Betting (and Not Betting) Your Opinions

Commenter “Turnbackthealarm” hoped that I played the WILLCOX INN/GALLANT EAGLE exacta in Saturday’s G3 Washington Park Handicap.

The short answer, as given in the comments to the prior post, was that I strictly played GALLANT EAGLE to show. longer answer, which includes a good bit of wagering and gambling mentality, follows.  It’s a nuts-and-bolts explanation that I hope has been simplified enough for “Picks and Ponderings.”  (Feedback is appreciated.)  What happened is that I bet my opinions but took an unusual path to get to them while maintaining a profit.

There are two main facts that guide the mentality of the pre-race deliberating and wagering:

1) Even though WILLCOX INN was the ChicagoNow top pick, I felt WILLCOX INN had an equal chance to win as MISTER MARDI GRAS.  Similarly, I felt AGENT DI NOZZO had an equal chance.  In math terms, AGENT DI NOZZO = MISTER MARDI GRAS = WILLCOX INN, with respect to win chances.

2) GALLANT EAGLE could be lone speed and dangerous, but he was going to have higher odds because of the trio of well-regarded horses in (1).  However, his win chances were dramatically less than the trio in (1).

Since I respected MISTER MARDI GRAS (“dead” on board early, as high as 5/1) and AGENT DI NOZZO (the in form out of town invader that took the early money)  too much in this race that if I strictly played WILLCOX INN to win, I’d have to play the other or both at equal strength.  Seeing as how all three were each around 2/1 to 5/2 at a few minutes to post, it becomes a devalued proposition because there’s not a discrepancy in the odds that makes any one combination more appealing than the other. A $1 exacta box of the three was a losing proposition. ($6 in, $5-$10 out but rooting *AGAINST* a horse to finish out of the top two for break-even).  No thanks.

I also wasn’t going to play only certain combinations (say, play only WILLCOX INN-MISTER MARDI GRAS tickets), since that makes the target a lot smaller and induces a lot more unnecessary risk.  This violated principle (1).

Win wagers were out because if I played one I would feel sick to the stomach I didn’t play the other two.

I didn’t look at the tenth race, so doubles and other pick (N) bets were off the table.  I didn’t have any doubles/pick threes that ended or included the Washington Park either.

So I pitched the three favorites and played the longshot to show.  It’s not that I didn’t like Willcox Inn; I defended him in a conversation on Twitter pre-race.  He was the ChicagoNow top pick, after all.

If I played the exacta that our commenter suggested, and using my mentality (all three equally as capable), that was $3 (3 X 1) invested (the three favorites over GALLANT EAGLE) to return $31.20 ($1 return on the Washington Park exacta, which for $2 paid $62.40).    However, it demands precision to hit.  Wouldn’t it stink if GALLANT EAGLE was third?

Boxing the bet (WILLCOX INN, MISTER MARDI GRAS, AGENT DI NOZZO over GALLANT EAGLE in both directions) costs $6 for each dollar inputted.  It’s about a 4-1 return ($6 in, $32 back), and at that point it’s much better to play GALLANT EAGLE at 10-1 to win and place (versus 4-1 on the exacta box), since you’ve dictated in your wagers that GALLANT EAGLE is in the top two.

A trifecta box/superfecta box would not have worked because (A) it requires the three at equal strength and (B) would have gone the tubes because of HATTASH finishing third.

In retrospect, 2-1 on WILLCOX INN was more than fair if I used him and only him.  But since I felt AGENT DI NOZZO and MISTER MARDI GRAS were of equal quality, I would have used those three at equal strength and would have escalated the costs.  As a result, I kept my opinion intact and circled back to tossing all three (which was to use none of the favored) and to open myself to flexibility and a better chance at winning.

To put it another way: I reduced the risk (and the payout) by only playing GALLANT EAGLE to show, but I’ve increased the chance at winning since I can be “right” (that he won’t win but can ran well) and “wrong” (he would win).  In short, I wagered on opinion (2).

True, it became a straight even money play at the end of the day (i.e., take $X dollars, leave with $2X. It is fair to say I “chickened out” (not playing GALLANT EAGLE to place, not using other wagers) by taking this path of reduced risk and likely a reduced payout.  But I’d rather double my dollars and be a little off the target, instead of hoping for quadrupling my dollars and rely on a dead-on bullseye hit.

Given what happened, I did make some money.  But better to make a little than lose it all.


Whether you’re heading to the track or the not, you can take “Picks and Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere.

You can get Twitter updates (@heylaserbeam) for on-the-scene reports on major racedays at Arlington Park.

And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.


Leave a comment
  • It's easy to take a solid(accurate)view of a race and throw it away by shaping your bets poorly. We don't think of this enough and when we do it tends to be superficial: who do we single in a P4?;where do we hit the all button in our 10cent super? Then we go bet the way we have for ever outside the verticals/horizontals: $10 win, exactas boxed or not,WPS bets. I know somebody who always bets "10 across" every race and I favor win bets with exacta boxes. This works to a point if our capping was sound but we are not really shaping our bets to the likely outcome. There is a whole book to be written on this subject that -to my knowledge- has yet to be written. It's key in your reasoning when you recognized that if you included the longshot in your exacta boxes you were really saying he would finish 1 or 2 so a win/place bet was better value. Deductive reasoning will take you to bets you really had no intention of making when you capped the race if you are not careful. Pick 6's are sexy but doubling up on a wager(your show bet)is no small win.

  • In reply to Bellringerwins:


    Appreciate the feedback, and seeing you on Wash Pk Day.

    Goal was to show that the opinions here do (when appropriate) get taken to the bank, but why I avoid putting in a bankroll statement and/or saying "you should wager _____". (Saratoga was an exception because that site wanted the bankroll text.)

    The toteboard is a factor, for sure, but also that different handicappers see different things.

  • That was an excellent tutorial on money management. My biggest problem at the track is that I don't have a good mathematical understanding of betting. I probably would have just bet my favorite horse, Willcox Inn, and hoped for the best. :)

  • Everyone is having difficult times, especially now, during the global crisis and pandemic. Go to the website and start making money right now, stop missing such a great chance. I believe in your success and luck.

Leave a comment