5 Ways to Improve Your Game

Profile Picture: Derek Simon

Derek Simon

January 31st, 2015

While perusing the Internet looking for inspirational quotes from Justin Bieber the other day, I couldn’t help but notice some of the whacky wagers being offered on Sunday’s Super Bowl. For example, pro football punters can bet on the duration of the National Anthem (over/under two minutes and one second), the color of Bill Belichick’s hoodie (gray, like his personality, is the 1-2 favorite) and even whether or not Katy Perry will show any cleavage during the halftime show (the odds are stacked — see what I did there? — in favor of “yes”).

And it got me to thinking: Is there anything people won’t bet on? I mean, as it stands, I’m concerned that one day my doctor will phone me with “bad news” only to tell me I’m fine, but that he lost the office pool pertaining to the color of my stool sample.

Look, just because a wager is offered doesn’t mean it’s worth playing. For heaven’s sake, every year folks line up like lemmings at the edge of a cliff to bet on the opening coin flip of the Super Bowl, which, unless Joe Namath is tossing the coin, is still a 50-50 proposition last time I checked.

Of course, we horse players are just as guilty. Planning to bet the Grade I feature race at Santa Anita, we are drawn in by a similar contest at Arapahoe Park — a maiden claiming race for two-year-old Colorado-bred quarter horses. Figuring we can double our funds for the SA race, we confidently bet on a horse with “Dasher” in its name, figuring it must be quick.

We are wrong.

Later, we watch with no expression (mainly because we are drunk) and no cash (the booze wasn’t free) when the horse we liked at the Great Race Place wins for fun and pays $14.20.

So, how can one avoid these kinds of betting pitfalls? Here are five suggestions that I think might help:

1) Do your handicapping well before the races start. Find a quiet place to think and do whatever it is that you do — look at the Form, watch replays, consult star charts… whatever floats your boat. Because, regardless of your process, you are sure to do it better without the pretty people at the racetrack or OTB diverting your attention from the task at hand. (I hope we are all hip to the fact that by “pretty” I mean odd and disconcerting).

2) After scratches, revisit your handicapping. Has the pace scenario changed? Do you still see potential value in your selection(s)? Did any also-eligibles (horses 4-12 at Aqueduct) draw into the field?

3) Plan your bets. This may be the most important step of all and, contrary to popular opinion, it should not be done while you are at the betting window or punching in your wager online. Take time to think. Does a Daily Double really make sense? Does an exacta? If you bet the pick-3, how will you bet the other races in the event that you’re dead — not literally, of course — after the first leg? Should you bet the other races?

4) Only bet a set amount, determined prior to the day’s activities. Nothing says “I am a pathetic loser” like using the ATM machine at the track or OTB… although I suspect many of us have done just that.

5) Learn to lose with dignity and grace. Blaming jockeys and trainers or ripping up your program and throwing it in the air in disgust may help ease the pain of a forgettable day, but it does nothing to improve your mastery over the game. Whenever possible, try to learn from your defeats. In the words of the great Pitsburg Phil: “Look for defect in your own calculating rather than cheating of others.”