or Standardbred.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Betting Favorites

 by Vin Rogers

   Ten or 15 years ago I had a horse with Mitch Friedman named Call Me Anytime.  It was Saratoga time, and "Call Me," an honest $35,000 claimer type, was entered in the fifth race on the second Monday of the meet.  Come Monday, I made may way to Mitch's barn near the Oklahoma training track.  He was relaxing for a moment with a cup of coffee.  We chatted for a while, and then I asked, "So, how do you think Call Me will do today?"
"He'll piss all over that bunch," he answered.
   At post time Call Me Anytime was the favorite, hovering around even money, 7/5, 8/5...
   I headed to the windows and bet $200 to win.  The race went off; Jorge Chavez was riding.  He made a move on the far turn and demolished the field, winning by an increasing six lengths.  I happily cashed my $425 ticket.
   Now it's commonly accepted among sophisticated horseplayers, including me, that betting favorites is a reliable and dependable way to go broke.  But there are times when rules must be broken.  My dad made a habit of breaking them.

Uncle Franco
   It was the 1940s.  The place was Jamaica, New York.  My dad was a horseplayer who frequented Aqueduct, Belmont, and the now-defunct Jamaica track.  He was a pharmacist by trade, but everyone called him "Doc."  He wanted to be a physician, but the money for medical school just wasn't there, so pharmacy had to do.
  His store - a two-pharmacist operation that was much more drugstore than supermarket - was minutes away from where the action was.  He'd make weekly visits to the track in season (racing shut down in November and didn't start up again until April), sometimes taking me along.
   I was six or seven at the time, and of course, I fell madly in love with everything I saw at the track:  the horses, jocks, the silks, the glamour and excitement of the crowds (yes, there were crowds in the 1940s - even on weekdays).
   The country was slowly emerging from the deepest depression ever, but my pharmacist dad was doing okay.  People needed what he had to sell, and for many, he was a substitute for the emergency room.  He was, among our struggling extended family, a singular success story.  When an aunt, uncle, sister, or cousin needed help, they came to Doc, and he usually delivered, much like a non-violent version of Don Corleone in The Godfather.  I think he enjoyed that role - reveled in it in fact - except for the occasional challenges from a notorious uncle known only as "Franco."
   As I remember it, Uncle Franco had been deported to Italy for crimes short of murder and mayhem but serious enough to warrant deportation.  Italy proved to be a fertile ground for his unconventional talents.  The rumor, never confirmed, was that he was involved in some aspect of the drug trade.  In any case, he prospered, and his wealth and connections enabled him to make periodic visits to the family in the U.S., despite his official deportation.
   He would come two or three times a year, stay a week or so, and entertain lavishly:  limos, Broadway shows, elegant dining, and dollar bills for me and my cousins.  My dad was, for a little while, second banana in the family hierarchy - a role he refused to accept.  So, shortly after Franco's inevitable departure back to the Old Country, Doc would respond.  He'd rent a Long Island beach house and put up everyone for a week or so, or he might pay for a weekend in Atlantic City, which was far more glamorous then than it is now.  He'd simply "out-Franco" Franco.  Now, how did he do it?  Business was good at the drugstore but not that good.  Doc needed a supplementary source of income to support these expenditures. 
   Enter Hall-of-Fame trainer "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons.

"Sunny" Jim
   Mr. Fitz trained Gallant Fox, Nashua, and Bold Ruler, among other great Thoroughbreds.  He won three Derbys, four Preaknesses, and six Belmonts.  Brooklyn-born, he lived in Sheepshead Bay for all of his 91 years.  He was a gregarious native son who really made it big - and, of course, he was one of Doc's heroes (along with "old banana nose" Eddie Arcaro).
   One September day during Belmont's fall meeting, Doc settled into his box and discovered his neighbor was indeed the legendary Sunny Jim - sitting along with his field glasses at the ready.  Doc introduced himself, and the two struck up a conversation.  Both Brooklyn-born, they hit it off, and Doc became a welcome visitor to Mr. Fitz's barn.
   In fact, Sunny Jim could always count on a visit whenever the infamous Franco had been in town.  Within days of Franco's departure, Doc would show up at the barn, and within a month, he'd get a phone call from someone that went, as I remember it, something like this:
   "The boss says that Jiminy Cricket is kicking his stall apart - he looks to be in great shape for the fifth at Aqueduct on Friday.
   Or:  "Pretty Penny did five furlongs in 59 flat yesterday - she should breeze against that bunch on Saturday."
   I'll never know for sure who called, but I do know that after these calls, Doc, usually a $5 or $10 bettor, headed for the track with a stuffed wallet at the ready.
   The Jiminy Crickets and Pretty Pennys never went off at anything higher than even money; most were 4/5, even 3/5.  Nevertheless, Doc would confidently go to the windows and place $1,000 or sometimes $2,000 to win on Sunny Jim's horses.  This of course would be comparable to my betting $15,000 today - an amount absolutely unimaginable to me.  As a university professor, I'd guess my income (adjusted for inflation) might be similar to what Doc's was seven decades ago, but I'd lack both the courage and confidence to do it - not Doc:  he had both in abundance, due in part to his complete and utter trust in his good friend Sunny Jim.
   So Doc would place his bets early - there was no way he was getting shut out - then he'd go down to the rail and quietly watch his horses run, and win, two or three times each year.
   Did they ever lose?
   I suppose so but not often enough to offset the stream of winners that came home - almost certainly - from the Fitzsimmons barn.  Within days of a Fitz-inspired win, Doc would throw a bigger and better party than the upstart Franco, and he'd be the head honcho yet again in town - and he did it all by betting favorites.
   Horseplayer Monthly readers are much too smart to bet their money on short-priced favorites on a daily basis.  Indeed, most of us spend our handicapping time figuring out way to beat the favorite.  But if Todd Pletcher were my buddy, and two or three times a year he told me that one of his horses would "piss all over that bunch" (well, Todd probably wouldn't put it exactly that way), I think I'd put some significant money on his horse - favorite or not.

   About the author - Vin Rogers is a retired UCONN professor of Education, a jazz trumpeter, an ex-equestrian, and Thoroughbred owner.  He finds handicapping endlessly fascinating and hopes someday to learn how to do it.

This article appeared in the June edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Extraction of Capital Doesn't Grow the Bet

Via a business blog today:

Thirty years ago, I asked the fabled rock promoter Bill Graham a question that I thought was brilliant, but he pwned me in his response. "Bill, given how fast a Bruce Springsteen concert sells out, why don't you charge $100 a seat and keep all the upside?" (In those days, $100 was considered a ridiculous sum for a concert ticket).

"Well, I could do that, but the thing is, I'm here all year round, and my kids only have a limited budget to spend on concerts. If I charged that much for one concert, they wouldn't be able to come to the other shows I book..."

Bill wasn't just spreading the money out over time. He was investing in a community that could develop a habit of music going, a community that would define itself around what he was building."

There is a limited gambling budget for us, the horseplayer. So, why do some tracks want to take it even quicker? And when they do, don't they realize it will result in less business?

With more competition, and more ways to spend gambling dollars - daily fantasy sports, sports betting etc - making sure existing customers - people like you - have a bankroll to play with is important.

"It's expensive and time-consuming to choose a path that doesn't deliver maximum value today. Unless you do the math on what happens tomorrow."

-- Have you read this month's Horseplayer Monthly free magazine? If not, it's here. 

--- Thanks to all members who completed our horseplayer survey. We should have the results this week.

---To sign up for HANA, or to receive the Horseplayer Monthly in your inbox, you can do it right here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Discerning Horseplayers Are Finding Tracks and Bets to Wager On

We've all seen the headlines: Racing handles are falling faster than the popularity of short fields, there are no 'great places to play', takeout is going up, and bettors are fleeing.

But there are some bright spots. Horseplayers are finding these spots, and they seem to be enjoying them.

This evening, in harness land, there is a Super High 5 carryover at Western Fair that goes in race 7. This track usually does handles in the $200,000 range, but the last time there was a carryover, fans bet close to $55,000 into the super high five pool alone, resulting in a positive expected bet. i.e. the track had to payout more than it took in. Value. For free past performances, they are here.

On Saturday, the new 12% Pimlico Pick 5 had their handle spike 22%, with horseplayers seeking some value. This was with a rather poor betting race in the last leg (The Preakness).

The pick 5 paid almost $400 more than it would've paid at the new, high Woodbine Racetrack pick 5 takeout.

Today, the DRF reported that Suffolk Downs is taking a play from the Monmouth Park playbook, and offering an abbreviated three day meet. However, the big news for horseplayers is: The meet will have, as reported, a 15% across the board takeout.

On Wednesday evening, there is a monster mandatory payout for the Super High 5 (again in harness land) at Pompano Park. The pool could be over a million and again, it will likely be a positive takeout pool.

When you add the fact that tracks like Kentucky Downs has had their handle triple, as one of the now top value, low takeout tracks in North America, there are some good things happening for horseplayers - if we look for them.

We will ensure to keep you posted where there are high takeout bets, low takeout bets, and carryovers (not the jackpot variety of course) where there is positive expected value. Discerning horseplayers all have one thing in common: They are usually the ones with the higher bankrolls at the end of the day, and it pays to play these bets.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Questions with "Dink"

This interview with noted long time gambler Alan Dinkenson originally appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here. 

Dink was featured in Beth Raymer’s memoir Lay the Favorite, which was later made into a film that premiered in 2012. Dink can be heard each Tuesday at 10 P.M. Pacific where he hosts the Eye on Gaming sports hour at KLAV 1230. He lives in Las Vegas and is an avid supporter of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue 

HM:  Can you share with us some of your history in gambling? How did you get hooked on horse racing? 

AD:  Back in New York I fell in love with [1961 Derby and Preakness winner] Carry Back at the track with my dad when I was about ten. As a sports kid I found rooting for a horse like rooting for a team.  Later, in my teens, I went with my friends to Roosevelt Raceway, cashed my first bet, and not long after that I was going every night. At Roosevelt I ran into a bookmaker who told me that if I could get my friends to bet with him, he’d give me 25% back. I thought it was the greatest thing ever, so that got my mind working about gambling.

Through him I started to get into the sports betting world, and saw that people never seemed to win, so I decided I wanted to be on the right side of the line and began looking into the world of bookmaking.  I still bet racing because the pools were good and if you were smart back then you could win at the horse races. There was no other option to bet at that time and there was a lot of dumb money.  But by my late 20’s I was a prosperous bookmaker and was only betting the races on my own each day as an aside. 

HM:  As time went on, say in the 1990’s, what was your handle like for horse racing? 

AD:  In the 1990’s, I mostly ran a betting business and bet less money on horse racing. When rebates came in, it helped attract me again, so I was still betting the horses at whatever casino would help out on price. With so much of my time spent on sports and the betting business, it brought me back to the Roosevelt days; I was having fun and enjoying myself with like-minded friends, but I could not do it full time. 

Bruce Willis as “Dink” in Lay the Favorite.  Trailer here:

HM:  What were you focusing on, as your horse racing handle went down? 

AD:  Around 2000 I started betting more on hockey. The edges were still there in hockey. Other sports were being dominated by the numbers players, math guys and big teams. I enjoyed the handicapping of horses more than any other game, but the crowd was getting far too sharp for me.  You had to dedicate more and more time and I did not have the time to put towards it. Hockey was, and is, my bread and butter. 

HM:  Do you ever think of going back in time and betting more horse racing? 

AD:  I always try to emulate people who are very successful in a gambling game and I don’t see too many people doing well at horse racing. The few that I do know who are making it are elite players. They’re extremely sharp and dedicate hours upon hours per week to their betting. I don’t think I can compete with them. I find gamblers overrate themselves and tend to think they are better than they are in some pursuits.  Knowing when you aren’t good enough is a good thing to know.  As well, the game has lost a lot of casual players, and pools need those to have a built in edge. Horse racing bettors are so sharp now. I often laugh when I watch TVG and hear, “I would never bet this horse at 8-5,” and see it run off the screen. That horse might’ve been 10-1 in 1980.  The odds board in this day and age is not stupid. 

HM:  On your radio show and in your daily life you chat with gamblers of all disciplines. Have you ever asked them why they do not bet more horse racing? 

AD:  They look at the takeout and get discouraged right away. It seems like a mathematical impossibility. When you add some of the problems in the game – perceived drugs, suspensions etc – it just seems like a mountain too high to climb.  There are other games out there to invest time in so when it comes to making a choice, most tend to choose something else. 

HM:  What do you miss about not playing horse racing like you once did? 

AD:  I love and enjoy handicapping, and using my mind to come up with something that’s six or seven to one with a chance to win big is a huge draw. You don’t get that feeling in sports betting where you are risking a lot to double your money.  I also enjoy live racing, and I enjoy the racing experience.  When I go to a hockey game maybe 1% of the people have a bet on the game, whereas at the track there are 95% who have a bet going.  At the racetrack I'm with the people I enjoy being with.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Seven Questions With...

This piece with Candice Hare originally appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here.

Q:  What is your favorite track to play, and why?  

A:  My favorite track to play is Keeneland. Because the meets are short, it seems less overwhelming to really dive in deep and focus solely on that track unlike tracks that race year-round; plus, you typically get large, competitive fields that offer solid wagering opportunities.

Q:  Familiarity with a training colony or riding colony (along with the horses) drives betting at some staple racetracks, and it's hard for other tracks to gain market share. What would a newer, smaller signal track have to do to entice you to patronize their betting pools?  

A:  For me, I think offering one solid "Big Day" per season drives my attention to a smaller track because such days are often more publicized. I'm not typically in tune with even local stakes races at a smaller track, so honestly just making those bigger races known whether it be via social media, print, or radio, it'll capture my interest. The tracks that I don't ever bet are more often than not, the ones I know very little about. 

Q:  Can you name a track that you may have discovered within the last few years who you feel is doing most of the right things to entice you to become a customer?  

A:  I'd say aside from the major tracks that run all year-round, I'd say I've really taken to Kentucky Downs. I personally like to play doubles and pick-5s, so the take-out for that meet is conducive to me making those wagers. Plus, they typically get very large fields, and a solid sized pools, so you end up with a toteboard that offers odds that I feel are typically more true to form (not skewed by small pools or short fields). 

Q:  If you could only play the races (not as a spectator, but as a bettor searching for interesting races and betting value) one day a year (e.g. Breeders Cup Saturday, Derby day etc), which day would you choose?  

A:  I would choose Belmont Stakes day. I think recent changes in that card have made it one of the best betting days of the year.

Q:  The State of the Industry for Customers is ________ Pick one: Poor and needs a ton of work, Ok, but it needs some work, Fine, could be better, with a couple of small tweaks, Great, I am totally satisfied.  

A:  Fine, could be better with a couple of small tweaks.

Q:  What is the number one thing a racetrack could do to entice you to bet more? 

A:  As I said above, it's all about publicity and making sure the public is aware of what solid races or wagering opportunities are available to me especially if a track offers a low takeout wager. I'll usually give the races a look if that's publicized. Santa Anita, for example, really pushed their pick-5 wager on social media for a while due to its takeout and now it's undoubtedly my favorite bet in the country. I don't need a whole lot of convincing to bet, but tracks do need to do a better job at publicizing what they offer to potential customers like me.

Q:  For a little fun question: Who will win the Kentucky Derby?  

A:  Upstart

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Horse Racing Survey - Please Share Your Opinion

HANA was contacted to distribute the following Thoroughbred racing survey for horseplayer feedback. Would you please consider filling it out to have your voice heard?

Here is the link - 

Thanks very much,

Your HANA Team

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rainbow Six Mandatory Expected Pools, Advantage Chart

Michael Antoniades - Chicago Racing Analyst

 In 1941 when the legendary actor Humphrey Bogart described the quest for The Maltese Falcon as “the stuff that dreams are made of “, this was the moment he was talking about. This afternoon at Gulfstream Park will culminate the quest for the Rainbow Six with a mandatory payout that will likely tilt the odds in the players favor, resulting in one of the largest Pick 6 pool in American racing history.

The carryover going into Saturday is $1,453,762. The 20 cent wager will start on Race six with a scheduled post time of 3:30 eastern. Based on past performance, a seven digit payoff is possible. The record payoff on the Rainbow Six was last year, when Dan Borislow took down the entire pool which returned a record $6,678.939 for twenty cents.  In 2012 one single winner in New Jersey took home $3,591,245.

Considering the investment opportunity presented by Sunday’s Rainbow 6 will be one of the greatest ever, I will estimate a Saturday pool of $7,000,000 which includes the carryover. The chart below demonstrates this rare scenario that will pay the winners more than the amount wagered if the final pool is less than $8,700,000. Gulfstream Park has delivered an unforgettable afternoon and possibly the chance of a lifetime. The players thank you.

Note - Other bets today worth looking into from a players advantage is the Prairie Meadows Pick 4 carryover, the Turf Paradise pick 5 carryover; as well as the 12% Pimlico Pick 5. On the "Higher Takeout Alert" scale, the Woodbine Pick 5 is 25% takeout, and Churchill Downs' pick 5 is 22%. Churchill Downs is still under a boycott from horseplayers

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Seven Questions with John Doyle

This piece with former National Handicapping Championship winner John Doyle originally appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly.  To read the rest of the issue, FOR FREE, please click here. 

Q:  What is your favorite track to play, and why?  

A:  Gulfstream Park has decent takeout rates, big fields, attractive prices and the best winter turf racing. Gulfstream is all simulcast for me. Santa Anita is my favorite on site experience. They have put some money in the facility and it shows. They do seem to be more player centric since Tom Lute has taken over.  In the past year I had some great customer experiences there while participating in handicapping contests.  Del Mar is a great venue and location and Keeneland’s racing experience is right up there.

Q:  Familiarity with a training colony or riding colony (along with the horses) drives betting at some staple racetracks, and it's hard for other tracks to gain market share. What would a newer, smaller signal track have to do to entice you to patronize their betting pools?  

A:  My big beef with tracks is their lack of transparency, information and customer communication. It's like pulling teeth to get any information. The silence sometimes is deafening. So, a new or existing track addressing some of the items listed below would get my attention.

•    Make stewards and jockey communications public during inquiries
•    Display greater transparency on track conditions (not just it's fast) , horse injuries, medications, shoe information, tote irregularities, trainer/jockey suspensions
•    Report more information with public workouts (times, note, workout partners and trainer comments)
•    Explain tote delays
•    Update us on jockey and horse injuries that have occurred
•    Broadcast in high definition video
•    Provide good paddock watching professional who can supply information and changes in horses   condition race to race (i.e Hong Kong)
•    Base all payouts on 1.00 standard. (current payouts are all over place $2, $1, .50c .10c)
•    Keep number of live pick-4 , pick-5 , pick-6 tickets displayed at all times
•    Keep odds and probable payouts posted while broadcasting replays
•    Improve photo finish technology, it's outdated and erroneous

Q:  Can you name a track that you may have discovered within the last few years who you feel is doing most of the right things to entice you to become a customer?  

A:  Again I like Gulfstream and Santa Anita. You can say what you want about Stronach, but he is committed to the sport and he puts his money up. And Gulfstream must be horseman-friendly because the field sizes are tremendous. However both Santa Anita and Gulfstream are culprits of some of the items I discussed in point two.

Q:  If you could only play the races (not as a spectator, but as a bettor searching for interesting races and betting value) one day a year (e.g. Breeders' Cup Saturday, Derby day etc), which day would you choose? 

A:  I would have to say Breeders' Cup. It's two days. It's generally in a more climate friendly venue. Plus for me the Kentucky Derby is usually the biggest crapshoot from a betting perspective.

Q:  The State of the Industry for Customers is ________ Pick one: Poor and needs a ton of work, Ok, but it needs some work, Fine, could be better, with a couple of small tweaks, Great, I am totally satisfied.  

A:  It varies from circuit to circuit, but my average grade would be OK, but it needs work. A lot of work.

Q:  What is the number one thing a racetrack could do to entice you to bet more?  

A:  Take less and show their appreciation more.

Q:  For a little fun question: Who will win the Kentucky Derby?  

A:  Derby picking is not my forte. California Chrome was my first derby winner since Street Sense. The race is impossible to handicap. However, I think American Pharoah is something special and could even be the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.