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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

(True) Believers don't let doubt take them down.

Always near were my misses
Always late for that train
Never true were my wishes
until one fine day my fortunes changed
I was standing at the station
waiting for some kind of sign

 and now I'm a true believer, true believer

 I've had doubts and hesitations
had to run away before
But I feel like celebrating
'cause this time I'm running to your door

 and now I'm a true believer, true believer

 So there I sat, last night, halfway through the Mohawk card with a pretty big loss. Not a lot of money, relative to how much I might lose on any given night, or how much I have in my bank account. Really, money wasn't the issue. Isn't the issue. I could certainly lose 10 times what I had just lost and not lose any sleep over it. The mortgage is paid, the bank account is fat, the investments are large and solid and the cash flow is very positive every month. Those aren't issues and likely wont ever be for the rest of my life.
No, the issue was the losing, and what to do next. That is one of the toughest things non-casual bettors face. What to do when you lose, and what to do when you win? When you are just breaking even, you really aren't farther ahead or behind, so you just keep betting. All you really lose is your time. If you value that, then you have to think about whether you are wasting it. But that is another topic for another day.
If you are a casual bettor, the kind that goes once a week, or once a month, or maybe once every year or two, none of that matters. You go with a set amount you are willing to bet and lose, and if you win, that is just a bonus. It is pure entertainment and thrill seeking. The cost of a night out. A fun time.
But, I am not talking about that. I am speaking of someone who intends to bet with the expressed goal of making a profit. They don't get super high when the longshot comes in and they don't get low when they lose 4 or 5 in a row.
I have been on all sides of that fence. The "casual" bettor. The "night out" bettor. The "make a profit and study hard to do it" bettor. One thing I have never been is the "addicted, degenerate" bettor. I never have, nor will I ever be the one who loses a cent more than he can afford to lose. I simply wasn't raised that way. I am very much my mothers son in that respect. I have had a lot of rainy days, and I always am prepared for those. I grew up with a father who was the exact opposite, and I have no intention of emulating him.
Yes, there will always be hard times. That is part of life. But, if you control yourself, and use some discipline and smarts in how you live your life, you likely will always be okay.
Anyway, a bit ahead of myself.
So, lets go back to yesterday morning. In fact, lets go back farther. To 30 years ago.
Like anyone else, I loved the rush of winning a bet. The rush of having your horse in contention and possibly winning when he or she came to the tote board. That is a great feeling. But, at least for me, that wore off very fast. I moved on to what I always move on to....figuring out how it all works and possibly developing a system to pick winners and make a profit. The rush is in being right, not the actual race or the winning money. Although, there is still some aspect of that for me. It is minimal though. If that was all there was left, I probably wouldn't even bother. I have lived out that aspect to the point that it might bore me.
Back in those early days (1984-1985) I was hopefully misguided. I knew there was a way, but I certainly wasn't figuring it out. I was smart enough to pick enough winners to never lose too much, but I certainly didn't feel like I was ever going to beat the horse racing game. If there was a way, I had not found it.
However, my intuition told me there was a way. So, over the years, I have tinkered with the idea that I can solve that riddle.

     "what does it take to make money at the races?"

There have been many failed attempts, almost all theoretical and not played with real money. I certainly have lost money over the years at the races, but no more than the average bettor, and in fact probably a lot less. I am the type who keeps my profit once I am up, and also the type who stops betting when I feel like I am having a bad night. I come with only so much cash, that I am willing to lose, and I never have deviated from that. Nor will I.
Last fall, I had two experiences which pushed me towards trying again to figure it all out.
First, I went to the races in late September, and before that I had bantered with my friend Garnet about a couple of the races, which he had posted picks for in his blog. I thought he got most of them right, but a couple of them he was reading wrong. So, I was heading out to the races anyway, and I told him which two I thought he had gotten wrong. The first race was one of those, and I got it right. I had the longshot on top, Speed Again, and caught a 50 dollar exactor. I was ahead for the night. I had no intention of giving that up. And I did not.
The other race was one where I knew a few things about the horses and participants that I could see what was about to happen. I told him exactly, in advance, what would happen, and it did. He didn't see that coming. I had pegged two longshots to benefit off that analysis, and although I got the race right, I picked the wrong longshot to benefit. I only bet one of them to show anyway, because like I said, I was up quite a bit and didn't want to give it back. More about that part later.
Fast forward to a few weeks later. I was out to dinner with my high school friends Mark, Ronnie and Eric. Somehow, the topic shifted to going to the horse races. Mark was the one that first dragged me to the races when I didn't want to go. That first night I picked 5 winners out of 10 races. Over the years, I went a few times with Mark and he picked up on something I have long held. That is that certain patterns emerge on the betting program, and if you can figure them out, you greatly increase your chances to win.
That night at dinner, we were discussing that. Mark says I am wrong about the patterns, and many people agree with him. However, he did admit that whenever I said a pattern was forming and that one horse was a better bet because of it, that it came out that way. Of course, I didn't do it to a scientific level back then. It was just something I noticed from observation and paying attention. This is separate from straight handicapping and picking horses on form.
Now, back to that night back in September. When I went back and studied (backtesting some call it) I noticed that the numbers would have told me which longshot was the more likely winner in the race I figured out but picked the wrong longshot. Not every time, but more times than not.
So, I decided to study it, collect data, test theories and then practice bet it to see if I was right.
Turns out, I am right.
If that was all there were to it, then it would be easy to make money. But, like anything else in life, there is a lot more to it. There are people involved, emotions, reactions and psychology. So, in this blog, I will express how that factors in, which in my estimation, is the biggest factor of them all, once you have gotten to the point where you think you have it figured out.
I have gotten to the point that I am very confident that a combination of my data collection and analysis plus my experience as an owner and trainer and general handicapping skills can pick a lot more value winners than most can at the races. That took almost a year of deprogramming some myths I have always believed, and now that I have tested and proved that over a significant amount of time and races, it was time to play with real money.
I am the cautious type, although I am a risk taker, so I will start out with small amounts. As I said at the top of the blog, not any kind of money that matters to me and my life. If I lose everything that I have put in my wagering account, that wont even put the smallest of tiny dents in my personal wealth. But what it will mean is that I was wrong, and I haven't figured it out. That is what is on the line.
Yesterday was Day 1 of that real time, real money experiment.
The day started off okay, but as always, you make mistakes. No matter how smart you are, or what you have come to know, you will still fail at times because you are human. That happened again. I missed a few good bets because my attention wasn't strong enough. I also made a few bad bets, some which I got away with anyway, and a few I didn't. However, I did enough right, because I know what I'm doing, to come out even before the Mohawk night card. That is, and always will be, my main focus. It is the horses and circuit I know best, and my best chance to make money over time. Not my only one, but my main one.
I had handicapped the card to my satisfaction, had my data updated and ready, and off I went.
And then my first 4 or 5 bets all lost. They were all good bets, and I would make them all again. Nevertheless, losing is losing. No bettor likes to be in the hole and have that begin to pile up. That was happening on this night.
In the past, I might and have done all sorts of stupid things when that happens.
For example, start to make foolish panic bets. I remember two instances of many times I have done this. One night about 25 years ago, I was at the Greenwood intertrack to watch Mohawk. I remember this being a particularly bad night, because I was down about 40 bucks, which was certainly at my upper limit of losing money then. I recall that every bet I made on that card lost. I was down to about the last or second last race. I liked a horse that was about 4-1, and I never bet more than 5 dollars a race at that time. So, even if it won, I would have ended up the night down 20 bucks. I wanted to go home at least even, so, I did what stupid bettors do when they do that. I picked a longshot, I think her name was Deann's Nadia (it was Deann's something, there were a lot of Deann's somethings back then) and bet 2 bucks to win on her. She was in the neighborhood of 40-1, and she raced like it. Never in it. But, my 4-1 shot was, and won easily. That leaves a real sour taste in your mouth and an imprint on your brain.
The second instance was a bit later, possibly a couple of years later. I remember I had handicapped the entire card in advance and thought I would do well. Which I did not. On that night, I lost 60 bucks, which was huge money to me. To this day, there aren't many nights when I have lost that sum.  Maybe not more than 5 times in the 30 years. But it wasn't just that I lost 60 bucks. Again, it was how I ended up the night. I was down 40 dollars, and I came to the last race I was going to bet. I am sure I had more than 20 left, but I was already antsy about losing more than 40. I liked the favorite, who I had handicapped as a pretty sure winner. But, I certainly didn't want to bet much at this point. Again, I wanted to go home at least even. 20 bucks to win on that favorite would not have achieved that ,and I wasn't about to bet 40. I simply would not have been comfortable with that.
So, I did what stupid, panic bettors do. I picked the next logical shot, a 3-1 shot, and bet 20 on him. Of course, every indicator I had told me this horse would fail. It was Jonathan S, a front runner with Ron Waples. Ron Waples was then, and is still considered one of the greatest harness racing drivers of all time. But, he really liked the front end, and so did this horse, and it was a very cold winter night. The type where frontrunners give it up late if they try to go wire to wire. He made the top, opened up a few lengths, then they swarmed him at the top of the stretch and he was dead last at the wire. You know who was first? Yup, that favorite I had picked earlier.

 Come as you are, as you were,
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend,
As an old enemy.

Take your time, hurry up
The choice is yours,
Don't be late.
Take a rest as a friend,
As an old memory

That was a very tough 30 minutes drive home that night. I think I didn't go back to the races for almost a year after that.

Now, we fast forward to last night. I was down a few bets, but, I am changed now. Confident I know what I am doing. I don't let a loss affect my next bet.  I bet what my data and handicapping tell me are "good bets" and I live with that. I am confident if I stick to that, I will win more than I lose.

I had tabbed Nirvana Seelster as that horse. On data points (multiple) as well as race study. I also liked Rather Swell, but not as much. And the data suggested Rather Swell wasn't the winner. However, he was the far bigger price.
If I was the type to panic now, I would have played Rather Swell. And lost. And hated myself.
As they came down the stretch, and Rather Swell gained the lead and Nirvana Seelster was in the pack and gaining, I was confident. I just knew he was going to get it done. Which he did, at a shorter price. Could he have gotten beat? Sure. It happens. But you stick to your guns and take your chances with what you know. If you are wrong, then you figure out why and hopefully get better.  But you can't second guess yourself. The moment you start to do that, you are a guaranteed loser.
So, here are 3 Things I learned from betting horses yesterday.
I think they are very applicable to everyday life, as most things are about betting on horses.

1. Don't doubt yourself. Believe in yourself. You either do, or you don't.
2. If you believe in yourself, keep doing what you are doing, no matter what.
3. Go back and see if you are correct about your ability and try to improve on what you might be lacking at.

You are going to lose, and be wrong, at the horses and at life. That is just a given. You have to accept that and keep doing what you are doing. If you know what you are doing, it will work out in your favor. But, if you let doubt creep in, it won't.

Don't panic when things don't go your way and start doing things you wouldn't otherwise do, like bet horses you don't really like just to try and get even. When you do that, you feel way worse losing than when you just lose because things didn't go your way.
And so there I was, sitting at my computer with a bunch of losing bets, all who made good sense and all who had a shot but raced poorly for various reasons. That happens. It would have been easy to give up, or make panic bets. I have done both in the past. But, I stuck with the plan, played the horse that figured, that I liked, that I had watched,  and this time things went his way and he raced as he should, for a price that was more than acceptable.
Betting on horses is very psychological. That is really what makes or breaks any bettor who isn't just there for the fun of it. There are two aspects of that, both of which are very significant.
First is fear. There are two parts to that fear, both of which are harmful (as most fear is), but also an aspect of that fear which can help you. I call that the "healthy fear."
There is fear of losing and fear of losing what you have already won. I have dealt with both over the years, as most of us who go enough have.
Both are harmful. I will briefly explain why.
When you have a fear of losing, you do stupid things like make panic bets, or make poor decisions. Instead of focusing on the task, you are thinking about the possibility of losing. Either way, you are almost certain to lose.
I am reminded of the last seconds of a basketball game, when teams foul and put a shooter on the free throw line. Even the players who are great free throw shooters most of the time sometimes have trouble making a shot they can hit 50 times in a row in practice or during the rest of the game. Why is that? Simply, because they are thinking too much, and likely thinking about missing. Teams know this and there are guys who will say a few things to them to put that idea in their head. The best guys just step up, block all that out, and shoot the ball. It isn't easy. We are human. But, if you want to succeed in life, and betting horses, it's a must. You can't think about losing or have a fear of losing. If you continue to lose, but don't do that because of the fear of losing, then you must start to think about the possibility that you actually aren't good at it. That would bring us to overconfidence, which I will get to shortly.
The other fear is a very strong one, and probably even worse. The fear of losing back what you have already won. I do this a lot. Or used to. Still do at times. It is the toughest thing for me to get past.
Why is it worse? Because generally, if you know what you are doing, you are passing up good bets that you shouldn't. Those come back to haunt you when they win. You have to have the confidence that if you know what you are doing and your system tells you to make that good bet, you make it. You can't think about your current bankroll status. Easier said than done, but it's a must. I am still working on this part, but getting better at it. It will always be a struggle. Being my mothers son, I always want to put some away. That just doesn't fly as a business strategy when your business is making all good bets based on your expertise.
Now, a healthy fear is a positive What is a healthy fear? It is a fear that you don't know it all, you aren't as smart as you currently appear to be, and you can't start thinking you are invincible and can get away with not doing the work it takes to be successful. It is what I would term a legitimate fear. If you lose that, you will begin to lose. It is what drives you to stay on course. If you get off course, I think you will find that you became overconfident and lost that healthy fear.


                                                You got me runnin' goin' out of my mind,
                                              You got me thinkin' that I'm wastin' my time.
                                                  Don't bring me down, no no no no no,
                                          I'll tell you once more before I get off the floor
                                                               Don't bring me down.
                                               You got me shakin' got me runnin' away
                                               You get me crawlin' up to you everyday,
                                                Don't bring me down, no no no no no,
                                          I'll tell you once more before I get off the floor
                                                               Don't bring me down.


One thing you must have if you want to succeed in life, and betting on horses, is confidence. Conviction. If you know what you know, then you go out and prove it. If you doubt yourself, you are wasting time and will lose your money. But, you can't be overconfident. If you lose more than you win over time, then you are neither overconfident or a doubter. You are incompetent to a level that you wont admit to. The results will speak volumes to that.
Slaying the psychology of betting, and life, is the hardest part to master. That has always been my experience. Mostly, that is because the world is full of doubters who lack confidence in themselves, and try to convince you to do the same for yourself. They will bring you down.

Don't let them bring you down. Believe in yourself and your talent and just go out and execute. Go back afterwards, and see where you might have holes, and improve on them. Keep believing and keep trying. If you are right, the results will bear that out.
I am right, and I intend to prove that. To myself. Because nobody matters in that respect except myself. I will know if I am truly right or wrong. Nobody else's opinion matters. And the ultimate judge will be the increase or decrease in the bankroll. I believe there is no doubt about that.

 Now the feeling
Is beginning to grow
And the meaning
Is something you only know
If you believe it
Take my hand
And I'll take your heart, come on

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Daily profile about a specific artist,their life, their work and their impact