There are two major aspects of handicapping the Sport of Kings. First, you have to chose a horse (or multiple horses) in each race; then you have to decide how to bet.
In our Betting 101 series, I’ve discussed various ways to pick winners and some of the options on how to bet. If you are not good at both, your ROI will suffer. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to recognize that picking winners is essential to winning money. Most newbies don’t recognize that the way you wager goes a long way towards determining if you are successful, too.
Having a winner in one race but playing a daily double doesn’t do you any good unless you complete the parlay. The best handicappers in the world are adept at many handicapping and betting strategies, but we all tend to do some things better than others. This is the first in a series of articles that will help you learn what you’re good at when it comes to wagering. Once you learn your strengths, stick to’em!
We’ll keep it simple to start.
You choose which horse will a win a race; if he or she finishes first, you cash a ticket!
In the vast majority of cases, the minimum win bet is $2.
Win bets tend to have one of the lowest takeouts in horse racing. Tracks generally take between 15 and 20-percent off the top (16-percent is very common).
Everyone. From $2 players betting on lucky numbers, favorite names, or which animal most recently took a dump, all the way to the most sophisticated analytical handicappers, everybody bets to win. On high profile days, this is particularly helpful to smart bettors. Why? Because the more money that’s bet on losing horses (“dead money”), the better the payout will be on the winner. (The more people that bet a longshot because her name is “Hot Mamma,” the better the payout for everyone else.) Dead money is rampant at the Kentucky Derby when everyone and their (hot?) grandma wants to make a win bet.
There are many good occasions to bet to win. The most recognizable is when you have a strong preference for an individual horse and he or she is going off at odds that you feel are reasonable. If a horse that is 5/1 has a 30-percent chance of winning (in your judgment), that’s great value. Similarly, if a horse is 1/1 but has a 70-percent chance of triumphing, that remains a very strong bet – though many shy away from it because of the small profit. While there is a temptation to try and include live longshots in exotic wagers, anytime you can score with a 10/1 choice is a great opportunity to make good cash. Win bets are also a great default if you don’t have a strong opinion and want action on a race.
Of course, showing patience and not betting races that you can’t sway in your favor is the best course of action.
If you can’t decide between multiple horses, betting to win can cause problems. Never bet two horses to win in the same race. By doing so you are betting against yourself. If you wager $2 on a 5/1 horse and $2 on a 10/1 horse, even if the first horse wins, you cut down your profit margin from $10 to $8. Losing out on 20-percent of profits plus the takeout is not a sustainable strategy. The same holds true for two longshots. Betting a pair of 25/1 horses is usually going to result in no victories. By the time you hit one and pocket $50, you’ll have wasted plenty of cash chasing other longshot losers. Betting to win requires you to narrow your choices to whomever provides the best value.
Photo credit: Maryland GovPics (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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