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It is the practice of predicting and quantifying the results of a horse race. Handicappers attempt to determine the odds and see if the payoffs are skewed compared to those odds. Steven Crist, CEO and editor of the Daily Racing Form argues that even a horse with a very high likelihood of winning can be either a very good or a very bad bet, and that the difference between the two is determined by only one thing: the odds.
So a horse with a 50 percent probability of winning can be either a good or bad bet based on the payoff. In other words, it is not the frequency of winning that matters, but the frequency times the magnitude of the payoff. In the example used above, if a handicapper, based on his knowledge and analysis about horses, tracks and past races figures out that the odds of winning for the horse-4 is 10 percent then his expected value for the bet would be 0.
Based on this he can take a call if he wants to make a bet or not. The upfront commission of percent makes Pari-mutuel system hard to beat for most people. Charlie Munger writes —. Any damn fool can see that a horse carrying a light weight with a wonderful win rate and a good post position, etc.
But if you look at the damn odds, the bad horse pays to 1, whereas the good horse pays 3 to 2. And then the track is taking seventeen percent off the top. Therefore, somebody who really thinks about nothing but horse performance and is shrewd and mathematical could have a very considerable edge, in the absence of the frictional cost caused by the house take. However, there are actually a few people who can beat the game after paying the full seventeen percent.
At 16 years of age Warren Buffett had mastered the art of handicapping. He was introduced to the world of Pari-mutuel betting very early in his life. He learned that the key was having more information than the other guy—then analysing it right and using it rationally. Buffett implemented his handicapping strategies in Ak-Sar-Ben race track. He recalls —. I sent away to a place in Chicago on North Clark Street where you could get old racing forms, months of them, for very little.
They were old, so who wanted them? I would go through them, using my handicapping techniques to handicap one day and see the next day how it worked out. I ran tests of my handicapping ability day after day, all these different systems I had in my mind.
Buffett was back testing his handicapping strategies in s when there were no computers. No wonder his obsessions with handicapping lead him to read every book on the subject available at the Library of Congress. One of the greatest insight that Buffett and Munger had early in their investing career was about market inefficiencies.
And the insight came from their knowledge about Pari-mutuel system. So the pari-mutuel system in Omaha had no perfect efficiency. Stock market has lower frictional costs than horse race betting. Munger writes —. The stock market is the same way — except that the house handle is so much lower.
So that, with enough fanaticism and enough discipline, some of the shrewd people are going to get way better results than average in the nature of things. It is not a bit easy…But some people will have an advantage. And in a fairly low transaction cost operation, they will get better than average results in stock picking. To us, investing is the equivalent of going out and betting against the pari-mutuel system. We look for a horse with one chance in two of winning and which pays you three to one.
And you have to know enough to know whether the gamble is mispriced. Pari-mutuel system is wonderful mental model to think about the stock market. One of the most important learning from the Pari-mutuel system is: making infrequent bets.
I used to play poker, when I was young, with a guy who made a substantial living doing nothing but bet harness races. Now, harness racing is a relatively inefficient market. What my poker pal would do was to think about harness races as his main profession. And he would bet only occasionally when he saw some mispriced bet available. And by doing that, after paying the full handle to the house — which I presume was around seventeen percent — he made a substantial living. But it is given to human beings who work hard at it — who look and sift the world for a mispriced bet — that they can occasionally find one.
And the wise ones bet heavily when the world offers them that opportunity. They bet big when they have the odds. Understanding how a Pari-mutuel system works gives you important clues about stock market. We learnt that market, like a Pari-mutuel, are efficient but not always. But you can make money by learning to handicap and betting infrequently. Buffett wrote this in his letter to shareholders…. Therefore, we adopted a strategy that required our being smart — and not too smart at that — only a very few times.
Sports betting and horse racing naturally compete for viewership and gambling dollars, but both are adjacent industries and can potentially complement one another as well. In either case, the legalization of sports betting will continue to impact horse racing in ways obvious and not-so-obvious. Sports leagues, media outfits and lawmakers across the country have embraced sports betting to a degree never seen with legal horse racing betting. As a result, the horse racing industry faces the threat of losing customers to well-funded sports betting operators.
The major threats to horse racing identified by the TIF report include:Large and persuasive advertising campaigns. Fixed-odds sports wagers are subject to less commission. Yet another threat not discussed in the TIF report is the risk of decoupling. Many racetracks are now dependent on casino gambling and, to a lesser extent, sports betting for revenue and to fund racing purses.
Decoupling would allow racetracks to drop horse racing and essentially become standalone casinos. Doing so would benefit the many individual racetracks that no longer treat horse racing as the main attraction. Of course, it would be devasting for the racing industry as a whole, breeders, trainers and jockeys included. These are all considerable threats for an industry that was already in decline before the Supreme Court ended the federal sports betting prohibition. If the horse racing industry does not respond, it risks losing market share to the shiny, new thing that is sports betting.
The threats detailed above are significant, but they are not insurmountable. In any case, horse racing will either change and adapt of its own accord or have change forced upon it. Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports.
In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Thank you. Articles like this one made me switch to another horse racing site with lots more life, interest and updated horse racing, betting input.
There is nothing here! Pull the plug!