Bouncing into the Horse Player World Series: My biggest tournament entry ever

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

March 29th, 2017

I bounced.

Since my big Pick 4 score at Sam Houston Race Park two weeks ago, my ROI on horse racing is -33.5% including my single-biggest losing day ever on Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

In true Sheets fashion, I gave myself some extra time off in hopes of recovering from the bounce and performing well in the Horse Player World Series this week at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas.

My four days between a losing bet on the Spiral Stakes and a losing Pick 4 bet on Wednesday’s Gulfstream Park card is my longest layoff since November 19-23, and I closed out that month with a +17.4% ROI following the layoff.

With a $1,500 buy in, the #HPWS17 is the biggest live money contest I’ve ever played in. It’s an all-optional picks contest encompassing 17 race cards: 4 on Thursday, 6 on Friday, and 7 on Saturday. That final day being a true crucible with the Florida and Louisiana Derby cards at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, respectively, offering many chances to either pad bankrolls or chase down the front runners.

Looking at the last three year’s results, three 10-to-1 winners/day gives you a shot at decent money, and a cap horse with a couple 8-to-1 types each day and you just might win the whole thing.

Alternately, six 6-to-1 types can make things interesting for you, but would you rather pick 40% $14 winners or 20% $20 winners? Both sound daunting, but the reality the winners of this thing will have gaudy ROIs, so you have to know what style of handicapping gives you the best chance at those numbers.

Regardless of style, though, you need luck to defeat other quality horseplayers in a short-term contest. I liken it to the aforementioned Pick 4 score. Skill allowed me to handicap and play the sequence in such a way that I leaned on the right horses and got “lucky” with “ALL.”

Many contests are the same way. Skill can put me on the right 10-to-1 shots, but at the end of the day at 10-to-1 overlay still only wins 15%-20% of his races max (it’s VERY rare for a horse with a better than 4-to-1 chance of winning going off at 10-to-1; yes, it happens, but not often enough to expect it enough in a three-day tournament). But even at 20% chance of winning (fair odds 4-to-1), you're only going to pick at least 3 winners 60% of the time, and the more likely scenario of a 10-to-1 overlay actually having a 12.5% chance of winning (fair odds 7-to-1) still only gets you at least three winners 28% of the time (all from 15 races).

So, yeah, there's luck involved. If I do well, I’m not going to pretend that my selections were that much more enlightened than anyone else’s, though there is something to be said for strategy, too. Someone who picks 33% winners that pay $10 might not even cash even though if you could do that long term you’d be one of the most successful horseplayers in the world.

Indeed, the Math supports taking the longer price. There is a 8% chance of picking at least 20 winners from 45 races with a 33% chance of winning, but there's a 10.2% chance of picking that many who have a 12.5% shot, and you're more likely to get more place money with the longer price, too. 

Good luck to everyone this week. It’s a big one.

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