In this article, US greyhound analyst and author Dan Casey gives his insights into how punters can improve their betting approach. Casey has written many small books on greyhound racing.

When everything is going well with your handicapping and betting at the track, your mental attitude is strong and controlled. This is when greyhound racing is enjoyable. But when you hit a losing streak, your entire attitude can change. Some bettors may vary their bets in a frantic effort to come up with a winner; others may look for long shots in an effort to stop an extended losing streak.

Many handicappers say you should reduce your bets until your losing streak is over. This is simply absurd; it’s one more example of so-called “money management” theory. The idea that you can profit from betting in a certain manner has long been dismissed by experts in poker and blackjack. The nonsense stays alive in non-skill games such as roulette or craps. Why it is still brought up over and over again in greyhound racing publications is a mystery to me.

Rather than resorting to a magical betting formula, changing the size of your bets or switching from one type of bet to another type, you should look where the problem comes from – your own handicapping ability. When you are not making the profit you think you should be, or are sustaining heavy losses, you have to step back and review your own handicapping procedure.

There are some players who proudly proclaim that handicapping is not the key to success; what you really need is the proper betting strategy.

Really? In this case, if you find your strategy is leading to losses, you can only pray that things will turn around before you go completely broke.

In order to review your betting record in a complete and honest way, you have to have accurate records of your previous bets at the track. What percentage of races are you hitting? Do you change your bets from race to race? If so, do you do better in trifectas or quinellas, in boxing or keying?

Are your results better in certain grades? I found that I hit as many winning bets in A and maiden races as in lower grades over an extended period of time, but the payoffs on these grades averaged much less than B, C, D, and E races.

Finding this out, I stopped betting on these races altogether. This gives me more time to handicap the rest of the program because most tracks have one maiden and about two A races each meeting.

Here’s why many fans come up against their first problem; in the many years I’ve gone to dog tracks, I’ve very seldom come across fans who keep detailed records of their results. Many fans either don’t want to know how they’re doing (because they are steady losers) or are not serious enough to realise that records can be quite valuable in making changes to improve their results.

One simple way to improve your chances of success at the track is to have some sort of mechanism to decide when you will skip a race. There are a number of races that are too tight, where most of the dogs have similar abilities. There are also races where almost all of the dogs have been running poorly lately, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell which dogs are ready to make a good effort.

If you’re having problems at the track, decide which types of races you’ll skip (either too evenly matched fields or too weak fields) and see if this improves your results.

If you are one of the many fans who simply can’t skip a race, no matter how difficult or unreliable, you are not a serious handicapper and bettor and this article won’t really be of much help to you. Just keep your bets small and don’t give up your job or business at this time.

When you have questions, are you checking back in older programs to give you more information? There are some questions that simply can’t be answered if you don’t look for more lines in older programs.

For example, you look at a dog that is dropping down from B to C after running off the board in three straight B races. You want to know how solid he is at C. Just because the fourth line back shows a win, doesn’t mean he’s a solid C dog, especially since he showed nothing at B. Getting six more lines may reveal some really helpful news.
He may have been running in D earlier and is questionable even at C. Or he may have run at B earlier and shown a decent race at the higher grade and a number of in-the-money races at C.

Handicapping is the art of comparing dogs with one another. Questions are key to making money at the track. How has he broken lately? Is he classy enough to handle this field? If he does break well, will one or two other dogs challenge him on the first turn? Does he have the tendency to fade at the present grade?

In answering these sort of questions, you’ll dig deeper into the backgrounds of the dogs in a race, much deeper than the average fan. Remember, we’re not trying to hit .300 like a baseball player; we have to be conscious of how much we get back when we do hit a race. Betting on obvious factors and information available to everyone at the track will lead to payoffs that are too small to show a long-term profit.

Do you tend to box your bets or use a key dog when you bet quinellas or trifectas? There are people who say that one bet or the other is best. This is avoiding the real question, which is this: do you do better when you box or key your selections? Some players say that they do much better keying a dog in their bets without realising that their approach may result in less profit.

A more sophisticated method of handicapping will often result in making more money with box bets. In my opinion, boxes offer more stability over an extended period of bets. This allows you to put more money into action without the fear of long losing streaks when your keys keep missing. Even if your keys are winning, however, you may be getting low payoffs because the winning dogs are often the first or second wagering choices.

The type of bet you make and the amount of money it takes to make each bet is really irrelevant. The questions are: how much do you make, percentage-wise, when you make bets? And what is the average return on your winning races?

If you find that you’re making money with your current way of handicapping and betting, everything is great. Keep up the good work. But if you’re not winning at the track, start digging into all your pet theories and see where you can improve your results.

Do you do all your handicapping at home where it’s quiet and have older programs to refer to? If not, give it a try. Do you decide on your bets right before post time and try to fit your bet to the odds shown on the board? If you do and this doesn’t work, stop this habit and do your handicapping before the races or at least a few races ahead.

If you win at the track over an extended period of time it is because you are a superior handicapper and can control your emotions when it comes time to bet. There is no magical formula out there waiting to be discovered and no system of joy, costing anywhere from a dollar to thousands, that will make you a winner at the track.

Try using your brains to handicap and make your betting consistent. We all wish we had bet a trifecta instead of a quinella when we would have hit a huge trifecta. Or we all think how nice it would be if we had keyed the five dog instead of putting in a four dog trifecta box costing $24 instead of $6. But this is all after the race. Anyone can tell you how you would have won over the past thousand races if you follow a certain technique of betting. But what about the next thousand races that you’ll bet real money on?

Your results on these future bets are the only that really count. These results will depend on how well you can handicap and how well you can find important factors that are not obvious to most of the fans at the track.

If you feel, for example, that you should pay attention to how the crowd bet on a dog in previous races on the assumption that he had to deserve such betting, then you’re overlooking the fact that favourites really only do about as well as the takeout, losing from 15 per cent to 18 per cent of all money bet on them. After all, if you’re a serious handicapper you’re much better than the crowd at the track. This is especially true if you spend more time and use your intellect more than the typical fan.

Get away from the obvious. Instead of focusing on track variants to find the fastest dog in a race, start a method of class variants at your track. Find out if every C race is really the same. Can a dog be running against stronger or weaker opponents even though he’s staying in the same grade? It may hurt at first, but improving your results lies inside your mind, not on neatly printed projections of what should happen.

By Dan Casey