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Monday, July 22, 2013

Isn't winning better than losing?

There are some out there that think when you bet a horse race that you are playing against the track.  They are wrong as horse racing in most countries has pari-mutuel wagering meaning you are betting amongst yourselves.  It is not like a casino where you are betting against the house.  

Over the weekend, a buddy and I were talking about how there are some within the industry that do not understand the concept of "churn".  One would think the tracks want more players to win in hopes that they bet some money back (or churn) through the windows as the tracks collect a percentage from each wager.  Most tracks do their best to keep the actual race track as fair as possible so that horses run to form and there are more winning tickets.  Maybe this is a large reason why favorites have won (on average) 33% of the time for decades.

Longshots are always going to win some races and favorites are always going to lose some races.  If this didn't happen, there would be very little horse racing.  That is part of the game and what makes horse race betting unique.  Whether you win money with a favorite or a 20/1 shot, it is a win.  


The folks at TVG seem to think that high-risk high-reward bets are the way to go.  They are always pushing their suggested Pick 4 or Pick 6 tickets and they rarely hit which is no surprise.  These are difficult wagers to win and this is not the way to help introduce new players.  This is like trying out for a baseball team and if you don't hit a home run you are off the team.  

The TVG talent mindset seems to be that playing the favorite or a low-odds horse is not the way to go and that you should always look for higher-odds horses in every race.  This may be true if you are selective with your wagers by betting only a race or two per card, but if you are discussing over the airwaves every race at a few tracks, there are going to be low-odds horses that win.  It is really absurd to think that this does not happen.  

Over the weekend as I was watching TVG, one analyst did pick the three favorites in a race and another analyst basically called the other out for doing so.  The three favorites came in 1-2-3.  Why is it so bad to give out a low-priced winner than a high-priced loser?  I thought the object as a horseplayer was to win money, but it seems that TVG has a different mentality.

The way to keep fans and to keep them coming back is to not only entertain them, but hope they collect a ticket or a few so they know that they can win.  Many new fans are not going to throw down $1,000 chasing a large pot in the Pick 6.  They are going to play a few bucks at the basic bets like Win, Place or Show.  Winning a $2 win bet on a 3/2 shot would probably be much more of a thrill than playing a 50/1 shot who trails the field the entire race.  

As an industry, horse racing should encourage winning especially to new fans.  If any of us horseplayers had lost the first three or four times we went to the races, do you think any of us would come back?  Winning is the name of the game whether it is $2.20 or $220,000.  The more people who win the more people will churn that money back or will come back to the races.  That sounds like a win-win situation for us all.

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