Ten Commandments for Horseplayers

Ten Commandments

1) Thou shalt not bet four-horse exacta boxes. Many new and not-so-new players like to bet exacta boxes. An exacta wins when your horses finish first and second in exact order. A box means you win no matter what order the horses finish.

The problem with boxes is that you are guaranteed losing bets. For a two dollar exacta, a three-horse box costs $12 and gives you five losing bets. A four-horse box costs $24 and gives you 11 losing bets!

There is nothing more frustrating than hitting a $16.20 exacta and losing money.

2) Thou shalt look at the past performances the night before. Most people get their PPs (record of the horses’ previous races) online. If you go over them the night before, it will give you an idea of how you will bet the next day. This way you will have a leg-up on the competition.

3) Thou shalt read books on horse handicapping and betting. There are a number of great authors out there — Andrew Beyer, Mark Cramer, and Dick Mitchell instantly come to mind.

And don’t forget money management. Barry Meadow and Steven Crist have written great books on the subject. The more you read, the more you learn.

4) Thou shalt look at the PPs after the race. A good way to learn is to check the past performances after the race, especially if your horse lost. Look for something you might have missed. This is a great way to learn what a winner looks like.

5) Thou shalt know what surface the race is on. When a race is carded on turf (grass), it can be switched to the main track for any number of reasons.

It is important to make sure the race is still on turf. After all, that’s what you handicapped for. It’s brutal to bet a race for turf and have your hard work go out the window when the race is switched to the main track.

6) Thou shalt be careful when the masses scream “bias.” A track bias is a track that favors a certain running style or track path. The most prevalent biases are early speed and rail biases.

They don’t occur as often as most people think they do. A 6-5 shot wins the first race on the lead and people scream “speed bias.” Handicap as you would usually until you can confirm a real bias.

7) Thou shalt be wary of the morning line. The morning line is made by a track employee as an estimate of what he/she thinks the final odds will be. It is constructed to encourage maximum action on the race. Use it as a guide, not as an expert pick.

8) Thou shalt occasionally be a fan. There is no law that says you have to bet every race. This is a great sport. Sometimes it’s fun to just watch as a fan. American Pharoah’s Triple Crown run was awesome to watch and I didn’t bet a dime.

9) Thou shalt check your bets after you make them. Whether you’re at the track or betting online, check to make sure you bet the way you wanted to. Check horse numbers, race, amount and type of bet. It’s a very good idea to write them down before you send them in. It bites to think you bet a winner, only to find out you did not.

10) Thou shalt have fun! Horse racing is an awesome sport. Don’t bet more money than you can afford to lose and, most of all, enjoy yourself!

Steven Finkelstein
Steve Finkelstein has worked off and on in the casino business for 30 years. He has been playing horses for longer than that, sometimes as a source of income. He likes to handicap “backwards,” finding the horse first through trainer analysis or breeding, then finding the race.

Steve lives in South Florida and vows never to move.