Thoroughbred Horserace Betting: A 25 Year Odyssey
One of the most challenging things I ever did was try to make money through thoroughbred horserace betting. I did, but it wasn’t easy.
Here’s another one of Yolky’s adventures. It was a fun and very challenging experience that lasted over a quarter of a century.
I did make money, many thousands of dollars during that time. It was however, through a lot of study, trial and error, and research. Below are some of the things and experiences I went through in that long journey.
It all started right after I graduated from college. I wanted a programmer job, but none was forthcoming. I had already spent over a year betting at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. Those were the racetracks in Southern California where I lived.
During those eighteen months looking for a programmer job I was mostly betting longshots running at eastern racetracks. During that time I actually made more money than had I gotten a programming job.
I would have made a considerable amount more money had the bookies paid actual odds on the longshots. All my bets were longshot bets since I was testing a couple of longshot systems. Unfortunately there were few such bets locally. So I was forced to use bookies against my better judgement.
Were my father’s winning bets luck or what?
I wanted to find out if my father’s numerous winning bets over the years was luck or what. He never spent a lot of time making his selections. He didn’t handicap a race, at least not speed or pace handicapping.
More than that, he used a tip sheet and had some nice winning picks from that. He was very good at noticing jockey moves during a race which often served him well in an upcoming race. He was usually a winner almost every Hollywood Park and Santa Anita meet.
So I did lots of research. I made good money betting. However, it’s a very challenging task to keep up with winning strategies.
Some things to Know and Consider in Thoroughbred Horserace Betting
Table of Contents
- How I got involved in Thoroughbred Horserace Betting
- Note the Obvious and Not so Obvious Tactics
- I started thinking; Is it possible to Beat the Races?
- I Learned Beating the Races was Not Easy
- I Didn’t have a Job but I Beat the Races
- I Tested 100+ Racing Systems on Computers
- Artificial Intelligence(AI); On another but more Important Topic
- Winning Prospects were Dismal, but I Persisted in Spite of It
- Bets I Liked
- I’d Fly to Las Vegas and Place my Bets
- Things to Consider when Picking Horses to Bet On
- Odds and Betting Winners
- A Few Betting Recommendations I think are Solid
- What Methods Worked Best for Me?
- Other Methods I Liked or Used
- What about all the different types of bets?
- What kind of winnings did I have?
- Longshots and Progressions Don’t go Together
- Can you make a Living Betting on the Horses?
- Did you write any Systems or Selection Methods?
- I Wrote a Numerology Based Longshot System
- If I was so good how come I’m not still going to the races?
- Bet Sizes and Psychological Factors
- Each Person has their Own Psychological Bet Limit
- A Winning System is Not enough to Beat the Races
- Many things can Interfere with Being a Winner Overall
- Some Final thoughts about Thoroughbred Horserace Betting
How I got Involved in Thoroughbred Horserace Betting
Betting on horses was a popular pastime for older folks when I was young. It’s probably not today. Back when I thought about betting on horses I was just turning into my teens.
My dad always went to a bookie to bet on horses races. I didn’t have a good feeling about betting at a bookie. It seemed pretty shady to me.
The closest racetrack was in Arlington Park, in a suburb of Chicago. It was very inconvenient to go. I never went there myself until I returned to Chicago some 60 years later.
I went to a small track in the Midwest a few years ago with some friends. How would it compared to big California tracks? I didn’t bet although I should have.
Months before I became a programmer I started thinking about my father’s betting. He seemed to win most of his bets. I wondered was he just lucky? Was it possible to consistently win betting horses?
From what I knew, my dad never seemed to actually handicap a race. He always used some type of angle or method with only three or four rules. They seemed to pick winners more than I thought chance would have it.
Some races he only looked at a couple of factors when he picked a horse. Other times he would notice a misprint in a racing tip sheet. When he showed me the misprint and bet the horse it almost always won. He never made many bets during a racing season.
He always had his Racing Form for the races but seemed to pay more attention to a tip sheet. The tip sheet was a flyer with several tracks in it along with race data and other commentary.
Note the Obvious and Not so Obvious Tactics
My dad passed away quite a few years ago. Looking back, he did have several good characteristics that could help him be profitable. He was very selective. Jockey switches, distance switches, trainer switches, class moves and other obvious and not so obvious tactics he took note of.My father noticed horses switching class. He noticed horses coming in from inferior tracks and a few other things. All of which helped him to make money from betting without doing any handicapping. Which by the way, handicapping can be quite time consuming.
Unfortunately you can spend an hour or a lot longer handicapping a single race. Then you find there are no bet worthy selections in that race. My initial foray into thoroughbred horseracing was just to see if it were possible to come out a consistent winner over time.
You can be a long term winner, but I was always looking for a winning method that was easier or better, faster, higher ROI, etc. I ended up spending more than 25 years in the process.
That’s not necessary, but I am an inquisitive, analytical type person so I kept trying new ideas and methods. I did the same thing for stocks, futures, and options; lots of research and plays.
In order to verify my horseracing research I needed to make actual bets. That’s unlike most systems where databases and past results are used to justify whether a system works or not. This is common for stock picking systems. That’s one reason why most of them don’t work.
I started thinking; is it possible to Beat the Races?
So in 1970 I started reading American Turf Monthly(ATM). It’s a racing magazine with horseracing systems and writeups about betting thoroughbreds. Immediately I got interested in betting horses myself when I saw all the supposed winning racing systems.
I also read all the books I could find on handicapping the races. Some were written by professional gamblers. Being the analytical type person I was, I decided to do some research.
I wanted to see if any of the systems that showed winning workouts in that magazine were actually worthwhile. Probably 90% of those I could test on paper were not. I ordered a couple of previous years of ATM and read them all cover to cover.There were usually not enough races showing in the workouts to assume the method was a winning one.
PCs had not been invented so I couldn’t test them on a computer. Databases had not been invented yet so that route was not available. So I struggled with Racing Forms and did a lot of manual research.
I Learned Beating the Races was Not Easy
I could probably write a few books on what I learned and discovered, but to make it short almost nothing worked that showed consistent winners. Even worse, the few things that did have some merit did not hold up over racing seasons.
They weren’t reliable on different tracks or different racing surfaces, like muddy tracks. With my experience I had come to the conclusion it was possible to beat the horses or be a consistent winner over time. However, it would be very difficult to do.
More than having a winning system (a rare commodity), money management was absolutely necessary to be able to come out a winner overall. Then I discovered it was hard to make big bets, at least for me. More on that later.
It was a couple of years after I got my first computer job in 1968 I started thinking about horseracing. I knew COBOL, BASIC, and Fortran and a couple of other computer languages (now very obsolete).
Looking back, I guess it was only a matter of time I’d eventually use the power of programming and computers. That is, to answer the burning question “Can you beat the races?”
In 1971 I graduated from college, Cal State University, LA. I wanted to be a programmer, but couldn’t find a job. So I gave up after looking for a programmer job for 18 months. I went back into electronics getting a senior electronics technician job at Hoffman Aviation in El Monte California.
I Didn’t have a Job but I Beat the Races
While looking for a programming job, I started betting longshots through bookies. I was using mostly racing angles to get my picks. I needed to use a bookie since most of my longshot bets were on east coast tracks.
In spite of the bookie’s 8-1 odds cutoff on win bets, I averaged close to $3000/mo. betting longshots. That was during those 18 months I was looking for a programming job in late 1971 – 1973. I got my electronic technician job three days after I quit looking for a programming job.
If you’re wondering how I got that good senior electronic technician job it was because of my knowledge of electronics. I had exceptionally good luck starting in high school.
That high school experience ultimately led to electronic technician jobs. Those jobs ended right before I got my Associate Computer Science degree in junior college.
About eight or nine months later I got a programming job. How I got that programming job was also a stroke of good luck.
Once I started working it was too inconvenient to use a bookie. I never liked using one in the first place. I was essentially forced to because it was before online betting and most of my bets were not local. Naturally I had to continue my betting research. Some bets left me no choice but to use bookies.
From 1974-1987, I was able to sneak in a lot of computer runs testing most of those systems on the big mainframe computers. Doing so clinched the idea that it would be nearly impossible to win long term with any of those published systems. They were not robust enough.
I Tested 100+ Racing Systems on Computers
During my many years of research I used the largest, most powerful IBM Mainframe computers and later PCs, to see if any horse selection system could make money consistently. I did this research for over 25 years.
That included working with a partner the last 5 years of that where we tested commercially available computer programs for selecting horses. In spite of their sometimes high cost, especially the computer programs, none of the many programs we tested made a profit on their own.
None made enough of a profit over a lot of races on different tracks to say you could make money with them. There were a very few, however, that could make money if a GOOD Handicapper used them and selectively made bets from the program’s picks.
Even the artificial intelligence programs we tested didn’t show a profit (but it was not the latest deep learning Artificial Intelligence). Those deep learning AI programs came many years after I stopped my research. I was hoping the AI thoroughbred selection systems we tested would be profitable, but was very disappointed. All those systems tested advertised good to exceptional profits. Don’t believe such advertisements! See below about Artificial Intelligence.
A lot of my later research on thoroughbred horserace betting comprised creating databases of past races. I then used that database to see if any method showed promise. None held up over a lot of races.
A few you could selectively pick certain tracks, types of races (i.e. sprint races) or other selected racing factors. Using only those factors I was sometimes able to show a profit with a system. But that was a hit-and-miss affair.
Artificial Intelligence(AI); On another but more Important Topic
Artificial intelligence has come a long way since my use of it 25-30 years ago. It is much more accurate, much more reliable. A great and way more important use of AI is in the healthcare industry. I think it’s just a matter of time when even some doctors will be replaced by AI doctors.But for now health and safety management systems are a perfect use of AI. Artificial Intelligence based systems will become even more popular and probably necessary for hospitals and other companies in the health field.
We operate an RCFE and have nurses, doctors, social workers for the clients we care for coming to our house all the time. I expect some of the companies and hospitals they are associated with to become involved in AI technology, if not already involved.
Read about this innovative company in the UK and their use of AI. It will give you a good idea of the potential of AI in the health field. Just like the Aerospace companies and other companies working in that field it appears health related companies are doing something similar.
Those companies have to meet certain qualifications and safety standards among other requirements. I worked for several of them as a programmer/analyst. I usually had to take several related classes/exams on health and safety like many of the other employees. Using AI systems to handle, track and control such requirements for the health industry and other industries seems like an efficient and highly practical use of AI.
Among other things involving Artificial Intelligence, now some advertisers are using AI to place and optimize ads. I even use Google’s AdSense AI ad selection and placement on some of my sites to optimize the ads. Some companies use it to not only to optimize the times and which ads to place (specifically on websites) but where to place the ads on the page.
Winning Prospects were Dismal, but I Persisted in Spite of It
On its own none of the systems I or my partner tested showed long term profits. I had read dozens of books on betting/gambling/horseracing. I went to the tracks in Southern California for most of those years. Some offtrack betting was also involved.
I never used any of those systems. Lots of experience and research enabled me to win consistently. Being a computer programmer definitely helped in finding out if any published system worked or not. Those I tested did not. I could also test my own ideas.
Most of the success I had was due to handicapping a race. Racing angles worked sometimes. Knowing how to bet and when to bet was probably a large part in showing a profit. Often I wanted to bet, but the odds were too low, there were too many contenders in the race, or some other questionable factor. I tried to avoid most high class races because too many horses were good, making it more difficult to have an advantage.I think hedging many of my bets by betting multiple win bets in the same race helped a lot. As did my numerous place bets instead of win bets. Few bets in exactas, perfectas, daily doubles and other exotic bets certainly helped me be a winning bettor overall.
The Pick-6 bets I made would have been big losers had I not bet them through the Pick-6 club. They were a winner because of that.
One other thing I can think of that would make a big difference of whether one came out a winner or loser overall. That is changing your bet size randomly.
My father did that and others I knew did that. Invariably you would bet too little on the winners and too much on the losers.
What Kind of Bets I Liked
In later years I think I convinced my father to make big bets of the same amount on all the races (excluding exotic, place, or show bets). That avoids the too little on winners and too much on losers scenario.
Although I tried lots of different bet sizes and types of bets, usually it was in different time periods during that long research period. That kept me from falling into that trap of too little on winners, too much on losers.
I tried percentage of bankroll bets, plateau betting, straight bets, and progressions. Plateau betting (a mild form of progression) and straight bets were my favorite. I liked straight bets the best. The reason; less calculations, easy to remember, less mistakes.
However, if I were betting for a living I’d go for plateau betting. That’s where you increase your bets after a certain plateau is reached. i.e. $5000 bankroll: Raise bets from $50 to $75 after your bankroll reaches $7500.
In that example that’s betting 1% of bankroll per win bet. That’s relatively conservative betting (if you’re a good handicapper) Exotic bets should be lower. Place bets I’m not sure about. My place bets were usually 2 or 3 times my win bets.
I’d Fly to Las Vegas and Place my Bets
I got pretty good at handicapping the races and with money management. That was good. However, a major problem with handicapping was there usually weren’t enough solid selections at any one track. That is, to make decent money unless one made very large bets.
Large bets were not for me. I preferred smaller bets on more races. Usually there were not enough of the nine daily races to make more than one to three bets. Sometimes I would fly to Las Vegas (1 hr. flight) and make several bets at different tracks.
I’d go to casinos in downtown Las Vegas to make my bets. Then fly back home. I’d collect any profits a few days later when the casinos mailed me my winnings. Normally I wouldn’t trust anyone to do that, but the Casinos had a reputation to uphold and I never got cheated.
If I were to do that today I think I’d go to the major casinos on the Las Vegas strip. That’s assuming they would take relatively small bets.
Things to Consider when Picking Horses to Bet On
Initially all my research was done by hand, that is, with pencil and paper. It was a lot of hard work. I even paid my daughter to help me. I tried various racing angles. That is selecting horses using just a few factors of the possible 100+ factors at play in horseracing.
Using racing angles can work, but only in specific instances where the odds are right and other factors are considered. An example of a racing angle might be:
- Race is a Claiming race
- Horse is switching distance from a route to a sprint race
- Last race was within 14 days
- Last race was at an inferior track
- Post time odds are 4-1 or more
That’s just an example I made up for illustration purposes. But as you can see, there are only a few factors to consider and no handicapping in that example.
Here are some common factors one can consider in analyzing a race:
- the jockey
- horse’s age
- the particular race track
- track rating
- race distance
- track condition – fast, slow, muddy, etc
- class of race – claiming, allowance, handicap, stakes, maiden, etc.
- horse’s speed rating (if you use speed ratings in your handicapping)
- horse’s pace rating (if you use pace ratings in your handicapping)
- if handicapping a race, is your selection one of the top 3 ratings
- post-time odds
Odds and Betting Winners
A major factor for me was the odds of the horse. That often had preference over most other factors – even if a horse was a standout selection. If the odds were too low one would normally become a loser (long term) even if the horse won the race. That’s the case if one is betting to win.Sometimes in races where the odds are too low to bet the horse to win, I would bet it to place (horse comes in 1st or 2nd). Even more rarely, one could bet to show (horse comes in 1 – 2 or 3rd).
It is difficult to consistently pick winners. So you have to have decent odds to come out ahead no matter how good a selector you are. Most casual bettors don’t consider that. So they lose money because they make too many bets on the favorite or other low odds horses. The favorite is the horse with the lowest odds.
Because I am generally a conservative bettor, my most consistent bets were races where I bet 2-3 horses in a race. I’d usually bet all of them to win. Only one horse could win, so in multiple bet races the odds of those horses had to be within a certain range.
A Few Betting Recommendations I think are Solid
I agree with these recommendations taken from “Smart Money – The Art and Science of Money Management at the Track” by Prof. Gordon Jones.
These only apply to a good selections, the very best you can get. You’ll probably have problems if your selections are mediocre.
- Bet your top horse to win when the odds are 5-1 or more
- Bet your top horse to show when the odds are 1-1 or less
- For above average selections only: bet your top horse to place if odds are between 5-2 and 9-2.
- You can risk up to 4% of your bankroll to win and 10% of your bankroll to show.
- Read the book for much more information on these researched betting suggestions.
There is a slight variation of these rules in his book Gordon Jones to win!: The professional method of speed handicapping.
What Methods Worked Best for Me?
I often followed a method called “Dutching with Three” where I’d bet 3 horses to win in a race.
Dutching with Three was a method published in American Turf Monthly magazine in the late 60s or early 70s written by Ray Talbot. He was a professional bettor many years before that. It flat out works. But you must be a good or even excellent handicapper.
There are few rules, mostly regarding the odds of the horses. It’s for Claiming races. It is a powerful method, but there aren’t many bets due to the strict odds criteria.
If one is a good handicapper they could win consistently with that method. The downside is there are not very many bets at any one track in a day. You also have to watch the tote board and wait until near the last minute to bet. That’s a problem in many cases.
“Dutching with Three” is my tip for you. It only works if you are an excellent handicapper and can wait until a race where the odds range of your top three horses are correct. That was maybe my most consistent winning method when betting to win.
Other methods of betting a single horse are betting to place or show. Place bets were common for me. I made lots of place bets. Show bets were extremely rare for me, the potential payoffs being too low for ordinary size bets.
Other Methods I Liked or Used
Other methods I used also involved betting multiple horses in a race, but not actually dutching the race. Dutching is where if any one of the horses you bet win, you turn a profit. The odds of the horses have to be right for that to happen.
My most consistent selection method was speed handicapping. I’d handicap a race plus look at different factors. If I had a standout high speed rating horse with 5/2 odds or higher, I’d usually bet the horse to win and place.
Besides speed ratings, distance, recency, class, trainer/jockey and a few other factors were also considered. Low odds horses I’d bet to place (come in second). Rarely did I play the daily double, exacta, or make show bets.
For a couple of years or longer, I make daily $20 bets on the pick-six through the Pick six club I was in. Once I got married I stopped playing the pick six.
Most people want to see the races. When I was going to college, I’d go to Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, California. I would sit way up at the top of the stands and do my homework. Sometimes I’d glance at the race, but my homework was the most important thing.
It was different, especially after my first few years of research. I would not watch the races. In later years I’d drive to Hollywood Park for early morning 7 am wagering. I’d make my bets, then drive to work. Same for Santa Anita, which was about 15 minutes away. That method of operation kept my emotions out of the betting.
What about all the different types of bets
There are several different types of bets. My favorite is place betting. That means that if the horse wins or comes in 2nd you win or collect money. Nothing is free, so with place bets you usually win less money than if the horse won. That’s not always the case, but is the usual situation.
There are show bets, which I rarely made due to the low payoffs. Show bets payoff if the horse wins, comes in second, or third. Also there are exactas where you bet a horse to win and another horse to come in 2nd, in that order, in the same race. I didn’t make very many of those bets, but I liked them.
There is a daily double where you bet a horse to win in the first race and another horse to win in the 2nd race. Occasionally there is a high payoff. I didn’t make very many daily double bets. There is the Pick 6 at some tracks, a perfecta at other tracks, etc.
My advice is not to bet too many exotic bets, including the exacta and daily double. Exotic bets are way more difficult to win and can have long loosing streaks. I also don’t recommend parlays or partial parlays for casual bettors.
I don’t recommend show bets (horse comes in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) unless maybe you are a professional with big bets and a large bankroll. But in that case you would have your own methods and my advice may not correspond with your method of operation.
What kind of winnings did I have?
For many years my bets were usually $20 to $60 to win unless I was dutching the race. Other times I’d bet $20 win bet and $40 or $60 to place on the same horse.
If my bet selection was 8-5 or less, I’d only bet to place. In later years after a lot of computer analysis I made bets up to $400 to win on a horse. Frequently if the horse was less than 3-1 I’d bet him to place only. Sometimes I’d combine him in an exacta with a longshot.
I made a lot of longshot bets – generally horses going off at 8-1 odds or more. Usually $20 win bets. For multiple longshots in a race I usually bet $10 each if two. Rarely did I bet more than 2 longshots in a race.
Note that I didn’t randomly bet longshots in a race. There had to be a reason; like a weak favorite, an exacta choice, a handicap selection, etc.
The big win I remember was one where I handicapped the race. The outstanding 3-5 favorite was my selection, but the odds were way too low to bet to win. So I bet it $400 to place plus five $5 exactas with the favorite to place and each longshot to win.
The favorite came in second with one of the five longshots winning. I won about $1600 on that race. The exacta paid $750 for $5 so one of my five exacta tickets won and the balance came from my $400 place bet on the favorite.
Longshots and Progressions Don’t go Together
My biggest loss was a longshot progression I played against my better judgement. I just had to try it. I was pretty good winning with longshots.
Progressions are dangerous and should never be used on longshots. My progression went like this. Bet $10 on the first horse. Each win increase my bet by $10. If I lost keep the same bet level I was on. As it happened I won my first six bets and had banked $2800. My 7th bet was $70. The horse lost. I kept betting $70 each loosing bet until all those winnings were gone.
The all too common long losing streak occurred and I lost all those winnings. For the heck of it, I kept track of the number of losses. I stopped counting after 50 losses in a row.
A word to the wise NEVER use a progression on a longshot method. Long longshot losing streaks are very common.
That being said, one of my computer methods I discovered once I started using databases(all done by hand) of several thousand races, was a system of betting only longshots after a prescribed series of losses.
That method created some of the very best profits of anything I had ever tested. However, there weren’t many plays plus it had relatively long losing streaks. It would be rather difficult to play due to the long losing streaks and having to watch the odds.
Can you make a Living Betting on the Horses?
Yes, it is definitely possible to make a very good living betting on horses. However, it takes consistent learning to keep on the cutting edge of what’s working as far as profiting from betting. That being said, most people cannot make a living betting on horses.
There are lots of reasons why. Probably self control, too small a bankroll, mediocre handicapping, making too many bets. Also betting too much money on longshots, betting too little on low odds horses. Additionally, following a tip sheet, and probably a lot of other reasons.
I will say that even if you have or can get a hold of a winning system, you better have good money management or you will become a loser overall. Money management is critical. In my opinion without good money management you have virtually no chance of coming out a winner long term.
To be able to make a living or consistently be profitable over a long period of time requires a lot of patience. It requires a winning method(s) of picking horses and money management like a banker. Without all these, in my opinion, one has little to no chance of consistent winnings or staying in the black.
Did you write any Systems or Selection Methods?Starting about 2000 or around the time when Visual Basic Four came out I wrote my racing systems. Very few bets were made because of the lack of time since I was writing a complex hospital system with my brother.
I created 7 different racing systems for thoroughbred betting. However, I never sold them due to the death of my brother who was working with me on the project. That was back when the internet was fairly new.
Six of the systems were similar. Each used a few important factors in different combinations to essentially handicap a race. Who knows, one day I may revisit those systems. I could update them, if necessary and sell them. That’s a big maybe, however.
Since they were written in Visual Basic 4(VB4) I would need to update them because of language changes.
Fortunately very little changes occur with horseracing itself. The main factors are still there to contend with. At least that was my experience from 1970 to 2005.
I Wrote a Numerology Based Longshot System
One system, my hopeful favorite, used ancient numerology based techniques unrelated to handicapping. It took me all of a year to write that system. It also included a few common sense rules of whether or not to bet the system’s pick.
Unfortunately my brother’s untimely death at the relatively young age of 53 stopped my progress in its tracks.
It was very difficult to figure out what that guru from India some 75 years before actually meant. There was conflicting information regarding selecting the horses. I had to figure it out before I could code a system based on his findings plus incorporate some of my own.
My system was based on his ideas using numerology. However, I never tested it. Now that I’m writing about it I really would like to test it to see if it has any merit. It would require me to be at the track and bet very close to post time. Plus it probably would have long losing streaks.
Even though I designed it to reduce long losing streaks my version was a pure longshot system. So long losing streaks would probably be inevitable. Maybe one day, if I can find the right person I could trust, and knowledgeable about racetrack betting, I could have them test it for me.
If that happens then that system may come to light if it was profitable.
If I was so good how come I’m not still going to the races?
No one said I was so good. That’s just the title of this section. But I was a winner overall. Why am I’m not doing it now? The problems are many. Here are a few.
- I got married!
- Winning methods change or are inconsistent
- Handicapping is time consuming
- I need to make big bets to make it really worthwhile for me – I don’t like big bets
- It is too time consuming to stay on top of winning strategies
- There are few bets with the right odds at any one track
- The most solid bets don’t occur very often
- Some winning methods I like require knowing the odds very close to post time – I can’t spend time at the track
- As above, winning methods with low odds horses very close to post time are even risky offtrack bets
- We were going to sell my systems online but I lost interest after my brother died
- I don’t have the time required to figure the horses due to being married and helping in my wife’s home business
After doing betting research and betting horses for so long I doubt very few people have all the requirements necessary to make a living betting on horses. Maybe less than 5% and that is probably a high percentage.
There are many factors to consider in horseracing and they are not consistent. For all the reasons mentioned above and many more, the odds are slim for winning over a long period of time, say a year or more. It is possible, but difficult unless one makes only a few bets.
Bet Sizes and Psychological Factors
You won’t have many bets a day at a track unless you mix in exotic bets. To make a lot of money you either have to make exotic bets (low chance of winning), large bets, or some combination of them.
Betting multiple tracks can eliminate the problem of not enough bets, but poses other problems you have to contend with.
By eliminating exotic bets then large bets are almost a necessity to make decent money. Unfortunately large win bets bring down the odds on a horse. You could bet to place (place odds don’t show), but your bets have to be considerably larger than win bets to accomplish the same objective.
There is a point where psychologically it becomes almost impossible to make a very large bet. That point is different for everyone. That large bet for me was $400 to win. I would get very nervous making a $400 bet.
At one time that was about twice my weekly salary. Making $200/week and betting twice that much or more didn’t sit well for me. A few losses, which is common, could wipe me out of money for a long time. Maybe too long to recover.
Just the idea of potentially losing $400 or more, in a minute or so scared me. That prevented me from ever betting more than $400 to win. There were very few times I ever bet even $400 in any race, even if I had multiple bets in a race that were not win bets.
I could bet more on a race, very rarely, but in order to do so I had to have multiple bets on different horses in the same race. Just know the large bet problem can occur rapidly with some progression methods of betting.
Each Person has their Own Psychological Bet Limit
Each Person has their own psychological bet limit. Mine was probably lower than someone with a high salary or used to big money. It would probably take a higher bet before they get nervous. What was comfortable for me was $20 win and $40 or $60 to place on low odds horses. That’s in addition to any exacta bets in the same race.
That was if the horse had odds of 5-2 or more. Sometimes I’d have a single bet of $20 to $40 to win on one horse and no other bets in the race. I rarely played exactas. However, when I did it was usually two to four $5 exactas in the same race.
I had good luck with exactas, but didn’t like to play too many of them because of the low chance of winning. For bigger exotic bets I used the Pick 6 club and made flat $20 bets on all pick 6’s.
That was profitable for me and low risk because I only bet $20. Some of the people in the Pick 6 Club I was in bet a lot more money. By being a group we had a far better chance of winning one of those big money bets.
I had low risk of spending too much money on a risky Pick-6 bet. Our Pick 6 Club bets would range from about $900 to $3500, sometimes more and involve multiple tickets with usually 1 main top pick. The rest of the picks were usually, but not always, the top speed handicapping choice in each of the six races wheeled with a few strong potential winners.
A Winning System is Not enough to Beat the Races
If you thought Thoroughbred horserace betting was easy you have a lot to learn and a big surprise in store for you. It is not easy, but it is possible to consistently win. Few, however, will have all it takes to do that.
A winning system is not enough and winning systems are rare. One can have a winning system, but be a loser overall because you don’t have a money management plan or an ineffective one. You need extreme patience too. Ignoring people who say you can’t beat the horses is something you must do.
You can’t pay attention to fellow bettors tips, tip sheets or the latest gossip about the horse or trainer. Once in a while those things will pick a winner, but overall you need to be your own judge of whether a horse(s) is one you should bet on.
You could possibly have a winning system or method of picking the winners, but the odds are too low for it to be profitable. An common example of that is betting all the favorites. You’d win about a third of the races, but lose money in the process.
There is also some luck involved in betting. Here’s a typical example. I had a $200 dollar bet on a medium odds horse to win. The horse won, but the judges disqualified the horse because it bumped another horse in the race. I lost that bet, one of the larger single bets I would make.
Many things can Interfere with Being a Winner Overall
Here’s another mistake that could be common. I did it a very few times when I first started, but never later on. That’s to change your mind at the last minute and bet on another horse instead of the one you were going to bet on. Sometimes it is hard to resist.
Example: I went to a window for big bets to make a $100 dollar bet (this was a long time ago). The guy in front of me (who happened to be a trainer of one of the horses) made a $6000 bet on his horse to win. It was tempting to switch my bet to his horse. I didn’t.
His horse lost. It didn’t even come in the money (finish 1st-2nd-3rd). Had I switched my bet I would have lost. My horse won and I was several hundred dollars richer.
If you’re making a bet offtrack on another betting circuit the weather may change and cause an unexpected loss. Example: The track is rated fast when you place your bet, but by the time the race runs it had started raining and the track became muddy. Most horses run worse in the mud and your horse loses big time.
There could be a late jockey change or a significant odds change. Either could nullify your pick’s chance of winning or cause bad luck even with a high probability chance of your horse winning. If you bet early or in offtrack betting watch out for these.
Some Final thoughts about Thoroughbred Horserace Betting
So many things can interfere with being a winner overall. One of them might be all your friends telling you you can’t beat the horses. Not true, but it can certainly discourage you and send you down the losing road.
Don’t let that happen to you. If you really want to win playing the horses or ponies as it is sometimes called, it is possible, but difficult. You have to keep at it and don’t let any negativity sway you. You can be a winner if you try hard enough.
Also there is some luck involved as mentioned above. Suffice it to say there is a bit of luck in almost any endeavor. You will need some good luck to counteract those times when races are close, winning horses get disqualified, weather conditions change and in other situations.
Personally, if I was still young I think I could make a very good living betting the horses (thoroughbreds). It might not be easy. With my experience and the fact that I could rather easily create a database of thousands of races to verify systems, I doubt there would be a problem. That probably wouldn’t be necessary, but it might give me a good edge or margin of error.
However, it is unlikely I’ll go back into thoroughbred horserace betting unless it is to test my numerology based system. It is far easier to make money online from the comfort of my home than spend hours trying to handicap the races.
What are some of your interesting experiences or knowledge gained about thoroughbred horserace betting? Have you ever bet $400 or more on a sports team or anything else?
Many of the books I read are out of print. Same with some of the services I used during my racing research. Here are some books I think you might find useful if you do any betting at the tracks or are thinking about doing so.
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