Professional Poker Player Transition to Sports Betting – Where’s the +EV in Horse Racing Systems?

EV or Expected Value is a widely used term in poker terminology to determine if the outcome of a play is +, 0 or – in terms of profitability. This article is aimed for Poker Players who also like to punt on UK and Irish horse racing. It never ceases to amaze me how many good poker players are terrible at betting on horse racing. If they can spend so much time on their poker game then why not also put in the effort when placing a bet to ensure that you have the most +EV decision that you can possibly make with all the information at hand. The title of the post is actually a small bit misleading as I personally believe that all horse racing systems are doomed and the way to consistently profit at betting on horse racing is to have a horse racing method not a system.

The following article will lay the ground work for anyone who wants to start taking their punting to the next level. There is no better satisfaction then spending an hour or two analysing a race and 1 horse just stands head and shoulders above the rest when you compare all the different factors that I will explain below. Of course the toughest part is having the discipline to only wait for when these such occasions occur when placing a bet, and some times, this may mean you do not bet for up to a month. (This may help explain why I moved into playing poker from sports betting as the results of your actions are known instantaneously, and you can play a game anytime of any day). I also think you can compare a MTT player to a professional sports bettor – you can go long periods without a win and then score a few big results and then rinse and repeat and hopefully over the course of the year you will have been profitable.

1. You must specialise. All the most profitable professional sports bettors pick not only 1 sport but only a small niche in that sport. Patrick Veitch, who has won over 10 million punting on horse racing in the UK only bets on UK flat racing. He even has a massive team of researchers who do a lot of the work for him, but he as he also works 18 hours days during the flat season he is naturally burnt out by the end of the season.

For the beginner though, what I mean by specialise is concentrate on an area of horse racing where you can get the most information. Information is power so unless you own a shed load of 2 year old horses or are the nephew of Aidan O Brein, there is no point in specialising in 2 year old horse races as you just wont have enough information to go on. Therefore it makes more sense to specialise on handicap races, where each horse in the race must of least have run 3 times to qualify but mainly are run by the same horses year in, year out until they are retired.

The best races then to specialise in are 4 year old plus handicaps in flat and national hunt racing as you have the most information available and you can start to see patterns in horses and therefore pick out some very +EV selections when you have spotted this pattern and the majority of the racing public haven’t. This is the bread and butter of successful punting, going against the crowd.

Personally I used to specialise in 4 year old plus UK flat handicaps in the summer, and UK and Irish National Hunt handicap chases and hurdles in the Winter.

2. In your specialised area, when you select a race to analyse, you must go through every horse in the race to develop a shortlist. Below are my 5 essential criteria that every horse must have when you are placing a bet.

a) Going – The horse must be proven on going conditions.

b) Distance – The horse must be proven on the trip

c) Course Type – The horse must be proven on similar type of course

d) Fitness – The horse must have shown that it can operate at optimal levels since its last number of days off the track.

e) Class – The horse must have either won at the class he is currently competing in before or else gave a very good showing in a previous race at the similar or higher class level.

Going and Distance

With regard to going and distance and to a lesser extent course type, I will not fully discount a horse who has never raced on the going if he has extremely good sire stats (15% + strike rate) however I would always give precedence to another horse in a race who has won on for example soft going compared to a horse who has never raced on soft but has sire stats of 18% strike rate for soft going conditions.

With distance, I would also use sire stats if a horse is moving up or down in trip by 1 furlong on the flat, and 2 furlongs in national hunt. With experience, you can tell by looking at a race if a horses needs the extra trip or not and the sire stats can be a great way to back up that visual piece of information.

Course Type

This often overlooked by the general racing public. The best thing about UK and Irish racing is the different types of race courses you will encounter. Cheltenham (left-handed, galloping, undulating and testing track with stiff fences) is totally different to Stratford (left Handed, flat & Sharp) as it is to Sandown (right-handed, galloping, testing track)

A horse who has won twice in Cheltenham will probably never win a race at Stratford and vice versa. Bigger sized horses are more suited to galloping tracks as they can take the turns easier and can maintain a strong galloping pace for longer whereas a smaller sized horse is better suited to sharp tracks (i.e less than 10 furlongs) as most of the running will be going around bends and therefore the bigger horses will not be able to maintain their top galloping speed for long on the stretches.

Also some horses can only run to their best at left handed courses and vice versa. You would actually wonder why trainers persist to run horses which clearly will not win on a certain turning race track, but then you realise by doing this, they will get their Official rating down as horse will appear to be trying but will be hanging left or right the whole way through. You have to be aware that trainers will be trying to manipulate the handicapper a lot of the times in the lower grade races by running horses on unsuitable ground, at the wrong distance, on the wrong course type, or running the horse with a different style during the race all to try and reduce their rating so that they can set up a better chance for themselves to win in the future at a decent price.

I love Cheltenham race meet in March for the simple fact, the course is a stiff testing course which straight away rules out a lot of other horses in the race as they just cant handle it, the grade of racing and pirze money on offer means that everyone is trying to win, and you can nearly always guarantee what the going will be. Therefore if you just use the criteria above and select horses who are proven on the 5 factors (and this applies to the non handicap graded races too, you will see huge profits)

Fitness

To determine a horses fitness, you must look at its previous patterns of how it performed when it returns after a certain number of days off the track. The beauty of handicap races is you have loads of past information to go on and you can see if a horse is 0-5 when returning after an 80 day lay off, whereas he is 3-2-5 when he returns between 15 and 30 days.

Class

A horses class is often overlooked by the racing public. Statistically horses who are moving up in grade/class do not have a good strike rate, however the public will back it blindly if it sees it has won by 5 lengths in its previous race in a lower grade. Analyse past races to see if a horse has won or come close in the grade of race it is racing in today. You can discount a horse if it has failed 2 times at the grade when having all other conditions to suit except for when it is running for a new stable which has a good record at rejuvenating horses.

Also keep in mind that a horse who has placed in a black type race (i.e grade, 1,2,3) will have a more class than a horse who has a good winning record in Class 2 (B) handicaps, so if it is racing in a Class 2 handicap for the first time, do not discount just because it has never won a race.

3. Once you have created your shortlist based on the above criteria, you can now get down to the real dirty work of finding the eventual winner. Sometimes you might only be left with 1 horse, sometimes with 8, you must then start applying other filters to see if you can narrow down the list more. Sometimes the odds will allow to dutch 3 horses left if you can not narrow it down anymore. Then go for it as it is a plus EV move.

However be aware that every time you discount you must have a very valid reason backed up by a decent sample size. Here’s a list of filters to reduce the shortlist.

Weight

Some horses as stated earlier have a bigger frame then others, therefore having top weight doesn’t make much difference to them, whereas the smaller horse will struggle. Again by studying previous races you will spot a pattern

OR

This is the official rating that the horse racing board’s in house handicapper assigns to a horse to determine what weight it should carry in its next horse race. The OR is updated weekly, therefore you sometimes see trainers turn out a horse 3 times in a week to try and take advantage of this before the handicapper reassigns it a higher rating. For an excellent explanation of official hores racing handicapping see this article written by good friend Malcolm Smith over at www.UKhorseracing.co.uk.

After a while, horses will reach their peak and start to hover around a certain OR mark. Therefore it will be unlikely that it will win if its OR mark is higher than its highest winning mark unless the horse is an improving progressive sort. But for older horses, this OR mark becomes more important and can be more relied upon.

Field Size

Some horses will not race unless they are covered in the pack, other horses need room otherwise they get into trouble during the race. The trick is to identify these type of horses. You will start to spot where some horses only win in races with less than 8 runners, but never figure in races with more than 12. You can safely assume that he needs the perfect ride in a big runner race but more than likely will not get that (This is when you can factor in the Jockeys ability to see if its OK to rule out this horse or not) The field size matters more in National Hunt, as some horses prefer seeing the jumps early/later and as they are pack animals prefer chasing a leader than actually leading

Seasonal

A lot of horses prefer to run in certain times of the year. This could be down to how a trainer prepares the horse over the course of the season and aims it to be at full fitness come March time for example, but other times horses just perform better in certain months. Again by looking at past patterns you will begin to spot these trends.

Trainer Statistics

8 years ago it was a very profitable trend to follow certain trainers at certain race tracks for certain race types. This edge has slowly eroded since the markets have caught on, however it still needs to be factored in when trying to finalise your short list.

Trainer – Jockey combinations

If you try and follow this blindly by backing winning Trainer-Jockey Combos, you will most likely end up with a loss. However it is a good tool to have when you are trying to reduce the shortlist as some stats are just too good to ignore.

Jockey Booking

This is actually a powerful indicator. However this again doesn’t mean much if the horse doesn’t first qualify for the 5 essential criteria above. Also if you only ever back horses with the top jockeys on board you are forgoing on EV as, the odds will drop on a horse with the likes of Ruby Walsh or Tony McCoy on board, but odds will still remain good on a horse if for example the jockey booking was Graham Lee, who is a very underrated performer. Look back over past races and see how the horse has performed under their guidance before. You will start to see profitable trends and indicators.

Gambling Stables

There are a few ways to do this. One is manually record stables where horses have been heavily backed and won. Another way is to look at a horses previous wins and see what the average odds were. The lower the winning odds, the bigger chance that the stable money only goes down when the horse has a good chance of winning (Kevin Ryan is an example of a gambling stable). The higher the odds, means the horse has won races that they weren’t fully expecting to win and therefore less likely a gambling stable (Veneita Williams comes to mind here for being an honest stable).

Post Race Comments

This is often overlooked. If you see what trainers, jockeys and owners have said to the press after a horse has won (See the racing post website for all the comments), you can pick up some useful information which can help you lean one way or the other on a selection.

Pace of the race.

To understand the pace of the race you first need to figure out what is each horse’s preferred running style. They can be broken down into front runners, prominent runners, Hold up horses. Here’s is a fantastic article which details the breakdown of winning % of different horses running styles compared to the actual number of race entries of horses with different running styles.

It shows that you should really be concentrating on front running and prominent horses as it accounts for 65% of winners compared to being only 50% of entries in races. Front runners in particular account for 20% of winners even though they only supply 11% of runners in a race.

You can use this to your advantage once you get to know all of the different course types. By backing a front running horse that satisfies the 5 essential criteria on a race course which has a sharp track with a short run in, you have added a few % EV points to your selection.

Another factor here is analysing the previous 3 races the horse has ran in and check out the in running comments. Especially look at the horses who came placed or came outside the top 4 but were close near the end. Keep and eye out for comments like “finished strongly”, “kept on well”, “stayed on well”, “kept on final furlong”and for other tidbits like “hampered” but then “finished strongly”. These can point towards a horse who is on the upward curve and given the perfect conditions in the next race will have a very good chance of winning.

Another thing to factor in is if a race does not have any natural front runners, then the race will not be run at a true pace, therefore could throw up some very unusual results. It may mean that the horse who has the best speed on a flat track will win when it drives all out in the last furlong.

When the pace of the race is guaranteed, the classier horse which satisfies the essential criteria will more often than not win the race.

4. Resources

For 6 years, before getting lured into the world of Online Poker, I punted successfully on horse racing and I used the following resources

Ratings from ukhorseracing.co.uk.

The ratings are based upon advanced pure mathematics but are presented in a an easy to read pdf. The main feature in my view that sets this service apart from a lot of pretenders is the ‘Class’ filter they derive using their mathematical approach. Fantastically accurate for Non Handicap graded races in both National Hunt and Flat racing in the both UK and Irish racing. They also have a great forum where you can exchange ideas with the other members and have recently introduced a Racing Bot where you plug in all your profitable racing systems and sit back and watch.

Stats and ratings from ukracestats.com

I only found this website 4 years into my sports betting career, and it was free for nearly 2 years after that. It is without doubt the biggest time saving tool when it comes to analysing a race using all the criteria and filters I have mentioned above in the article. The only negative is that they only cover UK horse racing.

Racing Post Website- Last year they introduced a subscription service and I suppose it was about time considering all the information that it provides. It is essential for anyone serious about racing. I used it to confirm my findings from the ratings and stats mentioned above.

At The Races Website – Good for watching previous races and offers different race analysis from the Racing Post. As far as I know this is still free.

I hope that after reading the above that you will now not just throw money blindly at the favourite when you have a punt on the horses. Put a bit of time and effort into the selection process and give yourself a +EV chance of winning.

Free Betting Advice – Bookmakers and Secrets – Basics

Bookmaker Management

The vast majority of you likely think of the bookmakers as the old enemy, cash thief, the Devil himself even!!

If you do, it follows that your likely one of the many millions of folk giving them cash, and getting little back. This is negative thinking, and any negative thinking in gambling leads to your demise.

So what can you do about it, and what difference does it make what you think of your bookmaker?

Well all my bookmakers are my friend; in reality somebody who gives me cash is a friend. Wouldn’t that be the same for you? As soon as you believe that the bookie is the kind man who supplies you with cash for a Saturday night out, or that latest kitchen appliance, then you’re on the road to improving your returns already.

Most gamblers think you can win thousands a day, and purchase a boat one week, and a new vehicle the next when you’re a pro, but you are dreaming, it takes hours of work to create a decent profit every month.

If you additionally think your friendly bookmaker will happily hand over thousands a day too you, guess what? You’ve got to be kidding. If you run a business, and you are giving the same customer cash every day for nothing, would you still do business with him? Sure you wouldn’t.

If you keep attempting to bankrupt a bookmaker, he will show you the respect you deserve for your approach, and shut your account. This is not bad nasty bookmaker, but common sense, he is attempting to run a business, and make a profit.

Now if you know you are likely to make money, and the bookmaker knows you are going to make money, you have too keep to an acceptable each week, and then he’ll be able to lay off your bets, and he will furthermore accept that the bets you put on are in addition supplying him with good info. This way you can have a decent association, although they could still limit your maximum bet. However, this method will not work with the Big 3 bookies, as they do not wish for any winners.

If working at home, you will need to plan your betting like a military mission for each bet, and spread it all around various bookies.

If you want to bet thousands, then the only answer is to do battle on the track, or on a betting exchange, and as soon as your making this much, you still have to use the same theory as above.

On Course Secrets

Just a quick tip, but one which ought to help you find extra winners while on the racecourse.

Before racing begins, hang around the bookies looking for any punters placing a nice wad of cash on a horse. If he/she is wearing a suit, it’s probably best ignoring them, as these are corporate men trying to impress their clients or boss, and likely don’t have a clue which end the head is on.

If they look like ordinary Joe Punter, but are betting big, they may be a pro. You are probably best keeping an eye on them for the first few races to make sure they do know what they are doing, and keep an eye on more than one, as professional gamblers are pretty rare.

Watch which racehorses they gamble on, and watch the race. If that horse wins, or runs well, watch to see which horse they bet on next. Again, watch the race, and the next one. After that, if you consider this person to have good expertise, you can follow what he does for the remainder of the day.

We don’t mind folk doing that, as we can’t hide from view what we do, although a few will get piddled off with being stalked! Don’t follow in our shadow though, as you will get a number of choice words, as you wouldn’t like being tailed by a strange looking person would you?

You can make contact with pros on the track, although they might not give you the days selections, the majority will offer you advice, and a number of pointers for the future.

Betting Advice – Horse Racing Dutching, Hedging, Arbs – Basics

Most gamblers appear to be aware of only win bets, and the other oddities such Placepots, forecasts, tricasts, multiple bets (these increase the bookies profits, why do you think they advertise them so much?), etc. Thanks to the betting exchanges, new gamblers now know about laying horses, but a lot of other forms of making a profit exist when it comes to horse racing, and three are briefly outlined below.

Dutching

This method has been available for donkey’s years, and was used with standard bookmakers, it is not betting exchange exclusive, but they do enhance your returns, and we nowadays have a number of betting bots to aid with this type of gambling.

Dutching is simply backing more than one horse in a race. Some punters think this means your are backing not in favor of yourself, that is a negative thought, get rid of it, only conclusive thinking is acceptable in pro gambling.

If we have a 16 runner race, and somebody said you can select one horse at 8/1 and have #100 on it, or bet half the field at 1/1 for #100, what would you do? If you had good quality info on the 8/1 shot then go in favor of it, but if you do not, cover your back and go for half the field, that way you can get paid if any of the 8 selections you have made win.

I am aware of professionals that just use dutching for their gambling, it can be extremely profitable, but like everything else, it is an added weapon in my own armoury. You additionally need to put a lot of research in, as with all gambling that involves selections, using a pin to select half the field will not be profitable long term. Dutch betting on the betting exchanges can result in a 300% higher than SP (Starting Price).

Hedging

This is basically comparable to trading, the same betting theory, lay low, back high, but with a twist.

You lay the horse ahead of racing, and then wait until the horses are Off, as in in-running on the betting exchanges. You instantly enter a bet to buy that bet back at higher odds, as more often than not, a horses price will drift during the race. Try to stay away from front runners, odds on runners and sprints. Again, it is better to use a betting bot as it is much quicker at firing in the bets.

Arbing

This type of betting is technically zero risk, but that is not quite correct, so do not believe the rubbish others tell you.

The procedure mean that you study ALL the markets across a variety of betting exchanges and bookmakers, and yes, it does consist of 1000’s of events. You are researching for events were you back a price with a bookie, and then lay it off at a lesser price with the betting exchanges.

These days though, the distance between bookmakers and exchanges is getting ever nearer, and with the high number of arbing betting bots available, there are not as many opportunities as their used to be, but still 1000’s appear each week if you know where to look. It does mean you require accounts with all the betting exchanges and bookies though, and more than #1000 in each to make it worth the time. You additionally need to remember a lot of others are doing it so gaps in the market do not persist long.

Free Betting Advice – Festivals and Additional Tips – Basics

Horse Racing Festivals and Busy Racing Days

I’ve just recently researched this myself, as the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) have been messing around with the racing calendar over the previous few years, and so we currently have more racing than ever. This can cause problems on days were there is a load of racing, especially if you utilize a fixed stake adjusted on a daily basis. They have additionally been manipulating Handicap races in the bookies favour reducing the average strike rate by 2%-3% over the past few years.

I take a standard day as 1-4 meetings, and from 2004 summer racing now includes mostly 3 afternoon meetings, and 3 evening meetings. This is basically 2 days racing in one, and it is recommended you adjust the daily stake when the afternoon meetings have ended if time allows. With more AW (All weather) tracks than ever, we are in addition getting additional fixtures in the winter evenings.

Bank holidays will not be as crowded according to the BHA as in the past when you could have 16 fixtures, but the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has since altered this. Still a bank holiday may possibly contain over 10 fixtures, and so is technically 2-4 racing days in one! In this situation if it makes you feel more comfortable reduce your stakes by up to 50%, win and lay. You might think you will miss out on potential profit, this is greed, remember patience and security is what makes a professional gambler. If you reduce the stakes, it protects you if it all goes pear-shaped on the day. I may well also reduce stakes in the course of sudden changes in going on any racing day, especially during a storm if the ground jumps from Good straight to Soft/Heavy.

Festivals are comparable to the above in that the competition is always much hotter than average, and is not a standard daily betting environment. So meetings such as Royal Ascot, Cheltenham Festival, Aintree Grand National meetings, are best if you lower your stakes.

Additional Betting Tips

It’s best to hold more than one bookmaker/exchange account so you can compare odds.

The Scoop 6 is worth bearing in mind once it is over �50,000, as it is not always won by the pro-syndicates.

If you have any doubt about a method bet, don’t put money on, you’ll have another prospect soon.

If you do realize you are losing, and have almost lost the betting bank, discontinue betting and re-adjust everything. You ought to never lose the betting bank if you have the maths correct.

Generally speaking, your initial year at being a professional gambler will be hit and miss as you discover your feet, but you will then have goals and an adequate amount of experience to progress further the following year. It took me in the region of 3 years to get into top gear, but back in the late 90’s we did not have the instantaneous information we do now.

Feel free to broadcast your own tips, systems, and advice on my forum, this additionally helps you to correct errors earlier so you don’t look like a complete fool, and will not only help yourself in the long term, but others as well.

Never over bet on the betting exchanges when laying. By that I mean don’t offer 7/1 for a 4/1 shot, 2/1 for an evens, etc, You should in no way really bet over the odds of more than 15%, but your best trying to keep it to 20% or less. This doesn’t have to be strict, as long as the 10% on some and 20% on others average out. To simplify things, it’s best to never to lay over odds of 10.5.