Equestricon’s Ticket Construction Workshop Provides Focus
By: Michael Spector
Handicappers study past performances, replays and scores of statistics just to try to pick the winner of a horse race.
After hours of evaluation, even if the handicapper is lucky enough to pick a winner, that doesn’t always guarantee he or she will make money from their hard work.
“You hear it every day at the racetrack: ‘I’m a great handicapper, but a terrible bettor.’ In many instances that’s true,” said Daily Racing Form’s podcast host and contest editor Peter Thomas Fornatale. “People will spend an hour looking at a race and construct a bet in the time it takes to walk from their seat to the window.”
One of the pitfalls for many bettors is not spending enough time building their tickets and it all crumbles when it comes time to put in their wagers at the windows or their on-line accounts.
Lucky for attendees at the second-annual Equestricon in Louisville, the Ticket Construction and Betting Strategies Workshop scheduled for 9:30 A.M. on Tuesday, October 30, will help bettors focus their wagers - and just in time for the 2018 Breeders' Cup World Championships..
The workshop will be set up "classroom style" in Room 101 at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions throughout, as workshop leaders address the many aspects of individual race and multi-race ticket construction. Those leaders include AmWager’s Simulcast Director and Program Coordinator Papo Morales, Las Vegas sports betting legend Alan "Dink" Denkenson, Brisnet’s Director of Marketing Ed DeRosa, and author and professional handicapper Mike Maloney.
“When you sit down with the guys who are as sharp as the guys on this panel, you can’t help but learn something,” said Fornatale. “I think in the modern game, the best way to become a winning player is to put a focus on betting strategy, so that you can have every ticket you punch reflect your actual, specific opinion in each bet you’re making.”
Betting Your Strongest Opinion
One of the main objectives of the workshop will be to educate Equestricon attendees how to construct tickets to reflect their strongest opinions in an individual race and in multi-race wagers.
“It’s a challenging game,” said Morales. “It’s one thing to handicap and it’s a whole other thing to bet. I’d like to think I have the handicapping portion down, but I still learn everyday structuring tickets and trying to maximize my opinion.”
A player may have only a couple of strong opinions on a given day or card, but being disciplined enough to leverage those strong opinions to make money is one of the toughest challenges in the game.
“The real struggle with wagering is actually when you put the money down,” said DeRosa. “I definitely found having the discipline to really focus on the races I feel strongly about (on a card) and making sure that when (my best opinions) come through, I’m in the best position to get paid is a big part of being successful.”
Naturally, looking at a whole card will sway a bettor one way or another whether a multi-race wager like the Pick-4 or 5 is a good approach to reflect his or her opinion. Each player has their own budget restrictions when playing these large wagers over sequential races on a card.
“You have to find where you have a very strong opinion and try to build your tickets out from there,” said Morales. “It may not just be on a win bet, but it could be in a double, (all the way up to a Pick 5). I won’t play a Pick 5, unless I have a single, though. I don’t have a huge budget, so ‘I’m a bet a little to make a lot’ kind of guy.”
When “singling” in a multi-race play, a bettor would use only one horse in at least one race in the sequence and spread with multiple horses in the other races in the sequence. If a bettor believes strongly that one horse will definitely win a certain race in that multi-race play, but thinks that many horses have chances in the other races, singling is a great way to lower the cost of a ticket. Additionally, it could also leave the door open to invest more capital in the tougher races in any given sequence.
The term “value” has many meanings to different people and is thrown around a lot at the racetrack. In its simplest definition, value is when your personal opinion of a horse’s chance to win are better than the current win odds. You'll often hear bettors refer to value plays as overlays.
“After I’ve handicapped a race, the objective of my ticket structure is just to accurately reflect where I think the value is in the race that I’m betting,” said Maloney. “Value within a race or within a set of races varies. The bulk of the money I am going to bet is allocated in a strategic way saying horses have to do certain things, like have to win or run first or second (when I put together tickets).”
To Box or Not to Box
Creating value and reflecting your strongest opinions in multi-race plays and individual race betting is a tricky dilemma.
One of the quandaries that bettors need to manage when betting on an individual race is if they should box their bets in their exacta, trifecta and superfecta plays, or lean towards straight bets. When boxing a bet, you get all the combinations of the horses you use in the wager. Therefore, if you like three horses in a trifecta and you box them, then you win if they come in first, second and third - in any order. Boxing will cost you more, though, and affect your Return on Investment (ROI), which is very important when accounting for the overall profitability of your wagers.
Playing straight bets, as in predicting the exact order of finish of a race, naturally results in wagers on fewer combinations and, hence, can also reduce the cost of a ticket. However, straight bets can sometimes come back to haunt you, like when a long shot you really liked wins a race and you only played that horse in the underneath spots in 2nd, 3rd or 4th in your wagers. There is a fine line that each handicapper needs to assess.
“I rarely use boxes because for a box to be an accurate reflection of how I feel about a race, I’d have to think three horses are the exactly same value at their odds in a race and that rarely happens,” said Maloney. “I don’t use a lot of boxes, but sometimes when I’m just trying to cover a race, I’ll make a small box of the horses I’m using just so two 20/1 longshots don’t run in (the money) and somehow I didn’t put them together.”
Morales agrees that evenly weighted boxes is not the best way to manage your wagers and points out that AmWager’s Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) tools allow its users to “dutch” their individual race exotic plays. By using AmWager, the exacta probable payouts are used to assess how much a user bets in different combination to make the same ROI on the bet.
“By dutching, I can actually play more combinations. I usually find a key horse when I play my exactas and wheel them with 3 or 4 other horses,” said Morales. “If you had to do that by going up to the window, you would have to make up to 8 individual bets versus on AmWager, it’s a click of the button. It takes your $20 (for example that you would want to bet on an exacta) and based on theirs odd, (makes your bets) and guarantees your maximum ROI if your horses hit.”
DeRosa is a key box player, also, looking to leverage one horse in his individual race exotic plays. DeRosa does see some need for equal boxing if you are playing against the favorite, though.
“If your opinion is actually that the 2/5 odds-on favorite is going to run out of the top two finishers and you want to make sure you hit the exacta if that happens, then if you’re just circling all the horses you feel have a shot in that case, I think the box makes more sense,” said DeRosa. “Your opinion (in that case) isn’t who you think is going to win, but who’s not and I think the box helps express that opinion better than trying to get cute and playing a couple of straight tickets.”
Equestricon: More Than Just Handicapping and Wagering Workshops
The Ticket Construction and Betting Strategies Workshop is one of more than half a dozen sessions dedicated to handicapping and wagering during Equestricon. The two-day fan festival is expected to attract the best handicappers in the world, as well as some of the most well-known tournament players. Workshop topics will focus on a range of subjects, including visual handicapping, computer-based wagering models and advanced analytics, insights from horsemen who bet, and (particularly timely ahead of the Breeders' Cup) angles for betting at Churchill Downs.
“A place like Equestricon has the added value of not just educating (players) from the panels themselves, but also by creating an environment where like-minded individuals can get together and help each other,” said Fornatale. “It’s definitely true, the smarter and sharper the group of people you hang out with, the better you tend to do and a place like a Equestricon really brings those people together.”
Fornatale attended and spoke on a few panels at the inaugural Equestricon last summer in Saratoga, as did Morales.
“The reason I like Equestricon is because horse racing is my passion and just going there and sharing my experiences with people who have the same hunger for the game as I do, it doesn’t really get any better than that,” said Morales. “It’s just people who love the game like myself, and just talking, telling stories and trying to help each other out. Whether you’re a fan or work in the industry, it’s really a convention for the industry.”
Maloney didn’t attend the first annual Equestricon, but is excited to be involved.
“I’m always excited to talk to horseplayers at any level: aspiring horseplayers, beginning horseplayers, all the way up to people that have been doing it for years. I enjoy talking about handicapping and enjoy hearing other people’s opinions, so I’m looking forward to hearing the ideas of the other people on the panel.”
This will be DeRosa’s maiden voyage at Equestricon, too.
“Being so involved with social media, seeing the reaction (for the first year) was so overwhelmingly positive from the participants, we felt next year we need to be a part of this,” said DeRosa. “Then we heard they were coming to Louisville for Breeders’ Cup week, we thought it was awesome. I live here and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
New for 2018 is the Equestricon "Ask A 'Capper" station on the main convention floor. It is sponsored by Keeneland Racing and modeled after Keeneland's Wagering Central platform. The station will be filled around-the-clock with experts offering personalized one-on-one handicapping advice to convention attendees.
Equestricon 2018: Handicapping & Wagering Programming