Okay gang, it’s quiz time again. All I want you to do is to read the question . . . Do not let your eyes go forward to the next paragraph and think about the answer to today’s quiz question before you read on. Ready?

Question: what is the single worst task associated with handicapping?

If it took you a minute or two to really think about it, don’t sweat it. Most people do not get the answer right. And there really is only one right answer, although some will argue that it’s a subjective question. I’m sure all handicappers I consider to be pros will agree.

The answer is: keeping track of your bets, your profits/loss.

In EVERY handicapping seminar of which I’ve been a part, whether as lecturer or participant, when the question of keeping personal betting records is asked, the number of people who answer that they do keep records can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Why do so few people keep personal records? Because most people consider it the worst task associated with handicapping. From an immediate viewpoint, it seems to be non-productive. It’s not a fun thing to do on any given losing day and certainly not during a bad streak of handicapping fatigue or just plain bad racing luck.

It’s both depressing and leads to your questioning what might be a long-term winning approach.

What’s it been now . . . 30, maybe, 40 years, that we’ve been conditioned to lust for instant gratification in every part of our lives? For many players, number of winners picked during a trip to the races is more important than how much they won – or lost!

Try asking your racing buds what their ROI (or even winning percentage) is, and nine out of 10 will give you an “estimate” or an “Oh, I’m doing all right.”

It takes more guts and smarts to start and stick to a record keeping plan than it appears. It is not a simple or easy commitment for most to make. There’s no standard or uniform way; whatever way works for you is the best way, as long as you keep tabs on EVERY bet and the return.

One of the main reasons well-meaning players quit keeping records after they start is truly traumatic – the process forces you to start thinking about the nature of your bets. All of a sudden, you start thinking “Is this a serious bet or an action bet?” The mind starts fighting itself: “Hey, dummy, if it’s not a serious bet, why are you making it?”

And: “Is this a bet structured to make money, or am I building a wager that will break even if my handicapping doesn’t go down the way I planned?”

These may read like simple issues, but facing them in action with the many pressures you face during a trip to the track or the TAB will often blow them up to be stressful, demanding situations.

If you’ve never considered it this way before, you’re probably starting to see why keeping your own records can be the worst part of handicapping.

And yet they’re the best!

The best, because they are your best strength. Over time, they will show you where you are weakest and where you are strongest. They will help you to understand which aspects of handicapping you grasp well and which are in need of work or re-thinking. 

Best of all, your own records will reveal exactly where you are making money and where you are losing money. You may be amazed to find that your strongest area is in exactas rather than straight win bets, which indicates that you should be putting more money into the
exotics than into straight bets. Sounds obvious, but until it’s down in black and white, you can’t really be sure.

What do I do? I take an 8½ x 11 inch yellow pad and write down each bet (most of my action is done at the local simulcast facility, so many people bring in notes, notebooks, pads, etc. I like to come equipped with extra pages of paper for notes rather than copy them in the edges of the Form or whatever printout I may bring with me). 

I dispense with headings and standard form-type layouts, after having learned that it’s just plain easier to write it down in chunks, with a line separating each chunk on the page.

One of my chunks looks something like this:

# 210
6/18/01 LRL
Race 1  $10K CL NW2 this year 6 f 4+
$20W – 1 horse        Results of this bet
$2 EX PW 3 on top/1    Results of this bet
What:                              +/- for this bet
                             Cumulative $ for day

Note that I spell out the type of wager, rather than use a horse number. When I look at this later, I’ll know what types of bets I do well with very clearly.

The information labeled “What” is where I’ll write one or two lines that will say something like “pace projection on target-main contender won,” or “2nd and 3rd choices ran 1-2; both had merit, top contender ran 3rd, no prob.”

If I find that my top contender is not winning, I may want to try betting two horses to win if the odds are right, or maybe go with a show parlay for a while and study why I am missing the mark – what in my handicapping is off.

The “#210” is a cumulative bet counter. I’ll put all my bets by type into a notebook (usually by hand, believe it or not) when I get home, classified by type of race and distance and just use the number and W or L for win or lose. If one of the categories, say Allowances, shows a losing trend, I can just look at my original handwritten notes for those races by looking up entry #210, 218, 234, etc. and see if there’s a pattern or common element to pinpoint a problem.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take determination and a little work. But the results can pay off Big Time.

That’s why the worst really is the best.

George Kaywood can be found at www.handicapping.com. He is the author of a string of great books about Internet racing websites.

By George Kaywood