Resolution for 2020: Betting more aggressively and productively

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

January 4th, 2020

I made my last wagers of 2019 on Dec. 29, a trio of action plays at Fair Grounds. Unfortunately, the Win bet I cashed was not enough to offset my two losers, one of which was a Pick 4. Fortunately, the several dollars net loss wasn't enough to put me in the red for the year.

Thanks to's Detailed Account History option, I've been able to keep a handy track of my betting activity and annual ROI since the beginning of October 2010. As a rare attendee of live racing or visitor to a simulcast facility, wagering through a pari-mutuel window or terminal has become a virtually negligible part of my racing betting activity. My capital is generally non-liquid, so even when stationed on-site at the track I still almost always bet through TwinSpires. Therefore, my personal stats below are a fairly accurate reflection of my betting success or failure in the past decade.


Some players perhaps would be pleased with a similar record. There were some bad years, though, including a three-year stretch from 2015-17 when beating the blended takeout proved elusive. That figure is generally accepted to be around 20%, maybe a little less for those that confine themselves to the Win-Place-Show and low-takeout, multi-race exotic pools. If you're not beating the takeout and losing more than 20% of your handle in a single year, you're doing something very wrong.

While these stats seem decent on the surface, in some ways they represent a lot of missed opportunity. The main reason being is that, compared to some of my corporate colleagues, I'm a much more casual bettor (though not the $2 variety, I'm not that casual). Though I haven't asked about others' personal handle, I wouldn't be surprised if my entire outlay from the 2010s is generally exceeded by some of them in 12 months or even far less time.

My resolution for 2020, and indeed this decade we've now entered, is to step things up a bit in my wagering. With a mortgage, car payment (albeit diminishing), and the prospect of sending two kids to college in the next 10 years, I obviously won't and can't risk going overboard. However, my record the past two years suggests I've righted the ship, so to speak, in terms of being a more careful handicapper and making better choices in regards to wagering.

Racing and wagering has been a part of my life for more than 30 years, and now seems like a (perhaps belatedly) good opportunity to make it more productive. I don't think I could have made the same commitment in the years following the Great Recession or before I started wagering exclusively through my ADW.

Pete Fornatale's recent piece on struck a chord with me on a couple levels. The observation of attempting to having big, big days or hitting bets that pay for the year is an absolute no-brainer, and is often the reality anyway if you find yourself in the black on Dec. 31.

I'm also pleased to note that I long ago (we're talking years) adopted one of Fornatale's resolutions of focusing more on higher-end races like maiden special weights, allowances, and stakes as I feel I can get a much stronger grasp on those than in claiming events. About the only time I even look at the latter is when I'm chasing a five-figure or larger carryover when I have no choice but to play the hand that's dealt.

Resolutions are often hard to keep. This one, I hope, will be kept and with some acceptable results forthcoming. Good luck to all readers with theirs!