The True Meaning of ‘Value’

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Derek Simon

September 19th, 2014

Typically, when bettors talk about value, they are talking about perceived value — a horse that they think should be 2-1 is going off at 3-1, a steed that they fancy at 8-1 is going to post at 12-1, etc.

While these animals may, in fact, represent overlay opportunities (depending on one’s competency at making a fair odds line), they are not the only kind of overlays at the racetrack. There are other types of hidden — yet infinitely more powerful and impactful — overlays that sharp handicappers need to be aware of.

For lack of a better term, let’s call them “pool overlays.” As the name implies, a pool overlay is an advantageous betting scenario created by discrepancies in the various pari-mutuel pools.

For example, in Beat the Racetrack, first published in 1984, William T. Ziemba (Dr. Z) and Donald Hausch showed how bettors could use the win odds to find overlays in the place and show pools. However, while mathematically sound, Dr. Z’s system has proven difficult to profitably implement in today’s racing world, where off-track betting can often radically alter pool totals immediately before and even during the race.

Still, by continually looking for pool overlays — particularly in unpopular betting pools — value-conscious players will not be disappointed.

Take, for instance, the fourth race at Assiniboia Downs on Sept. 12, 2014:

According to my Win Factor Report (computerized fair odds line), Zdeno was a virtual lock — especially after Jet Again, the 5-2 morning-line second choice, was scratched. The three-year-old gelding qualified as a “Prime Overlay,” “Speed Racer” and “Sharp Contender” (three highly profitable angles), yet his 1-5 price nearing post-time made him a highly dubious betting proposition… until I saw the exactor and quinella will-pays.

For those who don’t know, the exactor (or exacta, as it is called in the US) entails that one pick the first- and second-place finishers in exact order; the quinella pays off on the first two horses to cross the finish line in any order.

With Jet Again out, I was left with two primary exactor/quinella candidates: Gibsons Finest and Dr. Zing.

The former had the best last-race early speed ration (ESR) and figured to challenge Zdeno for early supremacy, while the latter had recorded a race-best 0 late speed ration (LSR) in his most recent race and figured to be rallying in the stretch.

Now, take a look at the probable exactor and quinella payoffs at post-time:



Notice, that despite the added security afforded by the quinella, the 1-5 and 1-4 combinations were actually paying the same or better (in the case of the 1-5) as the exactor. Granted, the pool was miniscule ($979), limiting the size of one’s bet, but situations like this don’t come along every day and I jumped on the chance to capitalize.

I bet enthusiastically on the 1-4 and 1-5 quinellas and also rolled the dice on a straight 1-5 exacta, which met my fair odds once the scratch of Jet Again was factored in. (I made this bet just in case the quinella odds dropped drastically after the race had started; as it turned out, they did not.)

When Zdeno won easily as expected and Dr. Zing rallied to finish second I made a 252 percent profit on a race that, had I bet to win, would have yielded a 20 percent return. What’s more, I’d have netted 186 percent on my wager even if Dr. Zing had somehow managed to catch Zdeno.

That, my friends, is the true meaning of value — and a good reason to always check the betting pools before you rush to the window, the phone or your computer keyboard.

FREE Pace Profile Report for Parx Racing

Saturday’s Parx Racing card is chockfull of quality horses and races, including Untappable in the $1 million Grade I Cotillion Stakes and Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner California Chrome in the $1 million Grade II Pennsylvania Derby. Below are links to my Win Factor Report and Pace Profile Report for the big day in the Keystone State:

Parx Racing PPR
Parx Racing WFR