Players' Pool post mortem: A consolation never is

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Ed DeRosa

November 15th, 2012

Tough sequence on Wednesday, as only two of the ~143,500 combinations bet into the $89,489 Pick 6 carryover successfully navigated the sequence that ended with $111.50 winner Noosh's Tale.

Difficulty is not an excuse for the Players' Pool, however, because as someone said to me after the races, "This is the type of result the Players' Pool should hit."

I don't disagree. Between the three handicappers on the Players' Pool at least one of us mentioned every winner, and we all had Sportswriter as the most likely winner of leg 2 (race 5). Still, we only had one consolation payout to show for it.

We considered using Sportswriter on every ticket, but each of us felt that he was vulnerable enough that we wanted an out if he lost. Sportswriter ended up on 71.2% of our tickets, which is equivalent to assigning him a fair value of 2-to-5.

Noosh's Tale was on one of our tickets, but we needed Natalie Victoria to win the fourth leg (race 7) to connect with her, and she just wasn't good enough. Bad single.

The other race we "missed" in the sense that the winner clearly wasn't one of our stronger picks was the third leg (race 6) when Star Black gave jockey Abel Castellano and trainer Randi Persaud their first winners of the meeting while paying $22.80. The horse fit, and I mention the jockey and trainer getting their first wins because one of the reasons I ultimately made this horse a "B" rather than an "A" is because she was co third choice on the morning line and with those connections I preferred the first-time starters at bigger prices.

It's one thing to have all the dots on the page, but connecting them is obviously the key. What was the path yesterday? A 6x1x9x5x5x8 ticket would have cost $21,600 and hit for $84,000 (we'd have been the third winning ticket, so the payout would have been less) plus 28 consos for about a 2-to-1 ROI on our $25,000 investment. That's 86.4% of our money on Sportswriter, though, so instead of betting him like a 2-to-5 shot he's now 3-to-20. But, that's how we could have gotten it done.

So lesson learned: Always single the big favorite. Just kidding! Just because the above would have worked this time doesn't mean that's the right play. Poker players understand this well. Just because you hit your inside straight on the river doesn't mean the call you made on the turn was necessarily correct or will be next time you're in a similar situation.

But learning from the experience is always the right move. As Ernie Munick said on Facebook so poetically: "If I don't learn something when I handicap – a trip, a pedigree, a stat, an eccentricity of running or training or riding style, any pattern – then it feels like wasting time, with zero chance of the special."