Apples and Oranges

The recently concluded Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge provided a nice example of how different tournament play is from actual play, even in a cash style tournament.

I have thought for a while there is a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge with my name on it. I still think that today, but I’ll actually have to play in one to find out. I almost did this year but passed it up primarily because of the uncertainties surrounding the Santa Anita main track and horses who shipped in to run over it. Make no mistake, when I finally pull that trigger I intend to win and this didn’t seem like the opportune year.

I am also going to have to buy my way in. I don’t play in qualifiers. They are not my style. I’ve had several offers to have someone put up the big in and play as partners. I doubt I’d do that. I have passed on every offer. Why share the winnings? It’s just bad math in my opinion.

The only tournament I really played in was last August’s “Handicapping for Horses.” It was a mythical $20 win and place wager on the horse of your choice in the race of your choice. You were required to make one of those bets each day of the entire Saratoga meet. In that format I did not think I could lose. No chance. Not over the course of a meet, especially that one. I just about went Wire to Wire and never really felt threatened even when another player mounted a challenge the last few days.

In that type of format it is principally skill. In most tournaments luck is a bigger factor and we know how fickle she can be.

I take nothing away from savvy tournament play. I think the BCBC winner this year played it well. He did however do something I would have a hard time doing. It might even cost me in that format. This is why I say apples and oranges comparing actual play to tournaments.

I read where going into the Classic, the last race, the pay race he liked McKinzie. He saw the price on McKinzie drop to where if he risked his bankroll on at 5-2 it would not return enough for him to catch the leader. He bet Vino Rosso instead at 9-2. Vino Rosso won as we all know at 9-2. Smart play. Savvy play. Lucky play. Well played. Great handicapping, well not so much.

I have had much of my success playing the horses taking down pick 6’s. This requires taking a stand, often in advance, and sticking and committing to your opinion. I didn’t have the luxury of changing a single because a speed horse scratched, the track had a bias, or I didn’t like the odds. Often I wished I could have especially when late scratches or surface changes occurred. I would probably be a richer man today.

I have long employed the philosophy that I don’t bet against my own opinion. If I was faced with the BCBC winners dilemma I likely would have gone another route. Though more risky, I couldn’t in good conscience bet against who I thought would win. If that was McKinzie regardless of his odds I’d have stuck. I would not have bet win, but I would have bet a very large cold exacta, and two big triples that would require hitting that big exacta also to have a chance. That may not be the best tournament approach. After I play in a few my “tournament approach” may change. That remains to be seen.

It was very interesting to view the bets the participants made. Of interest is how many really have little chance to win based on how they play. I can’t understand how some qualified at all. I get the impression some of those who “qualify” don’t really feel the bank roll is live money. Maybe I’m wrong but some of the bets were almost elimination bets.

If you play contests, I think it takes a different type of game. When I play in that BCBC eventually I am sure I’ll have to adapt. Maybe not. If I pick enough decent winner and bet them hard, maybe I can luck out.

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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