George ‘Barker’ Bellfield reviews Bill McBride’s new book

For some time now, America's No 1 greyhound racing-handicapping authority, Bill McBride, has been writing the occasional feature article for PPM.

Our dog-racing fans have welcomed his thoughtful contributions.

Eighteen years ago, Bill authored The Guide To Greyhound Racing, a worldwide best seller in its field. Now retired from his sporting goods business (he was named Ohio's Small Business Person of the Year in 1988), Bill has put his expertise to work to come up with a new book aimed at providing greyhound fans with a blueprint to craft their own profitable plans.

The book is called How To Beat The Dog Races and, believe me, it's a goldmine of advice and information.

Let's face it, good books on greyhound racing are thin on the ground. I don't think we've seen one here for more than 25 years and as for a book solely on greyhound handicapping ... well, if there is one, no one's told me about it.

The United States has a struggling greyhound racing industry, but quite a number of books are published each year offering fresh insights into handicapping. Most are $10, 20-page stapled jobs.

This is a great pity because there is much in dog racing which offers an enormous challenge to the 'thinking' punter. Any edge you can obtain over your fellow punter can mean cash in your pocket. This, after all, is what any form of racing betting is about. securing that little bit of extra information or insight that your rival punters do not have.

Reading up as much as you can on as many aspects of dog racing as possible is a sure way to give yourself a start on your opposition. Sometimes all it takes is the advantage of one isolated angle to give you that head start.

Bill McBride's book should be required reading for any dog fan with a penchant for 'getting it right' more than getting it all wrong. 'Bad Bill', as he's affectionately known, covers all the angles with great care.

His chapter on 'developing the most opportune wagers' is an example of Bill's ability to zero in on a subject and analyse and dissect the ins and cuts of it. He is adamant that a punter needs to fit his betting with his handicapping.

He sums it up this way: (a) Your wagering must be fitted to your handicapping skills, (b) your bets must be made to mesh with your handicapping accuracy, (c) you must customise your wagering approach to your own handicapping results.

Bill writes: 'Hundreds of times, in interviews, talk shows, etc., I've been asked what is the best pool to bet in. Win? Place? Quinella? Trifecta? Or what?

'No-one, including me, can answer that, for another person. I do know what's best for me under certain circumstances. That's how I make a profit!

'But I can't tell anyone else what would work best for them, nor can any other teacher. For example, if I could pick eight winners out of 10 I might decide that a win bet is my best choice. If I told you to bet only for the win, and you could only pick four winners out of 10 (not really too bad), the same bet would not work at all well for you.

'By the way, I can't pick eight winners out of 10 in dog racing and I don't think I've yet met the person who can.

'Or, in another case, if I told you that you had to reach clear down to your sixth selection when betting trifectas on Grade D races and your own handicapping skills made that unnecessary, then my approach would increase the cost of your wagers needlessly.'

Bill explains that what he can do is tell punters how to find out what their best pool and wager opportunities are.

The McBride Formula, as I like to call it, is spelled out clearly in each chapter of this book. I like very much his thoughts on trifecta betting.

Now, Bill McBride has been handicapping the dogs for some 25 years and writing and teaching on the subject for the past 16 years, and he readily admits he would have a hard time landing a straight 1-2-3 trifecta in one of 100 races.

He writes: 'I'm not particularly embarrassed by that because I know that dog races work out that way. So, if we would say that my inability to predict any better than this is a weakness, then I have bad to learn how to play with my weakness.

'So must you. Pride is commendable and I like to think that the handicapper is a craftsman who should rightfully be proud of his or her skill. But, this is one trade in which it is virtually impossible to reach perfection.

'Too often, as we feel that we're getting pretty darned good at handicapping, we find it hard to swallow our pride and concede that a dog we have rated as our fifth or sixth selection just might finish far better than that.

'So, in our pride, we hesitate to put any of our money on this inconceivable possibility, and leave those dogs out of our wager. Often, this costs us a win. We may still have our pride but we've got yet another losing ticket.'

Although Bill McBride's book is written with US dog racing experience, the fact is that dog racing there and in Australia has much in common, so just about everything he writes about is relevant to the Aussie dog bettor.

America has eight-dog races, just as we have. Much of our betting is now via the tote, as is all betting in the States.

We like to concentrate on the exotics, especially trifectas, and so do the Americans.

Covering everything from grading and favourites through to statistical and situational handicapping, to money management and systems, How To Beat The Dog Races is a welcome addition to the ranks of greyhound racing literature. It's good, intelligent reading for both novice and experienced greyhound handicappers. Even if you end up using only tidbits of advice from 'Bad Bill' I'm sure your betting will benefit.

HOW TO BEAT THE DOG RACES, by Bill McBride, is available for $US30, including shipping and handling, from Bill McBride, 59 Dover Crt, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068, USA.

By George ‘Barker’ Bellfield

PRACTICAL PUNTING - APRIL 2001

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