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Betting Systems for the Horse Track

By: Jon Weaver

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A system is simply an arrangement of all racing variables into a definite pattern. A system is "mechanical" if it leaves nothing to the player's own judgment. A handicapping system calls for some decisions on the part of the selector.

The purpose of a system is to reduce the percentage against the player and to give him more winners.

But there are two parts to any system. One is the selection method and the other is the plan of wagering. Just as the selection method is designed to increase the percentage of winners, betting methods are drawn up to increase the "take" from those selections.

The primary system of betting is a flat sum to win, place or show or a flat sum across the board. This sum is not decreased nor increased no matter if the horse wins or loses. Players call this system "flat bets."

Before he decides if flat bets are the answers to his problem, the player should be fully aware what is involved. On the basis of 100 plays at $2 each, the player must put up a capital of $200.

Wagers on horses that average an even money payoff means the fan must collect 50 of those 100 wagers in order to break even. He doesn't start collecting any profit until he hits the 51st" winner. Obviously, if he elects to play short-priced horses, he must have a selection method that clicks consistently.

But he doesn't necessarily have to run the percentage up too high in order to make the method reward him. In such a method, what he wants above all is consistency. He seeks a method that day in and day out will consistently follow a pattern that will produce a net profit. Once he is sure of that, he can increase his profit at will by simply expanding the size of his wagers.

Suppose his system as regularly as a clock clicks off 55 wins at even money for every 100 days. That means for every 100 plays ($200) he wins $20, or a 10 per cent return. Any refinement that ups the percentage of winners to 60 per cent will mean $40 profit in every 100 plays. Once the player can depend upon it, he can increase that profit by as much as he cares to put into it.

As the mutuel prices increase, the percentage of winners will drop, for it means the player now is off the most substantial horses. A player who sticks to 4 to 1 horses (or a $10 mutuel), needs only 20 winners in every 100 plays to break even.

The percentage of winners and the prices they can be expected to pay must be figured together before any method can be evaluated. Cashing one ticket from every two bought is a pleasant diversion, but that high percentage might not be adequate to show a profit because the mutuel will be short.

The place and show payoff, too, may be studied profitably by a player contemplating certain methods of selections. A general rule is that a horse will pay half as much to place as to win and about one-third as much to show as to win. This general rule, like all such rules, is subject to many exceptions.

Often, there will be only one substantial horse in the race. Many turfites will concede that he will win but that he will be short-priced. Rather than play against him, they pick a longer-priced horse and play him for place. So many of them may follow this procedure that a 12 to 1 shot which runs second may pay only even money for place instead of $6.

Some tracks, following the example of baseball in wooing women, have a special "Ladies Day," usually on Monday when business is light. Many women, especially those not too familiar with racing, are conservative and they like to wager for place and show. A top-heavy proportion of place and show bets will throw out of kilter the general rule about payoffs.

On the other hand, an outstanding horse may pay more for second than for first because, again, fans conceded him the win and either played him or stabbed for a long shot. Few play such a horse for place or show because, after conceding the race to the favorite, they believe they will get better returns by putting their second and third money on long shots. The mighty Equipoise, in setting the world's record for the mile at Chicago, paid even money to win but $4.40 to place.

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