William E. (“Bad Bill”) McBride is the author of the best-selling book, GAMBLING TIMES GUIDE TO GREYHOUND RACING. This book was also reprinted as the AGTOA GUIDE TO GREYHOUND RACING, and became the best selling book of all time in this field. Bill has also been a columnist and writer for several magazines, including GAMBLING TIMES, THE RACING GREYHOUND and WIN magazine, and is also currently writing for GREYHOUND MONTHLY in the UK. His input is featured on a number of Internet forums which involve greyhound racing.

2009 marks the 26th year I have been studying the best methods to come out ahead betting on greyhound races in the USA. Most of the things I’ve learned apply as well to racing in other countries.

After writing several books, hundreds of articles, and after consulting with dozens of professional players, I have arrived at what I consider to be the FIVE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS that count. Concentrate on these, and you will have a major edge on the “casual” fans who feed the pools.

In order of importance:

  1. CONSTANTLY IMPROVE/PERFECT YOUR WAGERING APPROACH, THROUGH ON-GOING WAGER BACK-TESTING.
  2. RECOGNISE THAT HANDICAPPING AND WAGERING APPROACHES WILL VARY, FROM TRACK TO TRACK, AND BE SELECTIVE IN CHOOSING YOUR OPPORTUNITIES.
  3. AVOID OVER-HANDICAPPING.
  4. SPEED RANKINGS, COMPUTED PROPERLY, ARE MOST OFTEN THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT HANDICAPPING MEASURE.
  5. AVOID OVER-CONFIDENCE IN YOUR HANDICAPPING SKILLS.

These are the five things that will serve you well. It is understood, of course, that you have already developed a feel for basic handicapping. It is also crucial that you have kept records of your experiences at the tracks in recent months or years. (If you have the habit of discarding your printed program at the end of each race card, read no further, you have a zero chance of success at the dogs!)

If there was one “magic bullet” to win at the dog races, there would be no profit to be made. So many others would have discovered it that the payoffs would shrink to the point of impossible gain. The fact that winning at the dog track isn’t “easy” is exactly what makes it profitable for those who are willing to give it some thoughtful effort!

To elaborate on these five points:

1. WAGER TESTING:
The vast majority of greyhound fans tend to make one of these two basic mistakes: Some will make the same type of wager, in the same pools, on any race in any grade at any track. Others will swing wildly from one type of wagering approach to another.

The consistent winner will have learned that the winning pattern is to develop an intelligent wagering approach to fit various grades, courses, tracks and pools. In most cases, they will have their wagers structured well in advance, often with an alternative wager to fit late changes.

Here is how this is done:

Prudent handicapping involves lining up the entries in the order that you consider reflects their chances of success. In other words, in an eight dog race you will have determined which dog you consider to be the strongest, and which you feel has the poorest chance of success. In the process, you will have aligned your selections in order, one through eight, “best” through “worst”. One through eight.

In any given race, then, the order of the dogs’ finish, in terms of your selections, can be stated as, for example, 2 5 1, meaning that your second selection won, your fifth selection placed, and the dog you thought had the best chance of winning, your #1 choice, showed, instead.

Now, since you may find that your best success is often to be found in the TRIFECTA pool, you will want to record your history down to the third position.

A small sample of your success over the last 10 races (of this particular grade!) might be recorded as: 2 5 1; 1 3 6; 4 3 2; 6 4 1; 1 2 7; 3 5 2; 4 1 7; 1 5 3; 4 2 6; 1 4 2. (Congratulations! You’d have picked THREE winners – 30 per cent! About as good as you can expect in most grades!)

Now, thinking in terms of TRIFECTA wagers, what would have been an acceptable wager structure here? (Keep in mind that this example is too small of a sample to rely on – you should have at least three times this many recent past races on which to base your conclusions.)

A commonly promoted TRIFECTA wager structure of 12/1234/12345, ($18 for a $1 base) would have generated only ONE hit. (The last example, 1 4 2.) Your 10 bets would have cost a total of $180. If your one win paid more than that, you’d come out ahead, but this approach would be cutting it rather slim.

Suppose, here, that you instead determined that a 1234/12345/12345 ($48) wager might be smarter. With this, your investment would have been $480, but you’d have hit FOUR of the 10 wagers. Had the pay-offs averaged over $120 each, you’d have made a profit.

Likewise, using this method, you can also back test “imaginary” PERFECTA (EXACTA) and QUINELLA wagers, as well as WIN and PLACE, etc.

How much time and effort does this study justify? AT LEAST AS MUCH AS DOES YOUR HANDICAPPING! Some will say at least TWICE as much!

2. RECOGNISE THAT GRADES, COURSES AND TRACKS ARE DIFFERENT:
Develop a winning wager structure for a certain grade on a certain course at a certain track, and assume this answer will work equally well any place, any time, and you will be in for a costly surprise!

While you may well determine that a given approach might work nearly as well for more than one set of circumstances, it will NOT work for all!

At different tracks the crowd will wager differently into different pools, for example, making some opportunities to grow and others to diminish. And you will find that your particular handicapping skills tend to work far better on certain grades than others. It could be said that, in general, generalities are generally costly!

3. AVOID OVER-HANDICAPPING:
It is human nature to feel that if some basic handicapping is found to pay some dividends, then MORE ELABORATE handicapping will increase those dividends.

The truth is, this only works up to a certain point. We tend to keep seeking that “elusive” measuring device that will assure us success.

Many otherwise intelligent fans will spend hours trying to learn how to fine tune their handicapping skills, at the cost of instead spending this time studying how to make their wagering fit their handicapping. There are well over a dozen handicapping factors that can be compared. Is it more profitable to use 12 than six? Not usually, though some time does need to be spent in learning WHICH six to concentrate on.

4. SPEED RATINGS ARE USUALLY ONE OF THE MOST PERTINENT HANDICAPPING MEASURES:
I am often asked which handicapping factor I consider the most important. I am obliged to answer that, at most tracks, on most courses, in most grades, I give the most weight to SPEED.

The difficulty, however, is in learning how to measure this factor. A dog’s published lifetime best race time is usually not the answer, unless that time occurred very recently. In the case of MAIDEN races, we often have far too little past race data to begin to get a handle on comparative speed. Printed programs and tip sheets sometimes “rate” speed and state it in terms that seem useful. However, in most cases, these speed ratings are arrived at by averaging ALL races, including troubled ones and those on slow track conditions.

We are left, then, to judge each dog on its apparent average race time on recent clear races. How many races? It is good to see at least four or five. How recent? For this purpose it is futile to look too far back in a dog’s history. Like human racers, dogs have cycles, and it is best to judge a dog on what it has been doing recently – not last year.

Can you handicap adequately using SPEED alone? No. One needs to see how that speed will likely come into play given the make-up of the race at hand, post positions, relative break and early speed, etc.

5. AVOID OVER-CONFIDENCE:
Suppose we got 10 of the world’s best handicappers together and had them handicap one race, lining the dogs up in order of their projections of “probability” of winning or finishing “in the money”. Believe it or not, we would very likely get a fairly close consensus. Quality shows, and these experts would tend to pretty much agree on the strongest and weakest selections.

With this much brainpower applied, how certain could one be that the race finish would reflect this group’s projection? Chances are, in most grades, these “experts” would pick the winner in only about 29-31 per cent of the races, at best! That’s how greyhound racing works! Given the bumps, squeezes, contacts, falls and off-striding that takes place in even the top grades of dog racing, handicapping is never going to be reliable beyond a certain level! (That’s exactly what makes the pay-offs be of an average size than CAN provide a profit to the astute bettor!)

Go back to factor #1. Write down your handicapping success rate, in terms of 2 4 7; 1 5 2; etc. Unless you limit your wagering to only the very few grades/course/tracks at which you do your absolute best, I guarantee that you will see a good number of results such as: 6 4 2; 5 7 4; 2 8 1; etc. If this doesn’t serve to make you humble, you are ignoring facts! Sure, you can spend some effort trying to improve those results, but you are only going to get them so good, never perfect.

Spend less time trying to strive for the impossible, and more time in learning how best to fit your wagering to this imperfect handicapping!  WEBSITE:  www.howtobeatthedograces.com

By “Bad” Bill McBride

PRACTICAL PUNTING – APRIL 2009

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