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Track Tracts

Quick-and-Dirty Track Techniques:
Betting Lines
by Gordon Pine

Ron Ambrose used to have a method of making a quick betting line that was so simple that I initially believed there was no way it could work. Yet he seemed to make a profit with it. The cognitive dissonance this caused in my brain has eased as I�ve gotten older and wiser. I�ll tell you why.

First, here�s the method: Ron would initially decide how many contenders � horses he thought had a reasonable chance of winning � were in the race. Then he�d assign fair odds to each contender equal to the number of contenders in the race. If it was a two-horse race, they�d both get 2-to-1 fair odds. Three contenders got 3-to-1 fair odds; four contenders, 4-to-1 fair odds, five contenders, 5-to-1 fair odds, six contenders, 6-to-1 fair odds.

Basically, he was dividing up the probabilities so that each contender got an equal share, plus another equal share went to the non-contenders as a group. For instance, if he felt there were three contenders, each contender was assigned a 25% chance of winning (3-to-1 fair odds), plus the non-contenders as a group were also assigned a 25% chance of getting to the finish line first.

What could be simpler? But was this method, as I suspected originally, too simple to work? I no longer think so.

For one thing, Ron didn�t use it in all races. He seemed to use it when he didn�t have a strong opinion about a race � when there wasn�t some "shaker" (because he was betting so much his hand would shake as he made the bet) show bet on a solid favorite, or some exacta or triple combination that he had his eye on.

Second, you�ll notice that the method hinges on the handicapper�s ability to pick contenders. If you can successfully knock a field down to the real contention, especially if they�re not all the lowest-odds horses in the race, you�re well on your way to profit-land.

Third, this method honors the most important and least regarded factor in most races: the element of chance. Ron seemed to apply this method to races where he didn�t have a strong conviction about any of the contenders. Have you ever sat over the Racing Form for and picked nits over one race for 20 minutes, and finally chosen one horse over another (because his adjusted second call was two ticks faster in his last race, after all) only to see another one of your contenders win at much higher odds? You may have been guilty of one of the most common afflictions of the horseplayer: over-handicapping. If you don�t initially see a big difference between several horses, maybe it�s because there really isn�t one. Maybe the smart move is to just assign them equal percentage chances to win and forget about it. Take advantage of chance, the under-regarded X factor of handicapping, by not trying to distinguish differences that aren�t really there.

Fourth, since you�re using a betting line, you�re insisting on value. In a contentious race among two or more contenders, it�s almost always wise to bet on the higher odds horse or horses. A betting line will force you to do that.

If you�re ever at loose ends at the racetrack, I suggest you try this method. While not completely mechanical (you still have to pick the proper races and contenders), it�s fast, easy, and holds the potential for profits if you use it well.

So what do we have? Let�s see: a quick method that requires discernment in its application, the ability to identify contenders, an affirmation of the importance of randomness in racing, and a utilization of value in selecting wagers. Hey, Ron � maybe it�s not so simple after all. NC

Copyright �2002 NetCapper Inc. All rights reserved.

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