Squares don't bet enough and journalists don't know enough to have their words carry much weight so if you're curious about handicapping theory and betting practices, it's prudent to listen when those rare individuals who actually earn a living betting thoroughbred racing speak.
Armed with the premise that while conventional wisdom may be widely held, it's rarely wise, The Greek Sportsbook recently spoke with someone who has the talent and financial resources to beat the game. We asked him to list the most common errors made by the recreational bettor. The professional player calls them the "Eight Common Myths of Horse Betting."
Myth #1: It's important to pick winners.
"Actually, picking winners doesn't mean anything. It's irrelevant. If the object of the game is to make money then the way to do that is not by picking winners. You can pick 40 percent winners but if they average only even money, you're a loser. It's all about value. You have to bet overlays, not make wagers on the most likely winner. The key is picking good bets, not betting good picks."
Myth #2: Never let the price affect whether or not you bet a horse that you like.
"This could be the dumbest thing ever said about horse wagering. Of course price matters. That's part of determining value. A horse may be a good play at 3/1 but you wouldn't touch him at 8/5."
Myth #3: You have to be selective and pick your spots.
"Think of it this way, if you're the San Antonio Spurs, would you rather the NBA Championship be one game or a best-of-seven series? Anything can happen in one game but over the course of seven games, the best team usually wins. If you're a successful gambler, why risk serious money on just a few races where an unrealistic pace or a freak event can make you a loser? The wider the net is cast, the less of a factor luck becomes in the outcome. With access to so many tracks, there's no reason a player can't find a dozen decent plays a day."
Myth #4: Class will tell.
"Nowadays, there's no such thing as class. Before accurate speed figures were developed, people bet horses based on the company they kept. If a horse raced against top company, he was said to have class. What they really meant was that he had speed. A horse who wins an allowance race and moves up to a stakes race isn't going to look around in the starting gate and think, 'Oh my goodness, these are really good horses I'm facing today. I don't think I can win.' If he's fast enough, he can win. Of course, a horse who's moving up is likely to encounter a faster pace, which must be considered, too."
Myth #5: You can maximize your chances for success by specializing in certain areas of the game, such as sprints or grass races.
"No way. Gambling is about giving yourself the most options. Limiting yourself to certain situations confines your options.
Myth #6: You should bet more on horses you really like.
"More than any misconception, this myth probably illustrates the difference between how professionals and amateurs think. A professional gambler believes that if a horse is worth betting, it's worth betting significantly. Sophisticated bettors usually wager about the same amount on each race. The concept of a 'Best bet' is a media creation that is foreign to most professional horseplayers. Professional players believe all their bets are good ones; that's why they make them."
Myth #7: Statistical wagering trends are important.
"While technical analysis may be popular, it's rarely meaningful. I don't put much faith in percentages because most of it is just backfitting (making up a theory to fit a set of numbers)."
Myth #8: There are several tried and true rules of the game, such as 'Never bet on a horse to do something he hasn't done before;' 'Never bet 3-year-olds against older horses in the spring;' 'Never bet fillies against colts;' 'Never bet maidens versus winners;' 'Never bet the highest weighted horse on a muddy track;' which always should be followed.
"Some points of the game are debatable but those statements are so pathetic they should never have been said, written or printed. There are so many variables that have to be factored into each race that blanket statements of this type are stupid and the people who make them have less than no clue. You can and should go against any of these so-called rules if you're obtaining value."