Is This Value?"

After I sent an acknowlegement and thank you email today to a book buyer (of Calibration Handicapping -The Next Level), I received a quick email reply from him.It stated simply, "I've been leaving too much on the table recently."

Today is July 1, 2002, and Steve's email prompted me to write this short article on value.

There has been much said about this subject. Many speak of minimum odds. Just recently I was told of a "professional" player who says he will not bet to win at less than 3-1 in a 7 horse or fewerfield and not less than about 5-1 in an 8 to 12 horse field.

In my opinion, this fella leaves a lot on the table.

I'm not a proponent of playing favorites, that's for sure. Butthere are occasions when less than 3-1 or so odds is a gift from the betting public. Which is why I don't set minimums for any wagers. Ifit's a value situation, I'll go for it.

John Q. Public is a worthy opponent much of the time, butthere are a number of instances per week per track when he is off the mark. These are the green light betting opportunities we should take advantage of, regardless of the odds, the public's odds that is.

As per my book, I strongly believe that we should make our ownbetting lines for every race on which we are seriously considering a play or plays.

While we may do so for only our contenders, it is not a badidea to make a value line for each horse in the race, the percentageequivalents for which always totaling 100.

Doing this exercise over and over will make us proficient atthis important task of linemaking, and in addition to doing something most of our competition completely ignores, it allows us to determine if the betting public has presented us with a value situation.

As an example of what I'm talking about, take my free picks race from yesterday at Belmont Park. It was a 9F prelminary allowance level race for 3 year-olds and upward, a field of 7narrowed to 6 with a late scratch.

Here's the field with my final odds, the corresponding chances of winning this race in terms of percentages, the final odds, and the order of finish.

1. Dubai Tiger (7-5) (41%) ( 1-1) (1)
2. Connie's Magic (99-1) ( 1%) (11-1) (5)
4. Lisa's Royal Guy (8-1) (11%) (11-1) (6)
5. Fisher Pond (9-5) (35%) ( 3-1) (2)
6. High Commissioner (8-1) (11%) ( 3-1) (3)
7. Dr. Rockett (99-1) ( 1%) (16-1) (4)

As can be seen, the corresponding percentages total 100%.And it's abundantly clear that I saw this race pretty much as a 2-horse affair between Dubai Tiger and Fisher Pond.

Since I liked the chances of Fisher Pond to win this race, and he was an overlay at 3-1 vs. my line of 9-5, I played him to win and lost that bet by a neck. But that was not my major wager of the race. There was another overlay presented by the betting public.

It was the exacta box of 1-5, 5-1. Since I estimated that these 2 horses together had a 76% chance of winning thisrace, my primary interest was in the probable payoffs of the exactas involving them.

And I found that in spite of the low odds of Dubai Tiger,the exacta probables were overlays. Knowing ahead of time thatmy value lines of 7-5 ($4.60 to $4.95) and 9-5 ($5.60 to $5.95)should result in a fair value exacta payoff of around $12-$13 forthe lesser-priced combo of 1-5, I saw by the near-post probables that both combinations exceeded that range.

The near-post 1-5 payoff was $14 with the 5-1 combo at $22, the latter being a good-sized overlay. One way to calculate the fair value exacta payoff ahead of time is to multiply win price would be for one of the horses, in this case $4.60 by 1/2 of the winning payoff of the other horse, in this case 2.8 (1/2 of $5.60). 2.8 x $4.60 = $12.88.

That would be the minimum I would take on the 1-5 combo,and I would want about 25% more with the longer priced horseon top, which would be around $16.

Again, these are payoffs that I had already calculated according to my own value lines. In this particularsituation I was interested in only the 1-5, 5-1 probables sinceI preferred them so much over the rest of the short field.

With target exacta payoffs of $12 and $16, I waited untilabout 3 minutes left before post time and saw that I was getting an overlay probable payoff on both combinations.

What to some would be considered a paltry no-bet exactapayoff was to me a green-light value situation that said I wouldget more than what I considered to be a fair return on my investment.

If you look at the odds table in my book, or any other such chart for that matter, you'll see that the combined 76% liklihood of winning this race that I assigned my top 2 selections is equivalent to odds of about 2-5 or a payoff of about $2.80 if it were one horse with that percentage.

Therefore the actual payoff of $14.60 was indeed an overlay as it was the equivalent of 7-2 on my money ($14.60 divided by $4 for the 1-5, 5-1 box = 3.65 to 1 or $9.30). Hadthe neck decision been reversed and gone to my top choice, the 5-1 combo payoff would have been $22 or the equivalent of 5 1/2 to 1 on the investment.

These 2 horses finished over 4 lengths ahead of the 3rd-place finisher, who was one of my co-8-1 shots, both of which I rated as having the best chance at the show money. Myrating of the final 2 entries was 99-1, each having in my estimation a 1% shot at the win in this particular match up.

This brings up a final note about situations like thisone. In short 6 or 7 horse fields in which you clearly canseparate one or two of the entries from the rest, if the exacta probables are okay in a box of those two, a trifectaplay can be in order also.

What I will often do in this situation is key the top 2standout picks in the top 2 slots of the trifecta and use one or two others in the show slot. In this case, the trifecta plays of 1-5/1-5/4-6 at a $2 wager cost of $8.

The trifecta payoff of 1-5-6 was $24.20, which isthe equivalent to 3 to 1 odds on your money. This trifectaplan is much more preferable, however, when there are the one or two standout horses and only one other choice from the remainder of the field for the show slot.

If that had been the case here, that $24.20 payoff would be a 6-1 payoff. I've seen trifectas like thisscenario come back $50 and more, and $24.20 turned out a bit low in this case, probably because it was only a 6horse field. But in situations like this in which I can separate 2 from the rest of the field, I'll play $20 or more on the trifectas with one other in the show slot, making a profit when successful of $500 or more for the $40 (or more) outlay.

Just a couple of examples of taking value in short fields when the betting public gives it to us.

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