Getting the Most Out of Your Handicapping and Betting Partnerships

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In a matter of weeks, the vast handicapping and betting expanse of the Breeders’ Cup will lie before us.  It’s a treacherous two days that many will traverse alone. Others, not so inclined, will seek safety and camaraderie in pairs or groups — if not for the entire trip, than at least for the more difficult climbs. For players who choose to spread the risk and responsibility, a unique challenge has to be addressed. These players have to figure out how to translate the handicapping diversity of the partnership into coherent play that satisfies each of the members. A successful plan on this front means less hassle and more enjoyment, better utilization of individual insights and, hopefully, more pari-mutuel success.

Guy Studying PaperDays like the Breeders’ Cup, the Triple Crown races and the proliferation of “Super Saturdays” lend themselves to social betting and partnerships. The most common bets for partnerships to tackle are multi-race bets: the pick-4, pick-5 and pick-6.

Obviously, the available bankroll is an important consideration. Groups spread the risk while also increasing coverage over difficult, complex sequences. If partners work things right, they can also take advantage of the “two (or three or four or five) heads is better than one” thing, turning group opinion into something superior to what a single individual would bring to the situation. Doing this right is really the key to successful group play.

The most common group play paradigm involves the hashing out of opinions, which has the advantage of stirring and expanding the collective handicapping mind. This is not a bad thing. It certainly can be enjoyable and fruitful. The problem is the group dynamic will almost always require some kind of consensus be reached.

Because of the difficulty of translating the differences and diversity of group opinion into actual play, a decision-maker usually is elected. And no matter how good at the task this person might be — and the best would be open-minded and inclusive, yet decisive all at the same time — the very nature of the construct means this person’s opinions are going to prevail, at least to some extent, and be elevated at the expense of the opinions of the other members of the partnership.

And that’s the better outcome, as the alternative is the blunt, amorphous expression of group opinion, which either drives ticket costs too high, or dulls and minimizes the type of insight that can lead to big scores.

What follows is a way for players to partner on tickets that I think maximizes the strengths of group dynamics.  This is not a perfect method. We are playing the horses here. Pitfalls are legion. But I think if you give this method a try, you’ll find it to be a hassle-free way of melding individual handicapping opinion into a shared ticket structure.

First thing you need to do is agree on a budget.

The group’s size, combined budget and the pool the partnership is attacking will determine the details of how to put this method into action. For examples sake, we are going to illustrate using a group of three, with a $100-$120 bankroll, betting $1 pick fours. Once you have your target and your budget, you can shape your starting point. We call the starting point “the skeletal ticket” (ST). Using our hypothetical, each partner will construct his own ticket in the amount of $8 or $9. This means one of three different initial ticket structures: 1x2x2x2, 1x1x2x4, 1x1x3x3.

A note here: Regardless of budget, you are going to want to keep the skeletal ticket skinny. We will eventually flesh it out, and costs can rise quickly. Plus, it is our contention that the focus, sharpness, and pared down expression of the individual handicapper that the ST represents is the key to the method’s success.

Our second step is for each handicapper to add one horse to each of his partners’ tickets. In our example, that means two horses get added to each ticket. Then to complete the ticket, the constructor of the ticket will add one final horse. In the example we are using, this means that the cost of each ticket will fall somewhere in the $30-$48 range. Now, from this starting point and template, groups can vary any of the variables. You can start with bigger skinny tickets, although under no circumstances would we recommend any ticket larger than 2×2, etc. But, for instance, if your budget is twice the size of that in the example, each member can add 2 picks to his fellows’ STs. Or, the original constructor can add two picks of his own at the end. The variations are many. Play around with different ones. But give this method a shot, especially if you like playing with partners but find it difficult to put together tickets that satisfy the partners and do a good job of expressing the group’s opinion.