Monday, September 8, 2008

Horse Racing 101

Ok so I got a bit of time to kill, and since we now have BOTH TVG and HRTV (the two horseracing channels) in our cable lineup, I must teach my roommates the ins and outs of becoming a compulsive gambl- er, playing the ponies.

Just a fun thing to mix things up, really. I'll try to properly label the blog titles so you don't waste your time reading this if you could care less (but you should, because it's the sport of kings, and it's awesome).

I won't bore you with the history and stuff, but just know this: it's an old sport, really old. I mean freakin' chariot races were around before Jesus and stuff. And yes, it is a sport. With the exception of soccer and maybe a few others, horseracing is one of the most global sports still alive. (They should include it in both the summer and winter olympics- the average racehorse is like 4, so I dunno how the chinese could cheat on this one)

In the U.S., there are three primary types of racing: Thoroughbred, Harness (Standardbred), and Quarterhorse. They are listed in order of coolness. Quarterhorses are more like ponies so it's boring, and harness is ok, but it's more about the driver than the horse. Thoroughbred is more common anyhow, and unless noted otherwise, that is what I will be referring to in these posts.

Obviously, what makes the sport so awesome is the betting part. Otherwise it'd be like slow Nascar, for rich people... ewww. State governments regulate the gambling, and legalize it through a parimutuel system. Basically this means is that you're not betting agaisnt the house at all (like at a casino, blackjack, etc.) but rather against other gamblers. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing. If you can outsmart your fellow gamblers, you can win big. If you have no clue what you're doing, you're no better off at the track than in front of a slot machine.


It's much like the stock market in ways; you're always following trends and patterns, looking for tips, and taking an educated guess (a risk/gamble) at turning your dollar into two (or hopefully, more).
If you go to the track and pick up a program, chances are you'll have no clue what all the numbers, letters and symbols bunched together in microscopic print are. It looks like Russian at first. But with some patience and time, you can learn to break this code. It's much easier than it looks, but because people are stupid and lazy, there is almost always some sort of Handicapper's analysis section following the jumbled numbers and stuff. A handicapper's job is (a) to set the morning line odds
for a racecard, (b) to analyze the races and write in programs/newspapers/websites, informing the public of his or her "professional" opinion, and (c) to make you feel stupid. And it works with most people. They use all these fancy terms and refer to horse's as if he/she is on a first name basis with them. Some 30 year-old frat boy will read a handicapper's analysis, nodding his head, trying to impress his friends, like he actually gets it. These people are so easy to pick out in a crowd. I could spend a day at the track just people watching, pointing out these assholes. Between them, the "I bet on the horse for its name/colors/number/dong size" crowd is just as bad, but they are less of a threat. Then you have the old men who talk a big game, recalling stories of big bets they've caught in the past, at XYZ track in a year my parents weren't even alive in, yet these old dudes never seem to hit anything these days. Or the variation of the old dude: usually hangs around with the other old guys, but has a need to be the odd man out and bet on the horse no one else likes, PROMISING "this one's a winner," only to make excuses (i.e. blaming the jockey/weather/other horse/dong size) for his loss. Finally you got the type who ALWAYS bets on the longshot, looking for a big payout. Just plain dumb. Again, back to the casino with your lame ass! With all of these groups, there exists exceptions. Occasionally one of these people will get lucky and feel the need to tell everyone else about how great their "system" is. YOU DON'T HAVE A SYSTEM! You won once out of a hundred times using your "system." There are no "systems" in betting on horses, remember this, or you will find yourself more worried about your system than the races and horses themselves, or fall into one of the aforementioned groups.

So basically we've been over a bunch of DO NOTs. It is important if you want to be successful at the track, to go into it with the right mindframe. I know this sounds ridiculous, I mean it's just gambling, but for serious, your emotions will get in the way. A "hunch" or a second guess will cause you more heartbreak than the small dent you might leave in your wallet. If you like a bet, make it. But make sure you are confident with it. Make sure you've thought about it thoroughly, but be careful not to overthink. Spread out your money, but don't go throwing it all over the place, just so you have a "sure winner somewhere in your bets." You'll never come out ahead that way. Again, I think a lot of these points can be used in trading as well. Very similar.

Well that's it for today kids. I know we didn't get into very many specifics, but all of the bold terms will be later discussed, as well as many others. Should you want to read ahead, for extra credit or just to impress me (I like being impressed!) feel free to Wiki that shit, or whatnot. Next time we'll get more into the betting itself, how it works, types of bets, payoffs, odds, etc. Eventually class will have to be held in person so we can go over reading a program, and should things go well, a field trip may even be in order, to test and hone your skills.